FDR As Secretary of Navy - History

FDR As Secretary of Navy - History

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Secretary of Navy

Active support of the Wilson Presidential campaign resulted in Franklin's appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Franklin worked hard at the job and in the pre-war years established a reputation as a friend of the Navy and an efficient administrator. With the outbreak of World War I, Franklin became a strong supporter of preparedness and early American intervention. When the United States became involved in the war, he worked hard to increase the involvement of the navy.

Franklin Roosevelt went to Washington to attend the inauguration of President Wilson. On the morning of the inauguration Roosevelt ran into Josephus Daniels, the newly designated Secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt had turned down offers to be Assistant Secretary of Treasury or the Collector of the Port of New York. In the lobby of the Williard Hotel, Daniels asked Roosevelt if he wished to become his assistant. Roosevelt replied: "I'd like it bully well. It would please me better than anything in the world." For Roosevelt to be Secretary of the Navy was a natural. He had sailed since he was a little child, and all things regarding the Navy interested him greatly. It was also the same path that his cousin Teddy Roosevelt had taken to fame.

Roosevelt settled into the job which was a rather large one. The Navy was one of the largest federal agencies. It employed 65,000 men, both civilian and naval, and its annual budget was $150 million. Roosevelt enjoyed his job. He was primarily responsibile for contracts and civilian workers of the Navy. He was popular with Naval personnel and greatly enjoyed visiting ships. He had a special pennant designed for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy which was flown whenever he was on board. Roosevelt turned out to be an efficient administrator, successfully cutting through red tape and getting jobs done.

At the end of July 1914, World War I broke out in Europe. Roosevelt was immediately among those who pressed for greater readiness in the US armed forces. Roosevelt began to lobby for active American involvement in the war. Pressure rose for American involvement after German submarine attacks killed Americans. In February 1917, the United States intercepted the Zimmerman Telegram. This telegram from the German foreign minister to the German minister to Mexico, urged an alliance with Mexico in which the Mexicans would join the war and receive Texas back. Finally, Germany began unlimited submarine warfare against US vessels. This was too much for even the pacifists in the Wilson cabinet. On April 2, Congress was summoned by Wilson and war was declared on Germany.

With the United States now at war, Franklin worked actively to insure that the Navy had the largest possible role. His two pet projects were the building of small coastal boats, and a plan to mine the entrance of the North Sea, thus cutting off the access of German submarines to the ocean. Roosevelt worked hard to implement these plans. The first turned out unnecessary, and the second, while practical, reached completion too late to effect the war. In July 1918, Franklin went on a tour of the war front. As the highest ranking American to visit England since the US entry into the war, he was well received. He met with most of the British leadership, including King George V. Roosevelt went on to tour the battlefield in France. For nearly a month, he toured the battlefield extensively even coming under German artillery fire on one occassion. On his return he planned to resign and ask for a commission in the Navy, however, on the way back he became seriously ill with influenza. By the time he recovered, the war was ending. Franklin made another trip to Europe in 1919, to negotiate the termination of Navy contracts and the disposition of surplus Naval equipment in Europe.

Frank Knox

William Franklin Knox (January 1, 1874 – April 28, 1944) was an American politician, newspaper editor and publisher. He was also the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1936, and Secretary of the Navy under Franklin D. Roosevelt during most of World War II. On December 7, 1941, Knox flanked by his assistant John O’Keefe walked into Roosevelt's White House study at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST announcing that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. Knox was mentioned by name in Adolf Hitler's speech of December 11, 1941, in which Hitler asked for a German declaration of war against the United States.

Born in Boston, he attended Alma College and served with the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War. After the war, he became a newspaper editor in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a prominent supporter of the Republican Party. He advocated U.S. entrance into World War I and served as an artillery officer in France. The 1936 Republican National Convention nominated a ticket of Alf Landon and Knox, and they were defeated by Roosevelt and John Nance Garner in the 1936 election.

After World War II broke out, Knox supported aid to the Allies. In 1940, Roosevelt appointed him as Secretary of the Navy in hopes of building bipartisan support. He presided over a naval buildup and pushed for the internment of Japanese Americans. Knox served as Secretary of the Navy until his death in 1944.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, c. 1913

Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only president to be elected four times, gained fame during the World War I years while serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1920. He had been serving as a New York Senator after being elected in 1910, but decided to accept the post after Wilson’s election, following directly in the footsteps of his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. At 31 years old, he was the youngest Assistant Secretary of the Navy that the nation had ever seen. An early supporter of US entry into World War I and a lifelong admirer of the sea and ships, Roosevelt helped push ship production and the drafting of sailors in an attempt to better prepare our navy for action. He didn’t believe in neutrality and did what he could to prepare the nation for war. At one point he even released a memorandum explaining the navy’s deficiencies (much to the annoyance of the Wilson administration.) As months passed, FDR found ways to get his opinion and agenda out, while staying within the boundaries set by Wilson and Daniels, the Secretary of the Navy. When Wilson finally decided in 1915 to start preparing an adequate national defense, FDR was overjoyed. He helped pull plans together to construct 176 ships costing the nation $600 million, the largest peacetime construction program ever. After U.S. entry, Roosevelt continued to push for even greater naval action asking for vast amounts of material and equipment, larger numbers of men, expansion of training camps, and accelerated ship production.

The eight years that FDR served the nation during WWI, allowed FDR to learn the realities of national politics. As Wilson actively pushed for peace at the end of the war, Roosevelt was able to witness what went into the building of international relations and how unsuccessfully Wilson was able to convince Americans of the role he felt the U.S. should play in international relations….lessons that Roosevelt would use later as president when building the United Nations during World War II. Roosevelt’s work during the World War I years helped him advance politically and in 1920, he ran as the Vice Presidential candidate with James Cox as the Presidential candidate. Even though the Democrats lost to Republican during this election, FDR would soon bring Democratic dominance to the nation after the Great Depression hit and he took over for President Hoover in 1933.

Somewhat ironically, at the beginning of WWI when Germany declared war against Russia, FDR said those days were history making days and that the developing war would be the greatest war in the world’s history. Little did he know that he would live through not only the First World War, but that he would guide the nation through the second great world war, as well.


Early life Edit

Forrestal was born in Matteawan, New York, (now part of Beacon, New York), the youngest son of James Forrestal, an Irish immigrant who dabbled in politics. His mother, the former Mary Anne Toohey (herself the daughter of another Irish immigrant) raised him as a devout Catholic. [2] During his youth, Forrestal was an amateur boxer. [3] After graduating from high school at the age of 16, in 1908, he spent the next three years working for a trio of newspapers: the Matteawan Evening Journal, the Mount Vernon Argus and the Poughkeepsie News Press.

Forrestal entered Dartmouth College in 1911, but transferred to Princeton University in his sophomore year, where he served as an editor for The Daily Princetonian. His senior class voted him "Most Likely to Succeed", but he left just prior to completing work on a degree. Forrestal was a member of University Cottage Club while he was a student at Princeton. [4] Forrestal married the former Josephine Stovall (née Ogden), a Vogue writer, in 1926. She eventually developed a dependence on alcohol and suffered various mental health issues. [5]

Wall Street financier Edit

Forrestal went to work as a bond salesman for William A. Read and Company (later renamed Dillon, Read & Co.) in 1916. When the USA entered the First World War, he enlisted in the Navy and ultimately became a Naval Aviator, training with the Royal Flying Corps at Camp Borden and Deseronto in Canada. [6] During the final year of the war, Forrestal spent much of his time in Washington, at the Office of Naval Operations while completing his flight training and reached the rank of lieutenant. After the war, Forrestal resumed his career in finance and made his fortune on Wall Street. He became a partner in 1923, was appointed vice president in 1926, and by 1937 was president of the company. He also acted as a publicist for the Democratic Party committee in Dutchess County, New York, helping politicians from the area win elections at both the local and state level. One of the individuals aided by his work was a neighbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Forrestal was a compulsive workaholic and skilled administrator. He was described as pugnacious, introspective, shy, philosophic, solitary, and emotionally insecure. [3] [7] [8] He took no part in national politics, though he usually voted for Democrats, but did not support New Deal liberalism. [9]

Political career Edit

Secretary of the Navy Edit

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Forrestal a special administrative assistant on June 22, 1940. Six weeks later, he nominated him for the newly established position, Undersecretary of the Navy. In his nearly four years as undersecretary, Forrestal proved highly effective at mobilizing domestic industrial production for the war effort. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King, wanted to control logistics and procurement, but Forrestal prevailed. [3]

In September 1942, to get a grasp on the reports for materiel his office was receiving, he made a tour of naval operations in the Southwest Pacific and a stop at Pearl Harbor. Returning to Washington, D.C., he made his report to President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and the cabinet. In response to Forrestal's elevated request that materiel be sent immediately to the Southwest Pacific area, Stimson (who was more concerned with supplying Operation Torch in North Africa), told Forrestal, "Jim, you've got a bad case of localitis." Forrestal shot back in a heated manner, "Mr. Secretary, if the Marines on Guadalcanal were wiped out, the reaction of the country will give you a bad case of localitis in the seat of your pants". [10] [11]

He became Secretary of the Navy on May 19, 1944, after his immediate superior, Secretary Frank Knox, died from a heart attack. Knox had been a figurehead as secretary and Forrestal was highly energetic. Forrestal led the Navy through the closing year of the war and the early years of demobilization that followed. As Secretary, Forrestal introduced a policy of racial integration in the Navy. Forrestal traveled to combat zones to see naval forces in action. He was in the South Pacific in 1942, present at the Battle of Kwajalein in 1944, and (as Secretary) witnessed the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. After five days of pitched battle, a detachment of Marines was sent to hoist the American flag on the 545-foot summit of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. This was the first time in the war that the U.S. flag had flown on Japanese soil. Forrestal, who had just landed on the beach, claimed the historic flag as a souvenir. When Forrestal witnessed the sight of the Stars and Stripes atop Mount Suribachi, he turned to Major General Holland Smith and said, "the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years." [12] A second, larger flag was run up in its place, and this second flag-raising was the moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in his famous photograph. [13]

In the early months of 1945, Forrestal, along with Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew, strongly advocated a softer policy toward Japan that would permit a negotiated armistice, a face-saving surrender. Forrestal's primary concern was not the resurgence of a militarized Japan, but rather "the menace of Russian Communism and its attraction for decimated, destabilized societies in Europe and Asia," and, therefore, keeping the Soviet Union out of the war with Japan. [14] So strongly did he feel about this matter that he cultivated negotiation efforts that some regarded as approaching insubordination. [15]

His counsel on ending the war was finally followed, but not until the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The day after the Nagasaki attack, the Japanese sent out a radio transmission saying that it was ready to accept the terms of the allies' Potsdam Declaration, "with the understanding that said declaration does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a sovereign ruler." That position still fell short of the U.S. "unconditional surrender" demand, retaining the sticking point that had held up the war's conclusion for months. Strong voices within the administration, including Secretary of State James Byrnes, counseled fighting on. At that point, "Forrestal came up with a shrewd and simple solution: Accept the offer and declare that it accomplishes what the Potsdam Declaration demanded. Say that the Emperor and the Japanese government will rule subject to the orders of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. This would imply recognition of the Emperor while tending to neutralize American public passions against the Emperor. Truman liked this. It would be close enough to 'unconditional.'" [16]

After the war, Forrestal urged Truman to take a hard line with the Soviets over Poland. He also strongly influenced the new Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy, concerning infiltration of the government by Communists. Upon McCarthy's arrival in Washington in December 1946, Forrestal invited him to lunch. In McCarthy's words, "Before meeting Jim Forrestal I thought we were losing to international Communism because of incompetence and stupidity on the part of our planners. I mentioned that to Forrestal. I shall forever remember his answer. He said, 'McCarthy, consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid, they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor.' This phrase struck me so forcefully that I have often used it since." [17]

Secretary of Defense Edit

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed him the first United States Secretary of Defense. Forrestal continued to advocate for complete racial integration of the services, a policy eventually implemented in 1949.

During private cabinet meetings with President Truman in 1946 and 1947, Forrestal had argued against partition of Palestine on the grounds it would infuriate Arab countries who supplied oil needed for the U.S. economy and national defense. Instead, Forrestal favored a federalization plan for Palestine. Outside the White House, response to Truman's continued silence on the issue was immediate. President Truman received threats to cut off campaign contributions from wealthy donors, as well as hate mail, including a letter accusing him of "preferring fascist and Arab elements to the democracy-loving Jewish people of Palestine." [18] Appalled by the intensity and implied threats over the partition question, Forrestal appealed to Truman in two separate cabinet meetings not to base his decision on partition, whatever the outcome, on the basis of political pressure. [19] In his only known public comment on the issue, Forrestal stated to J. Howard McGrath, Senator from Rhode Island:

. no group in this country should be permitted to influence our policy to the point it could endanger our national security. [20]

Forrestal's statement soon earned him the active enmity of some congressmen and supporters of Israel. Forrestal was also an early target of the muckraking columnist and broadcaster Drew Pearson, an opponent of foreign policies hostile to the Soviet Union, who began to regularly call for Forrestal's removal after President Truman named him Secretary of Defense. [21] Pearson told his own protege, Jack Anderson, that he believed Forrestal was "the most dangerous man in America" and claimed that if he was not removed from office, he would "cause another world war."

Upon taking office as Secretary of Defense, Forrestal was surprised to learn that the administration did not budget for defense needs based on military threats posed by enemies of the United States and its interests. According to historian Walter LaFeber, Truman was known to approach defense budgetary requests in the abstract, without regard to defense response requirements in the event of conflicts with potential enemies. [22] The president would begin by subtracting from total receipts the amount needed for domestic needs and recurrent operating costs, with any surplus going to the defense budget for that year. [22] The Truman administration's willingness to slash conventional readiness needs for the Navy and Marine Corps soon caused fierce controversies within the upper ranks of their respective branches. [22] [23]

During the Reagan years, Paul Nitze reflected upon the qualities which made a Secretary of Defense great: the ability to work with Congress, the ability for "big-time management," and an ability at war planning. Nitze felt that Forrestal was the only one who possessed all three qualities together. [24]

Post-war Edit

At the close of World War II, millions of dollars of serviceable equipment had been scrapped or abandoned rather than having funds appropriated for its storage costs. New military equipment en route to operations in the Pacific theater was scrapped or simply tossed overboard. [23] Facing the wholesale demobilization of most of the US defense force structure, Forrestal resisted President Truman's efforts to substantially reduce defense appropriations, [25] but was unable to prevent a steady reduction in defense spending, resulting in major cuts not only in defense equipment stockpiles, but also in military readiness.

