Rethinking FDR as Commander in Chief

Rethinking FDR as Commander in Chief

History may be written by the victors, but it is also scripted by the living. While military commanders such as General Douglas MacArthur and statesmen such as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill penned memoirs trumpeting their roles in winning World War II after the guns fell silent, President Franklin D. Roosevelt never had the chance to tell his tale after passing away in the war’s waning months in April 1945. The popular history of World War II has often been viewed through the lens of those principal players who survived the war, a lens that acclaimed biographer Nigel Hamilton argues has distorted Roosevelt’s role as a wartime commander in chief.

In his new book, “The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942,” Hamilton asserts that contrary to the popular image of the president as a commander in chief who delegated the direction of the war to his field commanders, Roosevelt was actually much more deeply involved in the day-to-day operation of the war than previously thought. Roosevelt set wartime strategy from the White House, a hands-on approach born out of what he saw during World War I. “Deference to the military by political leaders in World War I had permitted the senseless battles of attrition on the Western Front,“ Hamilton writes. “For this reason the president was unwilling to delegate something as important as world war to ‘professionals.’”

In “The Mantle of Command,” Hamilton details how Roosevelt overruled the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of War Henry Stimson and U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall when they strongly advocated an invasion across the English Channel in 1942 to open up a Second Front. The commander in chief knew the Allies were not prepared, and many historians believe that such an invasion would likely have been doomed for failure. Instead, Roosevelt implemented a differing military strategy, “Operation Torch,” in which the Allies landed in lightly defended northwest Africa. A skeptical Stimson even bet the president that the invasion would fail, but it succeeded in providing the Allies with an impregnable base from which they were able to launch a successful amphibious invasion of southern Europe that, Hamilton says, “stunned Hitler and turned the tide of war.”

Hamilton says that the popular image of Roosevelt as commander in chief has suffered in comparison to that of Churchill. While the British prime minister has been depicted as huddling in underground war rooms while bombs rained down upon London, Hamilton says Roosevelt was “portrayed as a marvelously avuncular, generous and understanding figure: a president who is persuaded by the British prime minister to do the right thing—namely to give Churchill the munitions, the ships, the tanks, the planes and the men with which Churchill and his merry men could and would win the war.” According to “The Mantle of Command,” however, it was Roosevelt, not Churchill, who dictated the military course of World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by saving Australia and the British in the Far East after the fall of Singapore and Burma and by ordering the Doolittle Raid and authorizing the naval ambush of the Japanese fleet of aircraft carriers at Midway that changed the war in the Pacific.

Roosevelt’s moral imperative, rather than the principle of self-defense, was the thread running through his direction of the war, Hamilton says. The American president had to prompt a reluctant Churchill to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941 because it not only outlined the moral objectives of the Allied democracies in opposing Axis tyranny but envisioned independence not only for countries occupied by Nazi Germany but for nations, including those in the British Empire, seeking liberation from colonial rule.

“Roosevelt took his nation from the greatest military defeat in its history, at Pearl Harbor,” Hamilton says, “to the triumph of Torch only 11 months later, which left Hitler speechless and fuming, and gave hope to so many millions of people across occupied Europe that ‘the Americans are coming.’” If Roosevelt had “not learned to wear the mantle of command so firmly, and to overrule his generals” Hamilton writes, “it is quite possible that Hitler would have achieved his aim.”

Churchill also came to appreciate the indispensable role that Roosevelt played in leading the Allies. After a meeting with Roosevelt in the wake of Operation Torch’s success, Churchill waved goodbye to the departing president and remarked to an American diplomat, “If anything happened to that man, I couldn’t stand it. He is the truest friend; he has the furthest vision; he is the greatest man I have ever known.”

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"Mantle of Command" examines FDR's role as commander in chief

Nigel Hamilton studies FDR's relatively overlooked role as military leader during World War II.

Franklin Roosevelt’s position as one of America’s greatest presidents is well-established and the number of books written about his life and career would easily fill a small library. But one central aspect of his presidency – his role as a military leader during World War II – has been relatively unexamined. The military strategies pursued by Churchill, Stalin and the key generals – Marshall, Eisenhower, and Montgomery – have been exhaustively dissected. But Roosevelt’s role as commander in chief has not been studied in detail.

American historian Nigel Hamilton addresses this important issue in a valuable but somewhat disappointing new book, The Mantle of Command: FDR at War 1941-1942. Most biographers and historians who have examined this topic portray Roosevelt as relying heavily on his very able military team to manage the war effort. But Hamilton concludes that Roosevelt was far more deeply involved in day-to-day military decisions than previously believed. Moreover, he often overruled his civilian and military advisers or insisted on pursuing his preferred course of action even as they, on occasion, actively sought to undermine him. In short, Hamilton finds a very different military leader than we are accustomed to. Think of him as “FDR: The Warlord.”

Hamilton wants to recreate “the drama, the issues and the confrontations Roosevelt faced as well as the historic decisions he had to make as commander in chief. ” The perspective is “unabashedly that of Franklin D. Roosevelt” and he concludes that “had FDR …not learned to wear the mantle of command so firmly, and to overrule his generals, it is quite possible that Hitler would have achieved his aim …. winning the war in Europe. It is a sobering reflection.”

