Archive for April 12th, 2008

Today marks the death of our 32nd, and longest-serving, President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His life was conspicuously studded with grand achievements and honors, but was also beset with struggle and illness.  On April 12, 1945, he suffered a stroke and passed away in Warm Springs, Georgia.

A lot could be said about his sickly childhood and his life-long struggle with poor health.  There could be much discussion of his famous Fireside Chats and how they spark images of people gathering around the radio to listen in silence to his static-laced voice.  And too many books to count have already been written concerning his leadership during The Great Depression and his controversial expansion of the U.S. government.

But since I write mostly about WWII, I’ll say a couple words from a different perspective.  U.S. soldiers fighting across the world mostly loved FDR…LOVED him…and for most of them, this was a day filled with grief and brimming with tears.  They may not have agreed with his political views, but they loved “the Chief”.

In “The Ultimate Battle“, Bill Sloan writes,
“With the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, no wartime president in America’s history had been held in higher regard by the rank and file of its armed forces or more closely identified with the war effort. While he had his share of political foes, FDR had become an inspirational father to millions of younger Americans, especially those serving their country in faraway places.”

It’s interesting to see the varying reactions to Roosevelt’s death from the enemies with whom we were still fighting.  The Japanese on Okinawa showed a bit of respect when, in the midst of combat, they dropped leaflets to U.S. soldiers fighting on Kakazu Ridge that began, “We must express our deep regret over the death of President Roosevelt…”

Adolf Hitler was very different in his response.  In his memoirs, Albert Speer recalls the delusional glee his boss displayed.  He writes…
“When I arrived in the bunker, Hilter caught sight of me and rushed toward me with a degree of animation rare in him these days. He held a newspaper clipping in his hand. ‘Here, read it! Here! You never wanted to believe it. Here it is!’ His words came in a great rush. ‘Here we have the miracle I always predicted. Who was right? The war isn’t lost. Read it! Roosevelt is dead!'”

World opinion differed on FDR, domestic opinion differed on FDR, and history has differed on FDR.  But the soldiers were largely in agreement.  Roosevelt was their father, their friend, and their ally.

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