By 1948, President Harry Truman had approved military budgets billions of dollars below what the services were requesting, putting Forrestal in the middle of a fierce tug-of-war between the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Forrestal was also becoming increasingly worried about the Soviet threat. [26] His 18 months at Defense came at an exceptionally difficult time for the U.S. military establishment: Communist governments came to power in Czechoslovakia and China the Soviets imposed a blockade on West Berlin prompting the U.S. Berlin Airlift to supply the city the 1948 Arab–Israeli War followed the establishment of Israel and negotiations were going on for the formation of NATO.

Dwight D. Eisenhower recorded he was in agreement with Forrestal's theories on the dangers of Soviet and International communist expansion. Eisenhower recalled that Forrestal had been "the one man who, in the very midst of the war, always counseled caution and alertness in dealing with the Soviets." Eisenhower remembered on several occasions, while he was Supreme Allied Commander, he had been visited by Forrestal, who carefully explained his thesis that the Communists would never cease trying to destroy all representative government. Eisenhower commented in his personal diary on 11 June 1949, "I never had cause to doubt the accuracy of his judgments on this point." [27]

Forrestal also opposed the unification of the military services proposed by the Truman officials. Even so, he helped develop the National Security Act of 1947 that created the National Military Establishment (the Department of Defense was not created as such until August 1949). [28] With the former Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson retiring to private life, Forrestal was the next choice.

Michael Hogan downplays Forrestal’s achievements:

Forrestal was not in FDR's inner circle, was not apprised of the Manhattan Project, and did not attend the major wartime conferences. Forrestal also ended up on the wrong side of the struggle to unify the armed forces. He slowed but did not stop the unification process as secretary of the navy and then had to live with legislation that prevented him from managing the military establishment efficiently as the country's first secretary of defense. In that capacity, however, Forrestal was unable to devise an integrated defense budget, work out a joint war plan, or compel the Joint Chiefs of Staff to accept presidential directives they did not like. [29]

Resignation as Secretary of Defense Edit

Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey was expected to win the presidential elections of 1948. Forrestal met with Dewey privately, and it was agreed he would continue as Secretary of Defense under a Dewey administration. Unwittingly, Forrestal would trigger a series of events that would not only undermine his already precarious position with President Truman but contribute to the loss of his job, his failing health, and eventual demise. Weeks before the election, Pearson published an exposé of the meetings between Dewey and Forrestal. [30] In 1949, angered over Forrestal's continued opposition to his defense economization policies, and concerned about reports in the press over his mental condition, Truman abruptly asked Forrestal to resign. By March 31, 1949, Forrestal was out of a job. [25] He was replaced by Louis A. Johnson, an ardent supporter of Truman's defense retrenchment policy.

Psychiatric treatment Edit

In 1949, exhausted from overwork, Forrestal entered psychiatric treatment. The attending psychiatrist, Captain George N. Raines, was handpicked by the Navy Surgeon General. The regimen was as follows:

  1. 1st week: narcosis with sodium amytal.
  2. 2nd – 5th weeks: a regimen of insulin sub-shock combined with psycho-therapeutic interviews. According to Dr. Raines, the patient overreacted to the insulin much as he had to the amytal and this would occasionally throw him into a confused state with a great deal of agitation and confusion.
  3. 4th week: insulin administered only in stimulating doses 10 units of insulin four times a day, morning, noon, afternoon and evening.

According to Dr. Raines, "We considered electro-shock but thought it better to postpone it for another 90 days. In reactive depression if electro-shock is used early and the patient is returned to the same situation from which he came there is grave danger of suicide in the immediate period after they return. so strangely enough we left out electro-shock to avoid what actually happened anyhow". [31]

Death Edit

Although Forrestal told associates he had decided to resign, he was reportedly shattered when Truman abruptly asked for his resignation. [32] His letter of resignation was tendered on March 28, 1949 and his condition steadily deteriorated. [33] On the day of Forrestal's resignation from office, he was reported to have gone into a strange daze and was flown on a Navy airplane to the estate of Under Secretary of State Robert A. Lovett in Hobe Sound, Florida, where Forrestal's wife, Josephine, was vacationing. Dr. William C. Menninger of the Menninger Clinic in Kansas was consulted and he diagnosed "severe depression" of the type "seen in operational fatigue during the war". The Menninger Clinic had successfully treated similar cases during World War II, but Forrestal's wife, his friend and associate Ferdinand Eberstadt, Dr. Menninger, and Navy psychiatrist Captain Dr. George N. Raines decided to send the former Secretary of Defense to the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, Maryland, where it would be possible to deny his mental illness. [34] He was checked into NNMC five days later. The decision to house him on the 16th floor instead of the first floor was justified in the same way. Forrestal's condition was officially announced as "nervous and physical exhaustion" his lead doctor, Captain Raines, diagnosed his condition as "depression" or "reactive depression". [35] As a person who prized anonymity and once stated that his hobby was "obscurity", Forrestal, with his policies, had been the constant target of vicious personal attacks from columnists, including Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell. Pearson's protégé, Jack Anderson, later asserted that Pearson "hectored Forrestal with innuendos and false accusations". [36]

Forrestal seemed to be on the road to recovery, having regained 12 pounds (5.4 kg) since his admission into the hospital. However, in the early morning hours of May 22, his body, clad only in the bottom half of a pair of pajamas, was found on a third-floor roof below the sixteenth-floor kitchen across the hall from his room. [37] [38] Forrestal's alleged last written statement, touted in the contemporary press and later biographers as an implied suicide note, was part of a poem from W. M. Praed's translation of Sophocles' tragedy Ajax: [39]

Fair Salamis, the billows' roar,
Wander around thee yet,
And sailors gaze upon thy shore
Firm in the Ocean set.
Thy son is in a foreign clime
Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,
Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,
Worn by the waste of time–
Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save
In the dark prospect of the yawning grave.
Woe to the mother in her close of day,
Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,
When she shall hear
Her loved one's story whispered in her ear!
"Woe, woe!" will be the cry–
No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail
Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale–

The official Navy review board, which completed hearings on May 31, waited until October 11, 1949, to release only a brief summary of its findings. The announcement, as reported on page 15 of the October 12 New York Times, stated only that Forrestal had died from his fall from the window. It did not say what might have caused the fall, nor did it make any mention of a bathrobe sash cord that had first been reported as tied around his neck. The full report [40] was not released by the Department of the Navy until April 2004 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by researcher David Martin: [41]

  1. That the body found on the ledge outside of room three eighty-four of building one of the National Naval Medical Center at one-fifty a.m. and pronounced dead at one fifty-five a.m., Sunday, May 22, 1949, was identified as that of the late James V. Forrestal, a patient on the Neuropsychiatric Service of the U. S. Naval Hospital, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.
  2. That the late James V. Forrestal died on or about May 22, 1949, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, as a result of injuries, multiple, extreme, received incident to a fall from a high point in the tower, building one, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.
  3. That the behavior of the deceased during the period of his stay in the hospital preceding his death was indicative of a mental depression.
  4. That the treatment and precautions in the conduct of the case were in agreement with accepted psychiatric practice and commensurate with the evident status of the patient at all times.
  5. That the death was not caused in any manner by the intent, fault, negligence or inefficiency of any person or persons in the naval service or connected therewith. [42]

Forrestal's diaries from 1944 to March 1949 were serialised in the New York Herald Tribune in 1951, and published as a 581-page book The Forrestal Diaries, edited by Walter Millis in October 1951. They were censored prior to publication. [45] Adam Matthew Publications Ltd. published a microfilm of the complete and unexpurgated diaries in 2001, from the originals preserved in the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University a digital edition was released in January 2020. [46] [47] [48] An example of censorship is the removal of the following account of a conversation with Truman: "He referred to Hitler as an egomaniac. The result is we shall have a Slav Europe for a long time to come. I don't think it is so bad." [47]

Biographer Arnold Rogow explores the pathos and tragedy of Forrestal's tormented life. He was brought up in a rigidly Catholic environment where harsh discipline gave the boy doubts about himself that were never overcome by his many achievements. He compensated by emphasizing toughness in terms of physicality and morality – he had no use for slackers or cowards. He felt war was a necessity and negotiation was possible only alongside military's parity or superiority. This intensity alienated his colleagues, as he focused his fears on Communists and Zionists. He abandoned his religion and his Irish community, but was never at ease on Wall Street, where he suspected and envied its rich and wellborn WASP elite. Although his brilliance and energy made him a favorite of President Roosevelt, he profoundly distrusted liberalism and never championed the New Deal. [49] [50]

Forrestal was awarded both the Distinguished Service Medal and the Medal of Merit by President Truman.

The James V. Forrestal Building in Washington, D.C., completed in 1969, is named for him.

The J. V. Forrestal Elementary School at 125 Liberty Street in Beacon, New York, his hometown, is named for him. Forrestal Elementary School in the Great Lakes military housing area is named for him.

In the 1994 television movie Roswell, Forrestal is portrayed by Eugene Roche. He is depicted as sitting on a commission concerning the Roswell UFO incident and advocating the eventual release of information to the public. The film treats his death and classified diary as highly suspicious.

An opera concerning the conspiracy theories behind Forrestal's death, Nightingale: The Last Days of James Forrestal composed by Evan Hause with a libretto by Gary Heidt, premiered in New York City at the Present Company Theatorium on May 19, 2002.

In The Golden Age, a DC Comics Elseworlds "imaginary story" four-issue prestige format mini-series by James Robinson (writer) and Paul Smith (artist), Forrestal's death is shown to have been a murder. Forrestal is pushed from the window of his Bethesda Naval Hospital room by the Golden Age Robotman.

In the PC game Area 51 one of the secret documents the player can collect talks about the Majestic 12 initiative being threatened with "receiving the same punishment as his last secretary, Forrestal", implying the murder of Forrestal was to cover his operation from the public.

In the anime OVA series Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, a secret document is briefly viewable in the eighth episode that mentions the death of a Secretary Forrestal. It goes on to say that a "vacancy" was left due to his death until he was replaced by an unnamed general.

In the 2002 HBO TV movie Path to War, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (portrayed by Alec Baldwin) hauntingly recounts the story of James Forrestal's dismissal and suicide to speechwriter Richard Goodwin (portrayed by James Frain).

In the 2006 film Flags of Our Fathers, Forrestal was played by Michael Cumpsty.

The story of James Forrestal is prominently featured in Chapter 4 of the Oliver Stone popular documentary series Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States, which aired on Showtime in 2012–13.

The later part of Forrestal's life, including his marriage and his death, is a large part of Majic Man by Max Allan Collins.

In 2017, the final episode of Netflix Miniseries Wormwood implies that Forrestal’s death may have been one of a series of deaths labeled as suicides that were actually covert assassinations by the CIA.

FDR And His Women

In the FDR Library in Hyde Park, among the effects of Anna Roosevelt Halsted, the only daughter of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, there is a scrap of yellowing paper, about four inches by five. It is covered with a penciled note in the kind of cryptic shorthand I and most writers I know use when insight or inspiration strikes. It begins, “ER: her garlic pills (Sis could smell them on her breath).”

Unlike a chronology of events I later unearthed, the note was not a new discovery. Unlike a formerly unpublished letter from which I finally got permission to quote, it wasn’t even classified. Yet when I came across it, I heard the subversive rasp of a key turning in a lock. Eleanor Roosevelt might have been a saint, but she was a saint with a faddish bent and a powerful peasant breath. The noble woman was human. I was more intrigued than ever.

My fascination with Eleanor Roosevelt dates back to my childhood. In the 1950s and 1960s she was the fearless, indefatigable, right-minded woman every girl who knew there was more to life than cheerleading wanted to emulate. My love affair with her husband, which came later, was more personal and had to do as much with my adolescent yearnings as the great man’s achievements. My mother hated FDR. I naturally fell for him. The void left by my father, who died shortly after the war, made the towering national patriarch even more irresistible. My discovery of Lucy Mercer, FDR’s great love, complicated the story and humanized the characters. I envied Lucy. I pitied Eleanor. I identified with them both. And I continued to worship Franklin. All three lingered in my consciousness long after the need for adolescent mutiny faded. Four years ago, when reports of presidential misbehavior convulsed the country, I found myself wanting to tell the story of three people who comported themselves with dignity and grace in the face of imminent heartbreak and of an era that allowed them to.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the greatest obstacle I faced when I started the research for Lucy , a novel about the love affair that altered and almost derailed twentieth-century history. (If FDR had not fallen in love with Lucy Mercer, ER might never have become a force for peace and social justice. If Lucy Mercer had been a weaker, less generous-spirited woman, FDR might not have become one of America’s greatest Presidents.) Everywhere I looked for Lucy, there stood ER, larger than life, better than good, generous, high-minded, selfless.

She had emerged from a tragic, if gilded, childhood to embrace the underdog, speak up for the disenfranchised, and battle tirelessly for human dignity. Because of her efforts, women as well as men had Civilian Conservation Corps camps, and children no longer drank tainted milk, and blacks got a share, if not a fair one, of the defense miracle that was wresting the nation out of the Depression and into World War II.

Her personal conduct was no less inspiring she was the embodiment of one of her husband’s favorite words—grand. On the rare occasions when she was less than that, ER owned up to her failings scrupulously. In her autobiographies she admitted to a tendency, when hurt or angry, to withdraw into a punishing silence—her Griselda mood, she called it. During their engagement she wrote to her future husband, “Sometimes I think that a woman’s moods are sent her just as a man’s temptations are.”

But the demands ER made on herself could take a fearful toll on others, especially the man with whom she had linked her destiny when she was only 20 and he had just turned 23. She expected her husband to do well. That was a given. She was also determined that he would do good. In A First Class Temperament , Geoffrey C. Ward recounts a telling conversation between the young FDR and his wife. One morning over breakfast she asked if a letter had arrived. He replied that it had. She inquired if he’d answered it.

“Don’t you think, Franklin, that you should answer it promptly?” she urged.

“Oh, I’ll answer it promptly.”

“Don’t you think . . . that it would be best if you answered it now?” she insisted. He left the table to answer the letter.

Throughout their lives together, ER never stopped casting a pall over the short cocktail hour that gave FDR enormous pleasure. Their daughter Anna tells of one evening in the White House when her mother so infuriated her father with her insistence that he address a “sheaf of papers this high” during the 20 minutes permitted for two “very small” cocktails that he flung the entire stack across the room.

