Though ailing, exhausted, and stretched to the limit, Franklin Roosevelt had a driving mission until the end.
While famous for his first 100 days—during which an epic number of laws were passed to relieve the suffering caused by the Great Depression—President Roosevelt spent his last days at the end of World War II reduced in physical strength but not mental capacity, accomplishing some of the most important work of his presidency. Woolner (History/Marist Coll.; co-editor: Progressive Politics in America: Past, Present and Future, 2016, etc.) argues that while FDR was famously unfathomable (“I never let my right hand know what my left hand does”), he was absolutely dedicated to his job, and ill health would not stop him from accomplishing the most important item of the postwar peace: the creation of the United Nations. Using newly available archival sources, such as memos from his physicians who kept his secrets, the Grace Tully papers, and those of Sarah Churchill, present at the Yalta Conference, as well as a “recently constructed day-to-day calendar of his activities and contacts,” the author assembles an impressively authoritative look at Roosevelt’s last days. By the consensus of his team of physicians, FDR did not have the stamina to withstand a fourth term, yet he would run and win to keep Americans hopeful that 1945 would bring victory and enduring peace. Indeed, he was pressed by “a terrible sense of urgency” as he furiously prepared for Yalta, where he would meet Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin and hammer out a postwar peace. In the bulk of the book, Woolner lays out the argument that though obviously physically debilitated, FDR held his own against Stalin, especially regarding Poland, despite heavy criticism. Furthermore, meeting King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia afterward at the Great Bitter Lake “marked the first formal intrusion by the American government into the struggle between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine.”
An elucidating, poignant study of an elusive leader.