The better I got to know the woman whom I had been raised to revere, the more I marveled at her achievements and squirmed in her presence. Please, I begged, when she spent a night on the doorstep because she didn’t want to disturb the servants or, she told her young husband when he returned at dawn from the dance she’d left him to enjoy, to ruin his glorious time by going back to ask him for the key. Don’t, I murmured when on FDR’s first presidential visit to Campobello a dozen years after he’d been stricken with polio and carried off the island on a stretcher, she scolded him publicly for bringing the assembled guests to the dinner table late. But she did. She had to, and J began to resent her for it.

I knew her father had died of alcoholism, and her uncles had drunkenly fired hunting rifles at her from the windows of her grandmother’s house. But didn’t she understand that her husband desperately needed a brief escape from the burden of reopening the banks and dreaming up Lend-Lease and responding to the worst naval defeat in America’s history? I shared her frustration when FDR declined to make an antilynching law a top priority, and refused to open the door to the Jewish victims of Hitler’s persecutions, but wasn’t she sufficiently astute to appreciate the adage that to be a great statesman, one must first be a good politician?

Then there was Mrs. Nesbitt. FDR relished rich foods and fine wines. His wife turned the White House over to a kitchen moralist who believed in “plain food plainly prepared.” Admirers sent the President wild game, of which he was particularly fond. It rotted in the basement. FDR expressed a longing for white asparagus. Mrs. Nesbitt told him it was unavailable, though when his secretaries chipped in to buy some, they managed to find it in the local stores. White House cuisine became so notorious that Martha Gellhorn surprised her future husband Ernest Hemingway by wolfing down several sandwiches in preparation for dinner there. Such infamously bad food was not the oversight of a woman too busy filling the stomachs of millions to worry about pleasing the palates of a few, or the result of an inbred disapproval of indulgence and aversion to pleasure. It was a wife’s revenge on her husband, for betraying her love, for falling short of her standards.

FDR was not the only one to endure the subtle retribution of his long-suffering wife. ER relied upon the kindness and sustenance of her friends, especially her women friends. It was with the help of these accomplished attorneys, social workers, journalists, and activists that she found her voice and defined her causes. The relationships were intense, the disappointments profound, the fallings-out fierce. One afternoon while I was touring Val-Kill, the cottage in Hyde Park that ER set up for herself after she had given up the house she’d originally built with her friends Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman, I asked a noted Roosevelt scholar if he knew the reason for the rupture. He replied that no one did, but that ER, who was breathtakingly generous to those in need, often turned away from those who no longer needed her.

Just as I was discovering a darker side of ER’s character, so a more melancholy aspect of FDR’s life began to emerge. The loneliness of leadership is a truism. After all the experts and advisers have rung in, one man must make the decision to cut the meager pensions of World War I veterans, to give Americans numbers to ensure their social security, to send abroad precious ships and arms that may soon be needed at home. But according to his contemporaries, the thirty-second President suffered a more personal form of isolation.

FDR was the most convivial of men. He loved to gather a group around him while he mixed cocktails, told stories, and traded gossip and jokes. Even during the terrible years when he was battling to walk again, he delighted in company. As he dragged his legs back and forth between two parallel bars, or swung beneath them, or went through other agonizingly repetitious exercises, he kept up a marathon of dazzling conversation designed to distract and entertain. He hated to be alone. Yet he often dined on Mrs. Nesbitt’s inedible food off a solitary tray in his study. The wife of his aide Edwin ("Pa") Watson called him “the loneliest man in the world.” In 1943 FDR told his distant cousin and close companion Margaret Suckley, “I’m either Exhibit A or left completely alone.”

But if his need for company was prodigious, it could also be promiscuous. Most historians date Lucy Mercer’s first visit to the White House, under her Secret Service code name of Mrs. Johnson, to August 1941. My study of the presidential chronology disclosed a meeting on June 5 of the same year. The difference of several weeks would not seem important but for who else was in the White House at the time. While Lucy Mercer, now Mrs. Winthrop Rutherfurd, was having tea with the President in the oval study, Marguerite ("Missy") LeHand, his personal secretary, lay in her small room on the third floor sedated but uncalm. After two decades of cruising the Florida waters and sharing a Warm Springs cottage with FDR, sitting by his side as he sorted his stamps when she knew he needed silence, and arranging impromptu dinners and late-night poker games when she sensed he’d like company, Missy, who was only 43, had suffered a stroke the night before—brought on, some said, by her effort to keep up with FDR. The President’s official schedule for June 5, 1941, reads in part:

"1130: To Marguerite A. LeHand’s apartment

"1555-1740: Returned from Office to Study White House accompanied by Mrs. Johnson

"1740: To Marguerite A. LeHand’s apartment”

FDR was not the sexual rake certain historians have made him out to be, but he did subscribe to the philosophy of the E. Y. Harburg song that would appear the year after his death, “When I’m not near the girl I love, I love the girl I’m near.” Missy once said he “was really incapable of a personal friendship with anyone.” Some found him almost sadistic. “He always enjoyed other people’s discomfort,” Averell Harriman observed.

He was physically fearless, but he could be emotionally craven. Though he didn’t mind others’ uneasiness, his need to charm was so great that he hated saying no to people. As a result, practically everyone left the presidential presence convinced his own argument had won the day. FDR fled tears. When his terrifying mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, bullied his young wife, he refused to take sides. According to Joseph Alsop, a Roosevelt cousin and political columnist, ER “had a downright ghastly childhood and youth,” while FDR “had an immensely happy childhood and a youth altogether comfortable and if anything overprotected. It was up to him, if it was up to anyone, to help her reach some sort of accommodation with married life and with her peculiar new surroundings.” The statement is both chivalrous, in keeping with Alsop’s old-school background, and idealistic, in its faith in the power of marital devotion, but the seemingly throwaway clause “if it was up to anyone” is the operative phrase. Could any husband, or any other human being, have healed ER’s wounds?

There was no shortage of people eager to try. The letters of Lorena Hickok, the AP reporter who became a government worker when her closeness to the White House compromised her professional objectivity, reveal a burning, and for a while reciprocated, passion for ER. Joseph Lash was a faithful intimate during ER’s life and an excellent friend in the books he wrote about her after her death. Even Earl Miller, the slippery, selfaggrandizing New York State trooper who started as her bodyguard, was unstinting in his devotion. And there were scores of others. But in 1960, when ER refused to come to the telephone because she suspected the caller wanted something from her, her surprised secretary asked if she didn’t believe people could like her for herself. “Everybody wants something,” ER replied. If FDR was incapable of giving love, as many close to him believed, perhaps ER was equally incapable of receiving it.

STill, if FDR could not save his wife, he did not have to betray her. The young FDR did not take socially unsanctioned sex lightly. When his half-nephew Taddy ran off with a woman from New York’s Tenderloin district called Dutch Sadie, he wrote to his mother from Harvard that “one can never again consider him a true Roosevelt.” The years tempered his priggishness. After Ambassador William Bullitt attempted to sabotage the career of Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles by spreading rumors of a homosexual scandal, FDR predicted that on the Day of Judgment, Welles would receive a rap on the knuckles for giving in to his human predilections but that Bullitt would burn in hell for ruining another man’s life. Nonetheless, FDR had his standards of conduct. In 1940 he wrote his former headmaster, Endicott Peabody, “More than forty years ago you said, in a sermon in the Old Chapel, something about not losing boyhood ideals in later life. Those were Groton ideals—taught by you—I try not to forget- and your words are still with me and with hundreds of other of ‘us boys.'” He also had a simple and unshakable faith in God. Yet after more than 10 years of marriage to a wife whom he would always respect and revere, he broke the rules of God and man and fell in love with another woman.

The experience transformed him. Most historians ascribe FDR’s metamorphosis from callow politician to visionary statesman to his contracting polio in the summer of 1921, but some contemporaries, such as Joseph Alsop and his mother, Corinne, who was ER’s first cousin, thought that loving, and losing, Lucy Mercer was the fire that began to forge his strength and patience even before his illness.

Who was this woman who attracted the greatest man of her time and held him until he died, not in her arms, as gossip still has it, but close enough? She was, to begin with, a researcher’s nightmare. It was not only that Eleanor, with her public achievements, personal tragedies, and flair for emotional undressing in public that would have warmed the heart of a latter-day talk-show host, could not help upstaging her it was also that Lucy had a passion for privacy. She lived quietly, if splendidly, on a great estate in rural New Jersey and a handsome retreat in fashionable Aiken, South Carolina. She left only a handful of letters and no diaries, or at least none that have come to light. She told a friend she had burned FDR’s letters, though I do not believe that for a moment. Lucy Mercer could not have destroyed words written to her by “one of the greatest men that ever lived—to me—the greatest,” as she wrote his daughter after his death. In the same letter, she admitted that she had “been reading over some very old letters of his.”

The testimony of others, which ranged from the banal to the hyperbolic, affords few clues to her character. One Roosevelt son called her a “lady to her fingertips.” FDR’s mother wrote to her daughter-in-law, “Miss Mercer is here, she is so sweet and attractive and adores you, Eleanor.” I could not believe FDR had sacrificed the complicated, redoubtable, and, in her youth, lovely ER for this saccharine Victorian cliché. Admirers compared her voice to velvet and swore her smile was radiant. They insisted every man she met fell in love with her. I waded through the syrupy tributes in hope of a crumb of real insight.

The historical consensus is that Lucy Mercer gave FDR the unquestioning adoration ER could not. That is undoubtedly true. As a young Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR returned home each evening to a high-minded wife who was continually reminding him that he hadn’t mailed the $50 he’d blithely pledged to a hospital for immigrant children or that the story he told about his conversion to woman suffrage was more vivid than accurate. Three days a week he also came home to her social secretary, who laughed at his jokes and responded to his teasing and saw no reason to question his version of the way things had happened.

When FDR and Lucy, who was by then Mrs. Winthrop Rutherfurd, began to meet again in 1941, while ER was importuning FDR not to sacrifice social progress to military imperatives, Lucy was referring to him as “the Source I Do Not Question.” Even more moving than the words she wrote about FDR to others is a letter she sent to him that was until now locked away among the classified documents in the FDR Library. She speaks of “how much you have given . . . and how much more must still be given this greedy world . . . you have breathed new life into its spirit—and the fate of all that is good is in your dear blessed and capable hands.” Still, she cannot help “wishing for the soft life of joy . & the world shut out.”

But many women worshiped FDR—the spunky Missy LeHand, the willfully spinsterish Daisy Suckley, the flirtatious Princess Martha of Norway, whose sexy high heels and stillunrationed black silk stockings the press gleefully reported. FDR flattered and flirted with them all, but it was Lucy for whom he had almost left his wife before he had polio, and Lucy whom the White House operators were instructed to put through no matter when she called, and Lucy whom he was with when he succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage on that clement April afternoon in Warm Springs.

Lucy Mercer had a talent, though it is not one held in high regard today. She made other people happy. I am not talking about giving up a career to stay home and raise children, or nursing an aging parent, or other instances of worthy self-sacrifice. I mean a contagious genius for living joyously. Her descendants speak of the insouciance with which she met early hardship. Her parents squandered a fortune with stunning panache, and one morning she and her sister awakened to find they were stranded penniless at their convent school in Austria. They mention her soft heart. She once bought out an entire farm stand so the woman running it could close for the day. They speak of her need to make surroundings beautiful, and days bright, and loved ones glad to be alive.

In 1941 she re-entered the paralyzed President’s life bearing an additional gift. When FDR looked into Lucy’s eyes, he saw himself striding down Connecticut Avenue to the old State, War, and Navy Building, and loping across the sun-washed greens where he’d played 18 holes of golf in the morning and another 18 in the afternoon, and doing a hundred things he’d never given a thought to in the years before he was stricken. That glimpse of a vigorous ambulatory self was not the only reason he returned to her at the end, but surely it was a happy side effect.

If Lucy Mercer’s art was living, the medium in which she worked was personal and the scale miniature. She did not fight for jobs for the nation’s destitute, or decent homes for families living in automobiles, or safe consumer products, or rural electrification, or racial equality, or rearmament. She was an exquisitely sensitive and engaging companion and later a constant and competent nurse to a husband who doted on her. She was a devoted and successful mother to five stepchildren and one biological daughter, all of whom adored her.

FDR and ER, in contrast, battled endlessly to make America a more inclusive society at home and a force for democracy abroad. Their marriage may have been a failure, but their partnership was a triumph. The President sent his wife out as his investigator and ambassador, valued her opinion, boasted of her achievements, and defended her weaknesses. Surely the monumental demands ER made on her husband were proof of her belief in his ability to rise to them. But their public accomplishments took a personal toll. Their daughter Anna wrote in an unpublished article, “It has always seemed to me that the greatest contradiction in my parents was, on the one handy their supreme ability to ‘relate’ to either groups of people or individuals who had problems, and on the other hand, their apparent lack of ability to ‘relate’ with the same consistent warmth and interest to an individual who was their child.” Three of the children testified to their father’s charisma and elusiveness and their mother’s coolness and confusing inconsistency. Moreover, while I do not believe that parents are responsible for the acts of adult offspring, and the nature-nurture debate is far from settled, the five surviving Roosevelt children married a total of 19 times. Throughout her life, ER blamed her early inadequacy as a mother for her children’s unhappiness and took on radio engagements, writing assignments, and other endeavors to further their careers and shore up their finances.

Getting to know FDR, ER, and Lucy Mercer was not an unalloyed pleasure. I discovered secrets I wanted to sweep under the rug. During the early days of their marriage, ER wrote her mother-in-law that the “Jew party” at Bernard Baruch’s was “appalling. I never wish to hear money, jewels, or labels mentioned again.” In 1917, on an official trip to Haiti, FDR’s behavior to his hosts was as unfailingly courteous as his enjoyment of his colleagues’ racist jokes was hearty. And what was the future First Lady who would champion female equality doing opposing woman suffrage? Moreover, when it comes to historical cover-ups, many FDR and ER partisans would like to bury Lucy Mercer along with the inconvenient prejudices of their youth. But whitewashing the weaknesses of the great is a disservice to them as well as history.

During the four years I spent with Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, I never stopped wondering at the imaginations of those two children of privilege who came to intuit hardship they had never endured. When I looked at their early prejudices, I saw signposts indicating how far they had traveled. When I thought about their personal flaws, I marveled at the public good to which they put them. As I came to know Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, I began to shed my predilections and prejudices and admire the strength of her convictions, the delicacy of her principles, and the size of her heart. In a tragic situation that tested all three individuals, each behaved with honor and dignity.

The more I admired the three of them, the less I wanted to gloss over their faults. Perhaps FDR’s charm did mask an emotional iciness, and ER’s high-mindedness did make her almost as hard on others as she was on herself, and Lucy’s ability to live a gilded life while one-third of the nation was “ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished” was unconscionable. But all three were grand enough to accommodate flaws. As Lucy realizes in my book, if you cannot accept imperfections, you cannot love—or, I would add, write history, biography, or fiction.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York, to businessman James Roosevelt I and his second wife, Sara Ann Delano. Roosevelt's parents, who were sixth cousins, [4] both came from wealthy old New York families, the Roosevelts, the Aspinwalls and the Delanos, respectively. Roosevelt's patrilineal ancestor migrated to New Amsterdam in the 17th century, and the Roosevelts flourished as merchants and landowners. [5] The Delano family progenitor, Philip Delano, traveled to the New World on the Fortune in 1621, and the Delanos prospered as merchants and shipbuilders in Massachusetts. [6] Franklin had a half-brother, James "Rosy" Roosevelt, from his father's previous marriage. [7]

Roosevelt grew up in a wealthy family. His father James graduated from Harvard Law School in 1851, but chose not to practice law after receiving an inheritance from his grandfather, James Roosevelt. [7] Roosevelt's father was a prominent Bourbon Democrat who once took Franklin to meet President Grover Cleveland in the White House. [8] The president said to him: "My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be President of the United States." [ citation needed ] His mother Sara was the dominant influence in Franklin's early years. [9] She once declared, "My son Franklin is a Delano, not a Roosevelt at all." [4] James, who was 54 when Franklin was born, was considered by some as a remote father, though biographer James MacGregor Burns indicates James interacted with his son more than was typical at the time. [10]

Roosevelt learned to ride, shoot, row, and play polo and lawn tennis. He took up golf in his teen years, becoming a skilled long hitter. [11] He learned to sail early, and when he was 16, his father gave him a sailboat. [12]

Education and early career

Frequent trips to Europe — he made his first excursion at the age of two and went with his parents every year from the ages of seven to fifteen — helped Roosevelt become conversant in German and French. Except for attending public school in Germany at age nine, [13] [14] Roosevelt was home-schooled by tutors until age 14. [15] [ page needed ] He then attended Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts, joining the third form. [16] [ page needed ] Its headmaster, Endicott Peabody, preached the duty of Christians to help the less fortunate and urged his students to enter public service. Peabody remained a strong influence throughout Roosevelt's life, officiating at his wedding and visiting him as president. [17] [18]

Like most of his Groton classmates, Roosevelt went to Harvard College. [19] Roosevelt was an average student academically, [20] and he later declared, "I took economics courses in college for four years, and everything I was taught was wrong." [21] He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity [22] and the Fly Club, [23] and served as a school cheerleader. [24] Roosevelt was relatively undistinguished as a student or athlete, but he became editor-in-chief of The Harvard Crimson daily newspaper, a position that required great ambition, energy, and the ability to manage others. [25]

Roosevelt's father died in 1900, causing great distress for him. [26] The following year, Roosevelt's fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States. Theodore's vigorous leadership style and reforming zeal made him Franklin's role model and hero. [27] Franklin graduated from Harvard in 1903 with an A.B. in history. He entered Columbia Law School in 1904 but dropped out in 1907 after passing the New York Bar Examination. [28] [b] In 1908, he took a job with the prestigious law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn, working in the firm's admiralty law division. [30]

Marriage, family, and affairs

In mid-1902, Franklin began courting his future wife Eleanor Roosevelt, with whom he had been acquainted as a child. [31] Eleanor and Franklin were fifth cousins, once removed, and Eleanor was a niece of Theodore Roosevelt. [32] They began corresponding with each other in 1902, and in October 1903, [16] [ page needed ] Franklin proposed marriage to Eleanor. [33]

On March 17, 1905, Roosevelt married Eleanor, despite the fierce resistance of his mother. [34] While she did not dislike Eleanor, Sara Roosevelt was very possessive of her son, believing he was too young for marriage. She attempted to break the engagement several times. [35] Eleanor's uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, stood in at the wedding for Eleanor's deceased father, Elliott. [36] The young couple moved into Springwood, his family's estate at Hyde Park. The home was owned by Sara Roosevelt until her death in 1941 and was very much her home as well. [37] In addition, Franklin and Sara Roosevelt did the planning and furnishing of a townhouse Sara had built for the young couple in New York City Sara had a twin house built alongside for herself. Eleanor never felt at home in the houses at Hyde Park or New York, but she loved the family's vacation home on Campobello Island, which Sara gave to the couple. [38]

Biographer James MacGregor Burns said that young Roosevelt was self-assured and at ease in the upper-class. [39] In contrast, Eleanor at the time was shy and disliked social life, and at first, stayed at home to raise their several children. As his father had, Franklin left the raising of the children to his wife, while Eleanor in turn largely relied on hired caregivers to raise the children. Referring to her early experience as a mother, she later stated that she knew "absolutely nothing about handling or feeding a baby." [40] Although Eleanor had an aversion to sexual intercourse and considered it "an ordeal to be endured", [41] she and Franklin had six children. Anna, James, and Elliott were born in 1906, 1907, and 1910, respectively. The couple's second son, Franklin, died in infancy in 1909. Another son, also named Franklin, was born in 1914, and the youngest child, John, was born in 1916. [42]

Roosevelt had several extra-marital affairs, including one with Eleanor's social secretary Lucy Mercer, which began soon after she was hired in early 1914. [43] In September 1918, Eleanor found letters revealing the affair in Roosevelt's luggage. Franklin contemplated divorcing Eleanor, but Sara objected strongly and Lucy would not agree to marry a divorced man with five children. [44] Franklin and Eleanor remained married, and Roosevelt promised never to see Lucy again. Eleanor never truly forgave him, and their marriage from that point on was more of a political partnership. [45] Eleanor soon thereafter established a separate home in Hyde Park at Val-Kill, and increasingly devoted herself to various social and political causes independently of her husband. The emotional break in their marriage was so severe that when Roosevelt asked Eleanor in 1942 — in light of his failing health — to come back home and live with him again, she refused. [46] He was not always aware of when she visited the White House and for some time she could not easily reach him on the telephone without his secretary's help Roosevelt, in turn, did not visit Eleanor's New York City apartment until late 1944. [47]

Franklin broke his promise to Eleanor to refrain from having affairs. He and Lucy maintained a formal correspondence, and began seeing each other again in 1941, or perhaps earlier. [48] [49] Lucy was with Roosevelt on the day he died in 1945. Despite this, Roosevelt's affair was not widely known until the 1960s. [46] Roosevelt's son Elliott claimed that his father had a 20-year affair with his private secretary, Marguerite "Missy" LeHand. [50] Another son, James, stated that "there is a real possibility that a romantic relationship existed" between his father and Crown Princess Märtha of Norway, who resided in the White House during part of World War II. Aides began to refer to her at the time as "the president's girlfriend", [51] and gossip linking the two romantically appeared in the newspapers. [52]

New York state senator (1910–1913)

Roosevelt held little passion for the practice of law and confided to friends that he planned to eventually enter politics. [53] Despite his admiration for his cousin Theodore, Franklin inherited his father's affiliation with the Democratic Party. [54] Prior to the 1910 elections, the local Democratic Party recruited Roosevelt to run for a seat in the New York State Assembly. Roosevelt was an attractive recruit for the party because Theodore was still one of the country's most prominent politicians, and a Democratic Roosevelt was good publicity the candidate could also pay for his own campaign. [55] Roosevelt's campaign for the state assembly ended after the Democratic incumbent, Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler, chose to seek re-election. Rather than putting his political hopes on hold, Roosevelt ran for a seat in the state senate. [56] The senate district, located in Dutchess County, Columbia County, and Putnam County, was strongly Republican. [57] Roosevelt feared that open opposition from Theodore could effectively end his campaign, but Theodore privately encouraged his cousin's candidacy despite their differences in partisan affiliation. [54] Acting as his own campaign manager, Roosevelt traveled throughout the senate district via automobile at a time when many could not afford cars. [58] Due to his aggressive and effective campaign, [59] the Roosevelt name's influence in the Hudson Valley, and the Democratic landslide in the 1910 United States elections, Roosevelt won, surprising almost everyone. [60]

Though legislative sessions rarely lasted more than ten weeks, Roosevelt treated his new position as a full-time career. [61] Taking his seat on January 1, 1911, Roosevelt immediately became the leader of a group of "Insurgents" who opposed the bossism of the Tammany Hall machine that dominated the state Democratic Party. In the 1911 U.S. Senate election, which was determined in a joint session of the New York state legislature, [c] Roosevelt and nineteen other Democrats caused a prolonged deadlock by opposing a series of Tammany-backed candidates. Finally, Tammany threw its backing behind James A. O'Gorman, a highly regarded judge whom Roosevelt found acceptable, and O'Gorman won the election in late March. [62] Roosevelt soon became a popular figure among New York Democrats, though he had not yet become an eloquent speaker. [60] News articles and cartoons began depicting "the second coming of a Roosevelt" that sent "cold shivers down the spine of Tammany". [63]

Roosevelt, again in opposition to Tammany Hall, supported New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson's successful bid for the 1912 Democratic nomination, earning an informal designation as an original Wilson man. [64] The election became a three-way contest, as Theodore Roosevelt left the Republican Party to launch a third party campaign against Wilson and sitting Republican President William Howard Taft. Franklin's decision to back Wilson over Theodore Roosevelt in the general election alienated some members of his family, although Theodore himself was not offended. [65] Wilson's victory over the divided Republican Party made him the first Democrat to win a presidential election since 1892. Overcoming a bout with typhoid fever, and with extensive assistance from journalist Louis McHenry Howe, Roosevelt was re-elected in the 1912 elections. After the election, he served for a short time as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and his success with farm and labor bills was a precursor to his New Deal policies twenty years later. [66] By this time he had become more consistently progressive, in support of labor and social welfare programs for women and children cousin Theodore was of some influence on these issues. [67]

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913–1919)

Roosevelt's support of Wilson led to his appointment in March 1913 as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the second-ranking official in the Navy Department after Secretary Josephus Daniels. [68] Roosevelt had a lifelong affection for the Navy — he had already collected almost 10,000 naval books and claimed to have read all but one — and was more ardent than Daniels in supporting a large and efficient naval force. [69] [70] With Wilson's support, Daniels and Roosevelt instituted a merit-based promotion system and made other reforms to extend civilian control over the autonomous departments of the Navy. [71] Roosevelt oversaw the Navy's civilian employees and earned the respect of union leaders for his fairness in resolving disputes. [72] Not a single strike occurred during his seven-plus years in the office, [73] during which Roosevelt gained experience in labor issues, government management during wartime, naval issues, and logistics, all valuable areas for future office. [74]

In 1914, Roosevelt made an ill-conceived decision to run for the seat of retiring Republican Senator Elihu Root of New York. Though Roosevelt won the backing of Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo and Governor Martin H. Glynn, he faced a formidable opponent in the Tammany-backed James W. Gerard. [75] He also lacked Wilson's backing, as Wilson needed Tammany's forces to help marshal his legislation and secure his 1916 re-election. [76] Roosevelt was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary by Gerard, who in turn lost the general election to Republican James Wolcott Wadsworth Jr. Roosevelt learned a valuable lesson, that federal patronage alone, without White House support, could not defeat a strong local organization. [77] After the election, Roosevelt and the boss of the Tammany Hall machine, Charles Francis Murphy, sought an accommodation with one another and became political allies. [78]

Following his defeat in the Senate primary, Roosevelt refocused on the Navy Department. [79] World War I broke out in July 1914, with the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire seeking to defeat the Allied Powers of Britain, France, and Russia. Though he remained publicly supportive of Wilson, Roosevelt sympathized with the Preparedness Movement, whose leaders strongly favored the Allied Powers and called for a military build-up. [80] The Wilson administration initiated an expansion of the Navy after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German submarine, and Roosevelt helped establish the United States Navy Reserve and the Council of National Defense. [81] In April 1917, after Germany declared it would engage in unrestricted submarine warfare and attacked several U.S. ships, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. Congress approved the declaration of war on Germany on April 6. [82]

Roosevelt requested that he be allowed to serve as a naval officer, but Wilson insisted that he continue to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. For the next year, Roosevelt remained in Washington to coordinate the mobilization, supply, and deployment of naval vessels and personnel. [83] In the first six months after the U.S. entered the war, the Navy expanded fourfold. [84] In the summer of 1918, Roosevelt traveled to Europe to inspect naval installations and meet with French and British officials. In September, he returned to the United States on board the USS Leviathan, a large troop carrier. On the 11-day voyage, the pandemic influenza virus struck and killed many on board. Roosevelt became very ill with influenza and a complicating pneumonia, but he recovered by the time the ship landed in New York. [85] [86] After Germany signed an armistice in November 1918, surrendering and ending the fighting, Daniels and Roosevelt supervised the demobilization of the Navy. [87] Against the advice of older officers such as Admiral William Benson—who claimed he could not "conceive of any use the fleet will ever have for aviation"—Roosevelt personally ordered the preservation of the Navy's Aviation Division. [88] With the Wilson administration coming to an end, Roosevelt began planning for his next run for office. Roosevelt and his associates approached Herbert Hoover about running for the 1920 Democratic presidential nomination, with Roosevelt as his running mate. [89]

Campaign for vice president (1920)

Roosevelt's plan to convince Hoover to run for the Democratic nomination fell through after Hoover publicly declared himself to be a Republican, but Roosevelt nonetheless decided to seek the 1920 vice presidential nomination. After Governor James M. Cox of Ohio won the party's presidential nomination at the 1920 Democratic National Convention, he chose Roosevelt as his running mate, and the party formally nominated Roosevelt by acclamation. [90] Although his nomination surprised most people, Roosevelt balanced the ticket as a moderate, a Wilsonian, and a prohibitionist with a famous name. [91] [92] Roosevelt had just turned 38, four years younger than Theodore had been when he received the same nomination from his party. Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy after the Democratic convention and campaigned across the nation for the Cox–Roosevelt ticket. [93]

During the campaign, Cox and Roosevelt defended the Wilson administration and the League of Nations, both of which were unpopular in 1920. [94] Roosevelt personally supported U.S. membership in the League of Nations, but, unlike Wilson, he favored compromising with Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and other "Reservationists." [95] The Cox–Roosevelt ticket was defeated by Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge in the presidential election by a wide margin, and the Republican ticket carried every state outside of the South. [96] Roosevelt accepted the loss without issue and later reflected that the relationships and good will that he built in the 1920 campaign proved to be a major asset in his 1932 campaign. The 1920 election also saw the first public participation of Eleanor Roosevelt who, with the support of Louis Howe, established herself as a valuable political ally. [97]

After the election, Roosevelt returned to New York City, where he practiced law and served as a vice president of the Fidelity and Deposit Company. [98] He also sought to build support for a political comeback in the 1922 elections, but his career was derailed by illness. [98] While the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello Island in August 1921, he fell ill. His main symptoms were fever symmetric, ascending paralysis facial paralysis bowel and bladder dysfunction numbness and hyperesthesia and a descending pattern of recovery. Roosevelt was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He was diagnosed with poliomyelitis at the time, but his symptoms are now believed to be more consistent with Guillain–Barré syndrome – an autoimmune neuropathy which Roosevelt's doctors failed to consider as a diagnostic possibility. [99]

Though his mother favored his retirement from public life, Roosevelt, his wife, and Roosevelt's close friend and adviser, Louis Howe, were all determined that he continue his political career. [100] He convinced many people that he was improving, which he believed to be essential prior to running for public office again. [101] He laboriously taught himself to walk short distances while wearing iron braces on his hips and legs by swiveling his torso, supporting himself with a cane. [102] He was careful never to be seen using his wheelchair in public, and great care was taken to prevent any portrayal in the press that would highlight his disability. [103] However, his disability was well known before and during his presidency and became a major part of his image. He usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons. [104]

Beginning in 1925, Roosevelt spent most of his time in the Southern United States, at first on his houseboat, the Larooco. [105] Intrigued by the potential benefits of hydrotherapy, he established a rehabilitation center at Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1926. To create the rehabilitation center, he assembled a staff of physical therapists and used most of his inheritance to purchase the Merriweather Inn. In 1938, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, leading to the development of polio vaccines. [106]

Roosevelt maintained contacts with the Democratic Party during the 1920s, and he remained active in New York politics while also establishing contacts in the South, particularly in Georgia. [107] He issued an open letter endorsing Al Smith's successful campaign in New York's 1922 gubernatorial election, which both aided Smith and showed Roosevelt's continuing relevance as a political figure. [108] Roosevelt and Smith came from different backgrounds and never fully trusted one another, but Roosevelt supported Smith's progressive policies, while Smith was happy to have the backing of the prominent and well-respected Roosevelt. [109]

Roosevelt gave presidential nominating speeches for Smith at the 1924 and 1928 Democratic National Conventions the speech at the 1924 convention marked a return to public life following his illness and convalescence. [110] That year, the Democrats were badly divided between an urban wing, led by Smith, and a conservative, rural wing, led by William Gibbs McAdoo, on the 101st ballot, the nomination went to John W. Davis, a compromise candidate who suffered a landslide defeat in the 1924 presidential election. Like many others throughout the United States, Roosevelt did not abstain from alcohol during the Prohibition era, but publicly he sought to find a compromise on Prohibition acceptable to both wings of the party. [111]

In 1925, Smith appointed Roosevelt to the Taconic State Park Commission, and his fellow commissioners chose him as chairman. [112] In this role, he came into conflict with Robert Moses, a Smith protégé, [112] who was the primary force behind the Long Island State Park Commission and the New York State Council of Parks. [112] Roosevelt accused Moses of using the name recognition of prominent individuals including Roosevelt to win political support for state parks, but then diverting funds to the ones Moses favored on Long Island, while Moses worked to block the appointment of Howe to a salaried position as the Taconic commission's secretary. [112] Roosevelt served on the commission until the end of 1928, [113] and his contentious relationship with Moses continued as their careers progressed. [114]

As the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1928 election, Smith, in turn, asked Roosevelt to run for governor in the state election. [115] Roosevelt initially resisted the entreaties of Smith and others within the party, as he was reluctant to leave Warm Springs and feared a Republican landslide in 1928. [116] He agreed to run when party leaders convinced him that only he could defeat the Republican gubernatorial nominee, New York Attorney General Albert Ottinger. [117] Roosevelt won the party's gubernatorial nomination by acclamation, and he once again turned to Howe to lead his campaign. Roosevelt was also joined on the campaign trail by Samuel Rosenman, Frances Perkins, and James Farley, all of whom would become important political associates. [118] While Smith lost the presidency in a landslide, and was defeated in his home state, Roosevelt was elected governor by a one-percent margin. [119] Roosevelt's election as governor of the most populous state immediately made him a contender in the next presidential election. [120]

Upon taking office in January 1929, Roosevelt proposed the construction of a series of hydroelectric power plants and sought to address the ongoing farm crisis of the 1920s. [121] Relations between Roosevelt and Smith suffered after Roosevelt chose not to retain key Smith appointees like Moses. [122] Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor established a political understanding that would last for the duration of his political career she would dutifully serve as the governor's wife but would also be free to pursue her own agenda and interests. [123] He also began holding "fireside chats", in which he directly addressed his constituents via radio, often using these chats to pressure the New York State Legislature to advance his agenda. [124]

In October 1929, the Wall Street Crash occurred, and the country began sliding into the Great Depression. [125] While President Hoover and many state governors believed that the economic crisis would subside, Roosevelt saw the seriousness of the situation and established a state employment commission. He also became the first governor to publicly endorse the idea of unemployment insurance. [126]

When Roosevelt began his run for a second term in May 1930, he reiterated his doctrine from the campaign two years before: "that progressive government by its very terms must be a living and growing thing, that the battle for it is never-ending and that if we let up for one single moment or one single year, not merely do we stand still but we fall back in the march of civilization." [127] He ran on a platform that called for aid to farmers, full employment, unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions. [128] His Republican opponent could not overcome the public's criticism of the Republican Party during the economic downturn, and Roosevelt was elected to a second term by a 14% margin. [129]

With the Hoover administration resisting proposals to directly address the economic crisis, Roosevelt proposed an economic relief package and the establishment of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration to distribute those funds. Led first by Jesse I. Straus and then by Harry Hopkins, the agency assisted well over one-third of New York's population between 1932 and 1938. [130] Roosevelt also began an investigation into corruption in New York City among the judiciary, the police force, and organized crime, prompting the creation of the Seabury Commission. Many public officials were removed from office as a result. [131]

As the 1932 presidential election approached, Roosevelt increasingly turned his attention to national politics. He established a campaign team led by Howe and Farley and a "brain trust" of policy advisers. [132] With the economy ailing, many Democrats hoped that the 1932 elections would result in the election of the first Democratic president since Woodrow Wilson.

Roosevelt's re-election as governor had established him as the front-runner for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination. Roosevelt rallied the progressive supporters of the Wilson administration while also appealing to many conservatives, establishing himself as the leading candidate in the South and West. The chief opposition to Roosevelt's candidacy came from Northeastern conservatives such as Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic presidential nominee. Smith hoped to deny Roosevelt the two-thirds support necessary to win the party's presidential nomination at the 1932 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and then emerge as the nominee after multiple rounds of balloting.

Roosevelt entered the convention with a delegate lead due to his success in the 1932 Democratic primaries, but most delegates entered the convention unbound to any particular candidate. On the first presidential ballot of the convention, Roosevelt received the votes of more than half but less than two-thirds of the delegates, with Smith finishing in a distant second place. Speaker of the House John Nance Garner, who controlled the votes of Texas and California, threw his support behind Roosevelt after the third ballot, and Roosevelt clinched the nomination on the fourth ballot. With little input from Roosevelt, Garner won the vice-presidential nomination. Roosevelt flew in from New York after learning that he had won the nomination, becoming the first major-party presidential nominee to accept the nomination in person. [133]

In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt declared, "I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms." [134] Roosevelt promised securities regulation, tariff reduction, farm relief, government-funded public works, and other government actions to address the Great Depression. [135] Reflecting changing public opinion, the Democratic platform included a call for the repeal of Prohibition Roosevelt himself had not taken a public stand on the issue prior to the convention but promised to uphold the party platform. [136]

After the convention, Roosevelt won endorsements from several progressive Republicans, including George W. Norris, Hiram Johnson, and Robert La Follette Jr. [137] He also reconciled with the party's conservative wing, and even Al Smith was persuaded to support the Democratic ticket. [138] Hoover's handling of the Bonus Army further damaged the incumbent's popularity, as newspapers across the country criticized the use of force to disperse assembled veterans. [139]

Roosevelt won 57% of the popular vote and carried all but six states. Historians and political scientists consider the 1932–36 elections to be a political realignment. Roosevelt's victory was enabled by the creation of the New Deal coalition, small farmers, the Southern whites, Catholics, big city political machines, labor unions, northern African Americans (southern ones were still disfranchised), Jews, intellectuals, and political liberals. [140] The creation of the New Deal coalition transformed American politics and started what political scientists call the "New Deal Party System" or the Fifth Party System. [141] Between the Civil War and 1929, Democrats had rarely controlled both houses of Congress and had won just four of seventeen presidential elections from 1932 to 1979, Democrats won eight of twelve presidential elections and generally controlled both houses of Congress. [142]

As president, Roosevelt appointed powerful men to top positions but made all the major decisions, regardless of delays, inefficiency or resentment. Analyzing the president's administrative style, historian James MacGregor Burns concludes:

The president stayed in charge of his administration. by drawing fully on his formal and informal powers as Chief Executive by raising goals, creating momentum, inspiring a personal loyalty, getting the best out of people. by deliberately fostering among his aides a sense of competition and a clash of wills that led to disarray, heartbreak, and anger but also set off pulses of executive energy and sparks of creativity. by handing out one job to several men and several jobs to one man, thus strengthening his own position as a court of appeals, as a depository of information, and as a tool of co-ordination by ignoring or bypassing collective decision-making agencies, such as the Cabinet. and always by persuading, flattering, juggling, improvising, reshuffling, harmonizing, conciliating, manipulating. [143]


Roosevelt was elected in November 1932 but, like his predecessors, did not take office until the following March. [d] After the election, President Hoover sought to convince Roosevelt to renounce much of his campaign platform and to endorse the Hoover administration's policies. [144] Roosevelt refused Hoover's request to develop a joint program to stop the downward economic spiral, claiming that it would tie his hands and that Hoover had all the power to act if necessary. [145] The economy spiraled downward until the banking system began a complete nationwide shutdown as Hoover's term ended. [146] Roosevelt used the transition period to select the personnel for his incoming administration, and he chose Howe as his chief of staff, Farley as Postmaster General, and Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor. William H. Woodin, a Republican industrialist close to Roosevelt, was the choice for Secretary of the Treasury, while Roosevelt chose Senator Cordell Hull of Tennessee as Secretary of State. Harold L. Ickes and Henry A. Wallace, two progressive Republicans, were selected for the roles of Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture, respectively. [147] In February 1933, Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara, who expressed a "hate for all rulers." Attempting to shoot Roosevelt, Zangara instead mortally wounded Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was sitting alongside Roosevelt. [148] [149]

First and second terms (1933–1941)

When Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst depression in its history. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices had fallen by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million people were homeless. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states – as well as the District of Columbia – had closed their banks. [150]

Historians categorized Roosevelt's program as "relief, recovery, and reform." Relief was urgently needed by tens of millions of unemployed. Recovery meant boosting the economy back to normal. Reform meant long-term fixes of what was wrong, especially with the financial and banking systems. Through Roosevelt's series of radio talks, known as fireside chats, he presented his proposals directly to the American public. [151] Energized by his personal victory over his paralytic illness, Roosevelt relied on his persistent optimism and activism to renew the national spirit. [152]

First New Deal (1933–1934)

On his second day in office, Roosevelt declared a four-day national "bank holiday" and called for a special session of Congress to start March 9, on which date Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act. [153] The act, which was based on a plan developed by the Hoover administration and Wall Street bankers, gave the president the power to determine the opening and closing of banks and authorized the Federal Reserve Banks to issue banknotes. [154] The ensuing "First 100 Days" of the 73rd United States Congress saw an unprecedented amount of legislation [155] and set a benchmark against which future presidents would be compared. [156] When the banks reopened on Monday, March 15, stock prices rose by 15 percent and bank deposits exceeded withdrawals, thus ending the bank panic. [157] On March 22, Roosevelt signed the Cullen–Harrison Act, which effectively ended federal Prohibition. [158]

Roosevelt presided over the establishment of several agencies and measures designed to provide relief for the unemployed and others in need. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), under the leadership of Harry Hopkins, was designed to distribute relief to state governments. [159] The Public Works Administration (PWA), under the leadership of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, was created to oversee the construction of large-scale public works such as dams, bridges, and schools. [159] The most popular of all New Deal agencies – and Roosevelt's favorite – was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which hired 250,000 unemployed young men to work on local rural projects. Roosevelt also expanded a Hoover agency, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, making it a major source of financing for railroads and industry. Congress gave the Federal Trade Commission broad new regulatory powers and provided mortgage relief to millions of farmers and homeowners. Roosevelt also made agricultural relief a high priority and set up the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The AAA tried to force higher prices for commodities by paying farmers to leave land uncultivated and to cut herds. [160]

Reform of the economy was the goal of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933. It sought to end cutthroat competition by forcing industries to establish rules of operation for all firms within specific industries, such as minimum prices, agreements not to compete, and production restrictions. Industry leaders negotiated the rules which were approved by NIRA officials. Industry needed to raise wages as a condition for approval. Provisions encouraged unions and suspended antitrust laws. NIRA was found to be unconstitutional by the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in May 1935 Roosevelt strongly protested the decision. [161] Roosevelt reformed the financial regulatory structure of the nation with the Glass–Steagall Act, creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to underwrite savings deposits. The act also sought to curb speculation by limiting affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms. [162] In 1934, the Securities and Exchange Commission was created to regulate the trading of securities, while the Federal Communications Commission was established to regulate telecommunications. [163]

Recovery was pursued through federal spending. [164] The NIRA included $3.3 billion (equivalent to $65.97 billion in 2020) of spending through the Public Works Administration. Roosevelt worked with Senator Norris to create the largest government-owned industrial enterprise in American history — the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) — which built dams and power stations, controlled floods, and modernized agriculture and home conditions in the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley. Executive Order 6102 declared that all privately held gold of American citizens was to be sold to the U.S. Treasury and the price raised from $20 to $35 per ounce. The goal was to counter the deflation which was paralyzing the economy. [165]

Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the federal budget — including a reduction in military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934 and a 40% cut in spending on veterans benefits — by removing 500,000 veterans and widows from the pension rolls and reducing benefits for the remainder, as well as cutting the salaries of federal employees and reducing spending on research and education. But the veterans were well organized and strongly protested, and most benefits were restored or increased by 1934. [166] Veterans groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars won their campaign to transform their benefits from payments due in 1945 to immediate cash when Congress overrode the President's veto and passed the Bonus Act in January 1936. [167] It pumped sums equal to 2% of the GDP into the consumer economy and had a major stimulus effect. [168]

Second New Deal (1935–1936)

Roosevelt expected that his party would lose several races in the 1934 Congressional elections, as the president's party had done in most previous midterm elections, but the Democrats picked up seats in both houses of Congress. Empowered by the public's apparent vote of confidence in his administration, the first item on Roosevelt's agenda in the 74th Congress was the creation of a social insurance program. [169] The Social Security Act established Social Security and promised economic security for the elderly, the poor and the sick. Roosevelt insisted that it should be funded by payroll taxes rather than from the general fund, saying, "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program." [170] Compared with the social security systems in western European countries, the Social Security Act of 1935 was rather conservative. But for the first time, the federal government took responsibility for the economic security of the aged, the temporarily unemployed, dependent children, and the handicapped. [171] Against Roosevelt's original intention for universal coverage, the act only applied to roughly sixty percent of the labor force, as farmers, domestic workers, and other groups were excluded. [172]

Roosevelt consolidated the various relief organizations, though some, like the PWA, continued to exist. After winning Congressional authorization for further funding of relief efforts, Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Under the leadership of Harry Hopkins, the WPA employed over three million people in its first year of existence. The WPA undertook numerous construction projects and provided funding to the National Youth Administration and arts organizations. [173]

Senator Robert Wagner wrote the National Labor Relations Act, which guaranteed workers the right to collective bargaining through unions of their own choice. The act also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to facilitate wage agreements and to suppress the repeated labor disturbances. The Wagner Act did not compel employers to reach an agreement with their employees, but it opened possibilities for American labor. [174] The result was a tremendous growth of membership in the labor unions, especially in the mass-production sector. [175] When the Flint sit-down strike threatened the production of General Motors, Roosevelt broke with the precedent set by many former presidents and refused to intervene the strike ultimately led to the unionization of both General Motors and its rivals in the American automobile industry. [176]

While the First New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. [177] But Smith overplayed his hand, and his boisterous rhetoric let Roosevelt isolate his opponents and identify them with the wealthy vested interests that opposed the New Deal, strengthening Roosevelt for the 1936 landslide. [177] By contrast, labor unions, energized by the Wagner Act, signed up millions of new members and became a major backer of Roosevelt's reelections in 1936, 1940 and 1944. [178]

Biographer James M. Burns suggests that Roosevelt's policy decisions were guided more by pragmatism than ideology and that he "was like the general of a guerrilla army whose columns, fighting blindly in the mountains through dense ravines and thickets, suddenly converge, half by plan and half by coincidence, and debouch into the plain below." [179] Roosevelt argued that such apparently haphazard methodology was necessary. "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation," he wrote. "It is common sense to take a method and try it if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." [180]

Re-election, 1936

Though eight million workers remained unemployed in 1936, economic conditions had improved since 1932 and Roosevelt was widely popular. An attempt by Louisiana Senator Huey Long and other individuals to organize a left-wing alternative to the Democratic Party collapsed after Long's assassination in 1935. [181] Roosevelt won re-nomination with little opposition at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, while his allies overcame Southern resistance to permanently abolish the long-established rule that had required Democratic presidential candidates to win the votes of two-thirds of the delegates rather than a simple majority. [e] The Republicans nominated Kansas Governor Alf Landon, a well-respected but bland candidate whose chances were damaged by the public re-emergence of the still-unpopular Herbert Hoover. [183] While Roosevelt campaigned on his New Deal programs and continued to attack Hoover, Landon sought to win voters who approved of the goals of the New Deal but disagreed with its implementation. [184]

In the election against Landon and a third-party candidate, Roosevelt won 60.8% of the vote and carried every state except Maine and Vermont. [185] The Democratic ticket won the highest proportion of the popular vote. [f] Democrats also expanded their majorities in Congress, winning control of over three-quarters of the seats in each house. The election also saw the consolidation of the New Deal coalition while the Democrats lost some of their traditional allies in big business, they were replaced by groups such as organized labor and African Americans, the latter of whom voted Democratic for the first time since the Civil War. [186] Roosevelt lost high-income voters, especially businessmen and professionals, but made major gains among the poor and minorities. He won 86 percent of the Jewish vote, 81 percent of Catholics, 80 percent of union members, 76 percent of Southerners, 76 percent of blacks in northern cities, and 75 percent of people on relief. Roosevelt carried 102 of the country's 106 cities with a population of 100,000 or more. [187]

Supreme Court fight and second term legislation

Supreme Court appointments by President Franklin D. Roosevelt [188]
Chief JusticeHarlan Fiske Stone1941–1946
Associate JusticeHugo Black1937–1971
Stanley Forman Reed1938–1957
Felix Frankfurter1939–1962
William O. Douglas1939–1975
Frank Murphy1940–1949
James F. Byrnes1941–1942
Robert H. Jackson1941–1954
Wiley Blount Rutledge1943–1949

The Supreme Court became Roosevelt's primary domestic focus during his second term after the court overturned many of his programs, including NIRA. The more conservative members of the court upheld the principles of the Lochner era, which saw numerous economic regulations struck down on the basis of freedom of contract. [189] Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, which would have allowed him to appoint an additional Justice for each incumbent Justice over the age of 70 in 1937, there were six Supreme Court Justices over the age of 70. The size of the Court had been set at nine since the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1869, and Congress had altered the number of Justices six other times throughout U.S. history. [190] Roosevelt's "court packing" plan ran into intense political opposition from his own party, led by Vice President Garner, since it upset the separation of powers. [191] A bipartisan coalition of liberals and conservatives of both parties opposed the bill, and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes broke with precedent by publicly advocating the defeat of the bill. Any chance of passing the bill ended with the death of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Taylor Robinson in July 1937. [192]

Starting with the 1937 case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, the court began to take a more favorable view of economic regulations. That same year, Roosevelt appointed a Supreme Court Justice for the first time, and by 1941, seven of the nine Justices had been appointed by Roosevelt. [g] [193] After Parish, the Court shifted its focus from judicial review of economic regulations to the protection of civil liberties. [194] Four of Roosevelt's Supreme Court appointees, Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson, Hugo Black, and William O. Douglas, would be particularly influential in re-shaping the jurisprudence of the Court. [195] [196]

With Roosevelt's influence on the wane following the failure of the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, conservative Democrats joined with Republicans to block the implementation of further New Deal programs. [197] Roosevelt did manage to pass some legislation, including the Housing Act of 1937, a second Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which was the last major piece of New Deal legislation. The FLSA outlawed child labor, established a federal minimum wage, and required overtime pay for certain employees who work in excess of forty-hours per week. [198] He also won passage of the Reorganization Act of 1939 and subsequently created the Executive Office of the President, making it "the nerve center of the federal administrative system." [199] When the economy began to deteriorate again in late 1937, Roosevelt asked Congress for $5 billion (equivalent to $90.01 billion in 2020) in relief and public works funding. This managed to eventually create as many as 3.3 million WPA jobs by 1938. Projects accomplished under the WPA ranged from new federal courthouses and post offices to facilities and infrastructure for national parks, bridges and other infrastructure across the country, and architectural surveys and archaeological excavations — investments to construct facilities and preserve important resources. Beyond this, however, Roosevelt recommended to a special congressional session only a permanent national farm act, administrative reorganization, and regional planning measures, all of which were leftovers from a regular session. According to Burns, this attempt illustrated Roosevelt's inability to decide on a basic economic program. [200]

Determined to overcome the opposition of conservative Democrats in Congress, Roosevelt became involved in the 1938 Democratic primaries, actively campaigning for challengers who were more supportive of New Deal reform. Roosevelt failed badly, managing to defeat only one target, a conservative Democrat from New York City. [201] In the November 1938 elections, Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats, with losses concentrated among pro-New Deal Democrats. When Congress reconvened in 1939, Republicans under Senator Robert Taft formed a Conservative coalition with Southern Democrats, virtually ending Roosevelt's ability to enact his domestic proposals. [202] Despite their opposition to Roosevelt's domestic policies, many of these conservative Congressmen would provide crucial support for Roosevelt's foreign policy before and during World War II. [203]

Conservation and the environment

Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in the environment and conservation starting with his youthful interest in forestry on his family estate. Although Roosevelt was never an outdoorsman or sportsman on Theodore Roosevelt's scale, his growth of the national systems were comparable. [6] Roosevelt was active in expanding, funding, and promoting the National Park and National Forest systems. [204] Under Roosevelt, their popularity soared, from three million visitors a year at the start of the decade to 15.5 million in 1939. [205] The Civilian Conservation Corps enrolled 3.4 million young men and built 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometres) of trails, planted two billion trees, and upgraded 125,000 miles (201,000 kilometres) of dirt roads. Every state had its own state parks, and Roosevelt made sure that WPA and CCC projects were set up to upgrade them as well as the national systems. [206] [207]

GNP and unemployment rates

Unemployment rates [h]
Year Lebergott Darby
1929 3.2 3.2
1932 23.6 22.9
1933 24.9 20.6
1934 21.7 16.0
1935 20.1 14.2
1936 16.9 9.9
1937 14.3 9.1
1938 19.0 12.5
1939 17.2 11.3
1940 14.6 9.5

Government spending increased from 8.0% of gross national product (GNP) under Hoover in 1932 to 10.2% of the GNP in 1936. The national debt as a percentage of the GNP had more than doubled under Hoover from 16% to 40% of the GNP in early 1933. It held steady at close to 40% as late as fall 1941, then grew rapidly during the war. [209] The GNP was 34% higher in 1936 than in 1932 and 58% higher in 1940 on the eve of war. That is, the economy grew 58% from 1932 to 1940 in eight years of peacetime, and then grew 56% from 1940 to 1945 in five years of wartime. [209] Unemployment fell dramatically during Roosevelt's first term. It increased in 1938 ("a depression within a depression") but continually declined after 1938. [208] Total employment during Roosevelt's term expanded by 18.31 million jobs, with an average annual increase in jobs during his administration of 5.3%. [210] [211]

Foreign policy (1933–1941)

The main foreign policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was the Good Neighbor Policy, which was a re-evaluation of U.S. policy toward Latin America. The United States had frequently intervened in Latin America following the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, and the United States had occupied several Latin American nations in the Banana Wars that had occurred following the Spanish–American War of 1898. After Roosevelt took office, he withdrew U.S. forces from Haiti and reached new treaties with Cuba and Panama, ending their status as U.S. protectorates. In December 1933, Roosevelt signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, renouncing the right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of Latin American countries. [212] Roosevelt also normalized relations with the Soviet Union, which the United States had refused to recognize since the 1920s. [213] He hoped to renegotiate the Russian debt from World War I and open trade relations, but no progress was made on either issue and "both nations were soon disillusioned by the accord." [214]

The rejection of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919–1920 marked the dominance of isolationism in American foreign policy. Despite Roosevelt's Wilsonian background, he and Secretary of State Cordell Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment. The isolationist movement was bolstered in the early to mid-1930s by Senator Gerald Nye and others who succeeded in their effort to stop the "merchants of death" in the U.S. from selling arms abroad. [215] This effort took the form of the Neutrality Acts the president asked for, but was refused, a provision to give him the discretion to allow the sale of arms to victims of aggression. [216] Focused on domestic policy, Roosevelt largely acquiesced to Congress's non-interventionist policies in the early-to-mid 1930s. [217] In the interim, Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini proceeded to overcome Ethiopia, and the Italians joined Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler in supporting General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist cause in the Spanish Civil War. [218] As that conflict drew to a close in early 1939, Roosevelt expressed regret in not aiding the Spanish Republicans. [219] When Japan invaded China in 1937, isolationism limited Roosevelt's ability to aid China, [220] despite atrocities like the Nanking Massacre and the USS Panay incident. [221]

Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and soon turned its attention to its eastern neighbors. [223] Roosevelt made it clear that, in the event of German aggression against Czechoslovakia, the U.S. would remain neutral. [224] After completion of the Munich Agreement and the execution of Kristallnacht, American public opinion turned against Germany, and Roosevelt began preparing for a possible war with Germany. [225] Relying on an interventionist political coalition of Southern Democrats and business-oriented Republicans, Roosevelt oversaw the expansion of U.S. airpower and war production capacity. [226]

When World War II began in September 1939 with Germany's invasion of Poland and Britain and France's subsequent declaration of war upon Germany, Roosevelt sought ways to assist Britain and France militarily. [227] Isolationist leaders like Charles Lindbergh and Senator William Borah successfully mobilized opposition to Roosevelt's proposed repeal of the Neutrality Act, but Roosevelt won Congressional approval of the sale of arms on a cash-and-carry basis. [228] He also began a regular secret correspondence with Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, in September 1939 — the first of 1,700 letters and telegrams between them. [229] Roosevelt forged a close personal relationship with Churchill, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 1940. [230]

The Fall of France in June 1940 shocked the American public, and isolationist sentiment declined. [231] In July 1940, Roosevelt appointed two interventionist Republican leaders, Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, as Secretaries of War and the Navy, respectively. Both parties gave support to his plans for a rapid build-up of the American military, but the isolationists warned that Roosevelt would get the nation into an unnecessary war with Germany. [232] In July 1940, a group of Congressmen introduced a bill that would authorize the nation's first peacetime draft, and with the support of the Roosevelt administration, the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 passed in September. The size of the army would increase from 189,000 men at the end of 1939 to 1.4 million men in mid-1941. [233] In September 1940, Roosevelt openly defied the Neutrality Acts by reaching the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which, in exchange for military base rights in the British Caribbean Islands, gave 50 WWI American destroyers to Britain. [234]

Election of 1940

In the months prior to the July 1940 Democratic National Convention, there was much speculation as to whether Roosevelt would run for an unprecedented third term. The two-term tradition, although not yet enshrined in the Constitution, [i] had been established by George Washington when he refused to run for a third term in the 1796 presidential election. Roosevelt refused to give a definitive statement as to his willingness to be a candidate again, and he even indicated to some ambitious Democrats, such as James Farley, that he would not run for a third term and that they could seek the Democratic nomination. However, as Germany swept through Western Europe and menaced Britain in mid-1940, Roosevelt decided that only he had the necessary experience and skills to see the nation safely through the Nazi threat. He was aided by the party's political bosses, who feared that no Democrat except Roosevelt could defeat Wendell Willkie, the popular Republican nominee. [235]

At the July 1940 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt easily swept aside challenges from Farley and Vice President Garner, who had turned against Roosevelt in his second term because of his liberal economic and social policies. [236] To replace Garner on the ticket, Roosevelt turned to Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace of Iowa, a former Republican who strongly supported the New Deal and was popular in farm states. [237] The choice was strenuously opposed by many of the party's conservatives, who felt Wallace was too radical and "eccentric" in his private life to be an effective running mate. But Roosevelt insisted that without Wallace on the ticket he would decline re-nomination, and Wallace won the vice-presidential nomination, defeating Speaker of the House William B. Bankhead and other candidates. [236]

A late August poll taken by Gallup found the race to be essentially tied, but Roosevelt's popularity surged in September following the announcement of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. [238] Willkie supported much of the New Deal as well as rearmament and aid to Britain but warned that Roosevelt would drag the country into another European war. [239] Responding to Willkie's attacks, Roosevelt promised to keep the country out of the war. [240] Roosevelt won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote, 38 of the 48 states, and almost 85% of the electoral vote. [241]

Third and fourth terms (1941–1945)

The world war dominated FDR's attention, with far more time devoted to world affairs than ever before. Domestic politics and relations with Congress were largely shaped by his efforts to achieve total mobilization of the nation's economic, financial, and institutional resources for the war effort. Even relationships with Latin America and Canada were structured by wartime demands. Roosevelt maintained close personal control of all major diplomatic and military decisions, working closely with his generals and admirals, the war and Navy departments, the British, and even with the Soviet Union. His key advisors on diplomacy were Harry Hopkins (who was based in the White House), Sumner Welles (based in the State Department), and Henry Morgenthau Jr. at Treasury. In military affairs, FDR worked most closely with Secretary Henry L. Stimson at the War Department, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, and Admiral William D. Leahy. [242] [243] [244]

Lead-up to the war

By late 1940, re-armament was in high gear, partly to expand and re-equip the Army and Navy and partly to become the "Arsenal of Democracy" for Britain and other countries. [245] With his Four Freedoms speech in January 1941, Roosevelt laid out the case for an Allied battle for basic rights throughout the world. Assisted by Willkie, Roosevelt won Congressional approval of the Lend-Lease program, which directed massive military and economic aid to Britain, and China. [246] In sharp contrast to the loans of World War I, there would be no repayment after the war. [247] As Roosevelt took a firmer stance against Japan, Germany, and Italy, American isolationists such as Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee vehemently attacked Roosevelt as an irresponsible warmonger. [248] When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt agreed to extend Lend-Lease to the Soviets. Thus, Roosevelt had committed the U.S. to the Allied side with a policy of "all aid short of war." [249] By July 1941, Roosevelt authorized the creation of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA) to counter perceived propaganda efforts in Latin America by Germany and Italy. [250] [251]

In August 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill conducted a highly secret bilateral meeting in which they drafted the Atlantic Charter, conceptually outlining global wartime and postwar goals. This would be the first of several wartime conferences [252] Churchill and Roosevelt would meet ten more times in person. [253] Though Churchill pressed for an American declaration of war against Germany, Roosevelt believed that Congress would reject any attempt to bring the United States into the war. [254] In September, a German submarine fired on the U.S. destroyer Greer, and Roosevelt declared that the U.S. Navy would assume an escort role for Allied convoys in the Atlantic as far east as Great Britain and would fire upon German ships or submarines (U-boats) of the Kriegsmarine if they entered the U.S. Navy zone. According to historian George Donelson Moss, Roosevelt "misled" Americans by reporting the Greer incident as if it would have been an unprovoked German attack on a peaceful American ship. [255] This "shoot on sight" policy effectively declared naval war on Germany and was favored by Americans by a margin of 2-to-1. [256]

Pearl Harbor and declarations of war

After the German invasion of Poland, the primary concern of both Roosevelt and his top military staff was on the war in Europe, but Japan also presented foreign policy challenges. Relations with Japan had continually deteriorated since its invasion of Manchuria in 1931, and they had further worsened with Roosevelt's support of China. [257] With the war in Europe occupying the attention of the major colonial powers, Japanese leaders eyed vulnerable colonies such as the Dutch East Indies, French Indochina, and British Malaya. [258] After Roosevelt announced a $100 million loan (equivalent to $1.8 billion in 2020) to China in reaction to Japan's occupation of northern French Indochina, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy. The pact bound each country to defend the others against attack, and Germany, Japan, and Italy became known as the Axis powers. [259] Overcoming those who favored invading the Soviet Union, the Japanese Army high command successfully advocated for the conquest of Southeast Asia to ensure continued access to raw materials. [260] In July 1941, after Japan occupied the remainder of French Indochina, Roosevelt cut off the sale of oil to Japan, depriving Japan of more than 95 percent of its oil supply. [261] He also placed the Philippine military under American command and reinstated General Douglas MacArthur into active duty to command U.S. forces in the Philippines. [262]

The Japanese were incensed by the embargo and Japanese leaders became determined to attack the United States unless it lifted the embargo. The Roosevelt administration was unwilling to reverse the policy, and Secretary of State Hull blocked a potential summit between Roosevelt and Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe. [j] After diplomatic efforts to end the embargo failed, the Privy Council of Japan authorized a strike against the United States. [264] The Japanese believed that the destruction of the United States Asiatic Fleet (stationed in the Philippines) and the United States Pacific Fleet (stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii) was vital to the conquest of Southeast Asia. [265] On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese struck the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor with a surprise attack, knocking out the main American battleship fleet and killing 2,403 American servicemen and civilians. At the same time, separate Japanese task forces attacked Thailand, British Hong Kong, the Philippines, and other targets. Roosevelt called for war in his "Infamy Speech" to Congress, in which he said: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." In a nearly unanimous vote, Congress declared war on Japan. [266] After the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, antiwar sentiment in the United States largely evaporated overnight. On December 11, 1941, Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the United States, which responded in kind. [k] [267]

A majority of scholars have rejected the conspiracy theories that Roosevelt, or any other high government officials, knew in advance about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. [268] The Japanese had kept their secrets closely guarded. Senior American officials were aware that war was imminent, but they did not expect an attack on Pearl Harbor. [269] Roosevelt had expected that the Japanese would attack either the Dutch East Indies or Thailand. [270]

War plans

In late December 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt met at the Arcadia Conference, which established a joint strategy between the U.S. and Britain. Both agreed on a Europe first strategy that prioritized the defeat of Germany before Japan. The U.S. and Britain established the Combined Chiefs of Staff to coordinate military policy and the Combined Munitions Assignments Board to coordinate the allocation of supplies. [271] An agreement was also reached to establish a centralized command in the Pacific theater called ABDA, named for the American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces in the theater. [272] On January 1, 1942, the United States, Britain, China, the Soviet Union, and twenty-two other countries (the Allied Powers) issued the Declaration by United Nations, in which each nation pledged to defeat the Axis powers. [273]

In 1942, Roosevelt formed a new body, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which made the final decisions on American military strategy. Admiral Ernest J. King as Chief of Naval Operations commanded the Navy and Marines, while General George C. Marshall led the Army and was in nominal control of the Air Force, which in practice was commanded by General Hap Arnold. [274] The Joint Chiefs were chaired by Admiral William D. Leahy, the most senior officer in the military. [275] Roosevelt avoided micromanaging the war and let his top military officers make most decisions. [276] Roosevelt's civilian appointees handled the draft and procurement of men and equipment, but no civilians – not even the secretaries of War or Navy – had a voice in strategy. Roosevelt avoided the State Department and conducted high-level diplomacy through his aides, especially Harry Hopkins, whose influence was bolstered by his control of the Lend Lease funds. [277]

Nuclear program

In August 1939, Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein sent the Einstein–Szilárd letter to Roosevelt, warning of the possibility of a German project to develop nuclear weapons. Szilard realized that the recently discovered process of nuclear fission could be used to create a nuclear chain reaction that could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. [278] Roosevelt feared the consequences of allowing Germany to have sole possession of the technology and authorized preliminary research into nuclear weapons. [l] After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration secured the funds needed to continue research and selected General Leslie Groves to oversee the Manhattan Project, which was charged with developing the first nuclear weapons. Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to jointly pursue the project, and Roosevelt helped ensure that American scientists cooperated with their British counterparts. [280]

Wartime conferences

Roosevelt coined the term "Four Policemen" to refer to the "Big Four" Allied powers of World War II, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China. The "Big Three" of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, together with Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, cooperated informally on a plan in which American and British troops concentrated in the West Soviet troops fought on the Eastern front and Chinese, British and American troops fought in Asia and the Pacific. The United States also continued to send aid via the Lend-Lease program to the Soviet Union and other countries. The Allies formulated strategy in a series of high-profile conferences as well as by contact through diplomatic and military channels. [281] Beginning in May 1942, the Soviets urged an Anglo-American invasion of German-occupied France in order to divert troops from the Eastern front. [282] Concerned that their forces were not yet ready for an invasion of France, Churchill and Roosevelt decided to delay such an invasion until at least 1943 and instead focus on a landing in North Africa, known as Operation Torch. [283]

In November 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met to discuss strategy and post-war plans at the Tehran Conference, where Roosevelt met Stalin for the first time. [284] At the conference, Britain and the United States committed to opening a second front against Germany in 1944, while Stalin committed to entering the war against Japan at an unspecified date. Subsequent conferences at Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks established the framework for the post-war international monetary system and the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization similar to Wilson's failed League of Nations. [285]

Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met for a second time at the February 1945 Yalta Conference in Crimea. With the end of the war in Europe approaching, Roosevelt's primary focus was on convincing Stalin to enter the war against Japan the Joint Chiefs had estimated that an American invasion of Japan would cause as many as one million American casualties. In return for the Soviet Union's entrance into the war against Japan, the Soviet Union was promised control of Asian territories such as Sakhalin Island. The three leaders agreed to hold a conference in 1945 to establish the United Nations, and they also agreed on the structure of the United Nations Security Council, which would be charged with ensuring international peace and security. Roosevelt did not push for the immediate evacuation of Soviet soldiers from Poland, but he won the issuance of the Declaration on Liberated Europe, which promised free elections in countries that had been occupied by Germany. Germany itself would not be dismembered but would be jointly occupied by the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union. [286] Against Soviet pressure, Roosevelt and Churchill refused to consent to impose huge reparations and deindustrialization on Germany after the war. [287] Roosevelt's role in the Yalta Conference has been controversial critics charge that he naively trusted the Soviet Union to allow free elections in Eastern Europe, while supporters argue that there was little more that Roosevelt could have done for the Eastern European countries given the Soviet occupation and the need for cooperation with the Soviet Union during and after the war. [288] [289]

Course of the war

The Allies invaded French North Africa in November 1942, securing the surrender of Vichy French forces within days of landing. [290] At the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, the Allies agreed to defeat Axis forces in North Africa and then launch an invasion of Sicily, with an attack on France to take place in 1944. At the conference, Roosevelt also announced that he would only accept the unconditional surrender of Germany, Japan, and Italy. [291] In February 1943, the Soviet Union won a major victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, and in May 1943, the Allies secured the surrender of over 250,000 German and Italian soldiers in North Africa, ending the North African Campaign. [292] The Allies launched an invasion of Sicily in July 1943, capturing the island by the end of the following month. [293] In September 1943, the Allies secured an armistice from Italian Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio, but Germany quickly restored Mussolini to power. [293] The Allied invasion of mainland Italy commenced in September 1943, but the Italian Campaign continued until 1945 as German and Italian troops resisted the Allied advance. [294]

To command the invasion of France, Roosevelt chose General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had successfully commanded a multinational coalition in North Africa and Sicily. [295] Eisenhower chose to launch Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. Supported by 12,000 aircraft and the largest naval force ever assembled, the Allies successfully established a beachhead in Normandy and then advanced further into France. [276] Though reluctant to back an unelected government, Roosevelt recognized Charles de Gaulle's Provisional Government of the French Republic as the de facto government of France in July 1944. After most of France had been liberated from German occupation, Roosevelt granted formal recognition to de Gaulle's government in October 1944. [296] Over the following months, the Allies liberated more territory from Nazi occupation and began the invasion of Germany. By April 1945, Nazi resistance was crumbling in the face of advances by both the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. [297]

In the opening weeks of the war, Japan conquered the Philippines and the British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia. The Japanese advance reached its maximum extent by June 1942, when the U.S. Navy scored a decisive victory at the Battle of Midway. American and Australian forces then began a slow and costly strategy called island hopping or leapfrogging through the Pacific Islands, with the objective of gaining bases from which strategic airpower could be brought to bear on Japan and from which Japan could ultimately be invaded. In contrast to Hitler, Roosevelt took no direct part in the tactical naval operations, though he approved strategic decisions. [298] Roosevelt gave way in part to insistent demands from the public and Congress that more effort be devoted against Japan, but he always insisted on Germany first. The strength of the Japanese navy was decimated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and by April 1945 the Allies had re-captured much of their lost territory in the Pacific. [299]

Home front

The home front was subject to dynamic social changes throughout the war, though domestic issues were no longer Roosevelt's most urgent policy concern. The military buildup spurred economic growth. Unemployment fell in half from 7.7 million in spring 1940 to 3.4 million in fall 1941 and fell in half again to 1.5 million in fall 1942, out of a labor force of 54 million. [m] There was a growing labor shortage, accelerating the second wave of the Great Migration of African Americans, farmers and rural populations to manufacturing centers. African Americans from the South went to California and other West Coast states for new jobs in the defense industry. To pay for increased government spending, in 1941 Roosevelt proposed that Congress enact an income tax rate of 99.5% on all income over $100,000 when the proposal failed, he issued an executive order imposing an income tax of 100% on income over $25,000, which Congress rescinded. [301] The Revenue Act of 1942 instituted top tax rates as high as 94% (after accounting for the excess profits tax), greatly increased the tax base, and instituted the first federal withholding tax. [302] In 1944, Roosevelt requested that Congress enact legislation which would tax all "unreasonable" profits, both corporate and individual, and thereby support his declared need for over $10 billion in revenue for the war and other government measures. Congress overrode Roosevelt's veto to pass a smaller revenue bill raising $2 billion. [303]

In 1942, with the United States now in the conflict, war production increased dramatically but fell short of the goals established by the president, due in part to manpower shortages. [304] The effort was also hindered by numerous strikes, especially among union workers in the coal mining and railroad industries, which lasted well into 1944. [305] [306] Nonetheless, between 1941 and 1945, the United States produced 2.4 million trucks, 300,000 military aircraft, 88,400 tanks, and 40 billion rounds of ammunition. The production capacity of the United States dwarfed that of other countries for example, in 1944, the United States produced more military aircraft than the combined production of Germany, Japan, Britain, and the Soviet Union. [307] The White House became the ultimate site for labor mediation, conciliation or arbitration. One particular battle royale occurred between Vice President Wallace, who headed the Board of Economic Warfare, and Jesse H. Jones, in charge of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation both agencies assumed responsibility for the acquisition of rubber supplies and came to loggerheads over funding. Roosevelt resolved the dispute by dissolving both agencies. [308] In 1943, Roosevelt established the Office of War Mobilization to oversee the home front the agency was led by James F. Byrnes, who came to be known as the "assistant president" due to his influence. [293]

Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union Address advocated that Americans should think of basic economic rights as a Second Bill of Rights. [309] He stated that all Americans should have the right to "adequate medical care", "a good education", "a decent home", and a "useful and remunerative job". [310] In the most ambitious domestic proposal of his third term, Roosevelt proposed the G.I. Bill, which would create a massive benefits program for returning soldiers. Benefits included post-secondary education, medical care, unemployment insurance, job counseling, and low-cost loans for homes and businesses. The G.I. Bill passed unanimously in both houses of Congress and was signed into law in June 1944. Of the fifteen million Americans who served in World War II, more than half benefitted from the educational opportunities provided for in the G.I. Bill. [311]

Declining health

Roosevelt, a chain-smoker throughout his entire adult life, [312] [313] had been in declining physical health since at least 1940. In March 1944, shortly after his 62nd birthday, he underwent testing at Bethesda Hospital and was found to have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease causing angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure. [314] [315] [316]

Hospital physicians and two outside specialists ordered Roosevelt to rest. His personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, created a daily schedule that banned business guests for lunch and incorporated two hours of rest each day. During the 1944 re-election campaign, McIntire denied several times that Roosevelt's health was poor on October 12, for example, he announced that "The President's health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all." [317] Roosevelt realized that his declining health could eventually make it impossible for him to continue as president, and in 1945 he told a confidant that he might resign from the presidency following the end of the war. [318]

Election of 1944

While some Democrats had opposed Roosevelt's nomination in 1940, the president faced little difficulty in securing his re-nomination at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. Roosevelt made it clear before the convention that he was seeking another term, and on the lone presidential ballot of the convention, Roosevelt won the vast majority of delegates, although a minority of Southern Democrats voted for Harry F. Byrd. Party leaders prevailed upon Roosevelt to drop Vice President Wallace from the ticket, believing him to be an electoral liability and a poor potential successor in case of Roosevelt's death. Roosevelt preferred Byrnes as Wallace's replacement but was convinced to support Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri, who had earned renown for his investigation of war production inefficiency and was acceptable to the various factions of the party. On the second vice presidential ballot of the convention, Truman defeated Wallace to win the nomination. [319]

The Republicans nominated Thomas E. Dewey, the governor of New York, who had a reputation as a liberal in his party. The opposition accused Roosevelt and his administration of domestic corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, tolerance of Communism, and military blunders. Labor unions, which had grown rapidly in the war, fully supported Roosevelt. Roosevelt and Truman won the 1944 election by a comfortable margin, defeating Dewey and his running mate John W. Bricker with 53.4% of the popular vote and 432 out of the 531 electoral votes. [320] The president campaigned in favor of a strong United Nations, so his victory symbolized support for the nation's future participation in the international community. [321]

Death (1945)

When Roosevelt returned to the United States from the Yalta Conference, many were shocked to see how old, thin and frail he looked. He spoke while seated in the well of the House, an unprecedented concession to his physical incapacity. [322] During March 1945, he sent strongly worded messages to Stalin accusing him of breaking his Yalta commitments over Poland, Germany, prisoners of war and other issues. When Stalin accused the western Allies of plotting behind his back a separate peace with Hitler, Roosevelt replied: "I cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment towards your informers, whoever they are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted subordinates." [323] On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations.

In the afternoon of April 12, 1945, in Warm Springs, Georgia, while sitting for a portrait, Roosevelt said "I have a terrific headache." [324] [325] He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed the medical emergency as a massive intracerebral hemorrhage. [326] At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died at the age of 63. [327]

The following morning, Roosevelt's body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train for the trip back to Washington. Along the route, thousands flocked to the tracks to pay their respects. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported by train from Washington, D.C., to his place of birth at Hyde Park. On April 15 he was buried, per his wish, in the rose garden of his Springwood estate. [328]

Roosevelt's declining physical health had been kept secret from the public. His death was met with shock and grief across around the world. [329] Germany surrendered during the 30-day mourning period, but Harry Truman (who had succeeded Roosevelt as president) ordered flags to remain at half-staff he also dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt's memory. [330] World War II finally ended with the signed surrender of Japan in September. [331]

Roosevelt was viewed as a hero by many African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, and he was highly successful in attracting large majorities of these voters into his New Deal coalition. [332] He won strong support from Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans, but not Japanese Americans, as he presided over their internment in concentration camps during the war. [333] African Americans and Native Americans fared well in two New Deal relief programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Indian Reorganization Act, respectively. Sitkoff reports that the WPA "provided an economic floor for the whole black community in the 1930s, rivaling both agriculture and domestic service as the chief source" of income. [334]

Roosevelt did not join NAACP leaders in pushing for federal anti-lynching legislation, as he believed that such legislation was unlikely to pass and that his support for it would alienate Southern congressmen. He did, however, appoint a "Black Cabinet" of African American advisers to advise on race relations and African American issues, and he publicly denounced lynching as "murder." [335] First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt vocally supported efforts designed to aid the African American community, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped boost wages for nonwhite workers in the South. [336] In 1941, Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to implement Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial and religious discrimination in employment among defense contractors. The FEPC was the first national program directed against employment discrimination, and it played a major role in opening up new employment opportunities to non-white workers. During World War II, the proportion of African American men employed in manufacturing positions rose significantly. [337] In response to Roosevelt's policies, African Americans increasingly defected from the Republican Party during the 1930s and 1940s, becoming an important Democratic voting bloc in several Northern states. [335]

The attack on Pearl Harbor raised concerns in the public regarding the possibility of sabotage by Japanese Americans. This suspicion was fed by long-standing racism against Japanese immigrants, as well as the findings of the Roberts Commission, which concluded that the attack on Pearl Harbor had been assisted by Japanese spies. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which relocated hundreds of thousands of Japanese-American citizens and immigrants. They were forced to liquidate their properties and businesses and interned in hastily built camps in interior, harsh locations. Distracted by other issues, Roosevelt had delegated the decision for internment to Secretary of War Stimson, who in turn relied on the judgment of Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the executive order in the 1944 case of Korematsu v. United States. [338] Many German and Italian citizens were also arrested or placed into internment camps. [339]

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Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The War President, 1940–43 (New York: Random House, 2000).

Stephen Howarth, To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy, 1775–1991 (New York: Random House, 1991).

Eric Larrabee, Commander-in-Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (New York: HarperCollins, 1987).

E. B. Potter, ed., Sea Power: A Naval History, 2nd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981).

Elliott Roosevelt, ed., F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, vol. 2, 1905–1928 (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948).

Jean Edward Smith, FDR (New York: Random House, 2007).

Jack Sweetman, American Naval History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984).

Stanley Weintraub, Young Mr. Roosevelt: FDR’s Introduction to War, Politics, and Life (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2013).

Mr. Hull, a veteran of the British Army, is a military historian and has contributed extensively to numerous magazines and the Eisenhower Center for Military Studies’ World War II Guide. He was a longtime newspaper reporter and editor on both sides of the Atlantic.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Navy

Franklin D. Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

He served under Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. In 1914, he was defeated in the Democratic primary election for the United States Senate by Tammany Hall-backed James W. Gerard. As assistant secretary, Roosevelt worked to expand the Navy and founded the United States Navy Reserve. Wilson sent the Navy and Marines to intervene in Central American and Caribbean countries. In a series of speeches in his 1920 campaign for Vice President, Roosevelt claimed that he, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, wrote the constitution which the U.S. imposed on Haiti in 1915.[28]
Roosevelt developed a life-long affection for the Navy. Roosevelt negotiated with Congressional leaders and other government departments to get budgets approved. He became an enthusiastic advocate of the submarine and of means to combat the German submarine menace to Allied shipping: he proposed building a mine barrier across the North Sea from Norway to Scotland. In 1918, he visited Britain and France to inspect American naval facilities during this visit he met Winston Churchill for the first time. With the end of World War I in November 1918, he was in charge of demobilization, although he opposed plans to completely dismantle the Navy. In July 1920, Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

As a reward for his support, Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, a position he held until 1920. He was an energetic and efficient administrator, specializing in the business side of naval administration. This experience prepared him for his future role as Commander-in-Chief during World War II.

After the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, FDR accepted an appointment as assistant secretary of the navy, a post he held for the next seven years. A lover and student of the sea and ships from his childhood on, FDR vigorously argued within the administration for a better prepared navy and for a more militant stance in crises than Wilson was willing to take. When the United States finally entered World War I in 1917, FDR worked to ensure that the navy had a vital role to play in the war. In the making of peace at the end of the war, FDR absorbed President Wilson’s internationalist ideals, as well as the lessons of Wilson’s failure to bring the United States into the League of Nations. His experience during this period helped produce the combination of idealism and realism that he later brought to the creation of the United Nations.

Roosevelt served 1913-20 as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson.

FDR reacts to news of Pearl Harbor bombing

On December 7, 1941, at around 1:30 p.m., President Franklin Roosevelt is conferring with advisor Harry Hopkins in his study when Navy Secretary Frank Knox bursts in and announces that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. The attack killed more than 2,400 naval and military personnel.

For weeks, a war with Japan had appeared likely since negotiations had deteriorated over the subject of Japan’s military forays into China and elsewhere in the Pacific during World War II. FDR and his advisors knew that an attack on the U.S. fleet at the Philippines was possible, but few suspected the naval base at Pearl Harbor would be a target.

In her account of Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor during the years of the Second World War, No Ordinary Time, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin recounts the scene at the White House on that tragic and pivotal day: Eleanor had just finished hosting a luncheon and walked into FDR’s study just as he received confirmation of the attack via telephone. While aides and secretaries scurried around the room, Eleanor overheard some of her husband’s conversation and knew that, in her words, “the final blow had fallen and we had been attacked.”

Although Eleanor, who knew Roosevelt best, later recalled her husband’s demeanor on that day as �ly calm,” she knew that he was incensed by the attacks. He was concerned that it might only be a matter of time until Germany, too, would officially declare war on the United States and that, at that moment, U.S. forces would be hard-pressed to fight a war on two fronts. According to Goodwin, he told Eleanor that it would take time for the United States to build up its military and that he feared the nation would “have to take a good many defeats before we can have a victory.” Indeed, FDR and his advisors had discussed the possibility that the Japanese were already planning an invasion of the mainland somewhere on the West Coast.

As the day wore on, Roosevelt displayed a calm and steady efficiency: He consulted with military advisors, enlisted his son James’ help to work with the media and spoke by telephone with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who told him “we are all in the same boat now.” Early that evening, Roosevelt dictated a speech to his secretary, Grace Tully, which he planned to deliver to Congress the next day. (Eleanor actually addressed the nation on the subject of war before her husband. That evening she delivered a scheduled weekly radio broadcast in which she told listeners that although the United States had been thrust reluctantly into the war she was confident that “whatever is asked of [America] we shall accomplish it we are the free and unconquerable people of the U.S.A.”) Late that night, Roosevelt updated his cabinet and Congressional members on the situation: “this is probably the most serious crisis any Cabinet has confronted since the Civil War.” One cabinet member later noted that the president, a former Navy man, was visibly distraught while recounting what he had been told of the strafing of sailors and the destruction of most of the Pacific fleet. After the meeting, Roosevelt went to bed.

The next day, Roosevelt addressed Congress and the nation with a somber yet stirring speech in which he swore that America would never forget December 7, 1941, as a �te that would live in infamy.”

FDR As Secretary of Navy - History

Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He brought hope as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Born in 1882 at Hyde Park, New York–now a national historic site–he attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School. On St. Patrick’s Day, 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt.
Following the example of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered public service through politics, but as a Democrat. He won election to the New York Senate in 1910. President Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920.
In the summer of 1921, when he was 39, disaster hit-he was stricken with poliomyelitis. Demonstrating indomitable courage, he fought to regain the use of his legs, particularly through swimming. At the 1924 Democratic Convention he dramatically appeared on crutches to nominate Alfred E. Smith as “the Happy Warrior.” In 1928 Roosevelt became Governor of New York.
He was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms. By March there were 13,000,000 unemployed, and almost every bank was closed. In his first “hundred days,” he proposed, and Congress enacted, a sweeping program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms and homes, and reform, especially through the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
By 1935 the Nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but businessmen and bankers were turning more and more against Roosevelt’s New Deal program. They feared his experiments, were appalled because he had taken the Nation off the gold standard and allowed deficits in the budget, and disliked the concessions to labor. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed.
In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin. Feeling he was armed with a popular mandate, he sought legislation to enlarge the Supreme Court, which had been invalidating key New Deal measures. Roosevelt lost the Supreme Court battle, but a revolution in constitutional law took place. Thereafter the Government could legally regulate the economy.
Roosevelt had pledged the United States to the “good neighbor” policy, transforming the Monroe Doctrine from a unilateral American manifesto into arrangements for mutual action against aggressors. He also sought through neutrality legislation to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, yet at the same time to strengthen nations threatened or attacked. When France fell and England came under siege in 1940, he began to send Great Britain all possible aid short of actual military involvement.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation’s manpower and resources for global war.
Feeling that the future peace of the world would depend upon relations between the United States and Russia, he devoted much thought to the planning of a United Nations, in which, he hoped, international difficulties could be settled.
As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt’s health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.