This book is organized around a number of key events and decisions that occurred between August 1941 and late 1942: the summit with Churchill at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland Pearl Harbor McArthur’s defeat in the Philippines the fall of Singapore and the collapse of the British in the Southeast Pacific the British defeat at Tobruk Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo the stunning American victory at Midway and the Allied invasion of North Africa. A subsequent book will examine the remainder of the war.

As the central illustration of Roosevelt’s decisive leadership in the “business of war” during this period, Hamilton analyzes “Operation Torch,” the allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. The core issue facing the Allies was where and how to strike Nazi Germany. America’s military leaders, especially George Marshall and Secretary of War Henry Stimson (along with Joseph Stalin), championed an invasion of Western Europe at the earliest possible time. The British thought such a step was premature. Roosevelt wanted to attack the Germans but knew the Allies were not ready to invade France and feared such a step would prove disastrous.

As Kamala Harris’ portfolio grows, so does the scrutiny

So he proposed to attack Northwest Africa. His reasoning was that opposition to the landing would likely be minimal, since the area was controlled by the Vichy French, and it would provide a good chance to try an amphibious operation before attacking more strongly defended territory. Roosevelt consistently and steadfastly championed this idea and, eventually, won over the British and bludgeoned the American military command until it went along. The invasion went smoothly and Roosevelt’s vision and leadership were vindicated.

In describing Roosevelt’s extensive engagement with the Allied war effort, Hamilton shows some of the leading figures in a very different light than we usually see them, including Winston Churchill, George Marshall, and Secretary of War Henry Simpson. The portrait of Marshall is especially unflattering and may lead to a reexamination of his role and reputation.

This is revisionist history in the best sense of the word – it forces us to rethink assumptions and to reconsider the way that history unfolded and the role that leading individuals played. This bold argument is extensively researched, well-stated, and will undoubtedly change the way we see Franklin Roosevelt.

Unfortunately, the book is somewhat undermined by errors (the Lusitania was not a “neutral American liner”), a tendency toward overstatement (Stimson and Marshall’s opposition to Operation Torch was not a “mutiny” nor does building a ten-thousand-ton freighter in ten days qualify as “an almost biblical achievement”), repetition (we are told three times in five pages that General McArthur’s Air Force planes were destroyed on the ground when Japan attacked the Philippines), and an occasionally breathless prose that features an excessive use of exclamation points.

And not all his assertions ring true. For example, he writes, “As commander in chief, the challenge for Roosevelt was thus how to marshal Marshall: how to direct, encourage and support his work at the war department, while stopping him from losing the war for America.” Presumably if Roosevelt thought that “losing the war for America” was even remotely possible, he would have quickly relieved Marshall, especially given Hamilton’s central thesis that Roosevelt was a hands-on, decisive military leader. In another case, he implies that Roosevelt’s personal commitment to General Jimmy Doolittle’s April 1942 bombing of Tokyo led the Japanese to try to seize Midway Island – in fact, Japanese planning for Midway was underway before the surprise attack on the Japanese homeland.

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The shortcomings are disappointing because Hamilton’s thesis is compelling and worth careful consideration. One hopes that the second volume of his study, which will cover the remainder of the war, will be more careful and measured. The argument and evidence are too important and valuable to be undermined by the limitations found in the first volume.


Sons of the Commander in Chief: The Roosevelt Boys in World War II

The sons and daughters of thousands of American families heeded the call to serve their country during World War II. The four sons of America’s First Family were counted among those that served with distinction and honor for the duration of the war. The Roosevelt boys – Jimmy, Elliott, Franklin, Jr., and John — all joined the U.S. armed forces and served overseas, each one having very different service experiences. Jimmy, FDR, Jr. and John followed the family tradition of naval service. Elliott soared with the Army Air Forces. Just like other wartime GI’s, they were away from family and in harm’s way. Just like other wartime GI’s, their parents worried about their safety. These are their stories.

James Roosevelt: Gung-Ho Marine Raider

Being the oldest of FDR’s sons, Jimmy Roosevelt entered military service first, receiving a commission as a Marine Lieutenant Colonel in 1936 at age 29. But as war was brewing in Europe a few years later, his high rank seemed to come without merit, and complaints of nepotism began to be voiced by other Marines. Jimmy chose to take action to counter the rumors. In September 1939 he resigned his commission and reenlisted as a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserves.

Before the United States entered the war, Jimmy Roosevelt experienced two phases of Marine life: he trained hard on the West Coast to master amphibious maneuvers and then served as a military advisor assigned to diplomatic missions in the Far East, the Middle East, and Africa.

In January 1942, Jimmy found himself stationed at Camp Elliott near San Diego. He spent his time preparing a written proposal for the creation of a Marine Corps commando organization, to be used for swift and surprise actions against the enemy. Soon after, he shipped out to Pacific theater of operation putting into practice many of his proposals.

Major James Roosevelt experienced his baptism of fire in August 1942 when he helped lead the operation against the enemy at Makin Island. Second in command to the famous commando leader Lt. Col. Evans Carlson of the Marine Raiders, Jimmy came under sniper fire and rescued three of his men from drowning, earning him the distinguished Navy Cross and the Silver Star. In a letter to FDR, Carlson wrote that Jimmy “was as cool as the proverbial cucumber and kept the loose ends tied together without a hitch.”

Jimmy’s actions also served another purpose.—they proved to be a morale booster back in the States. Jimmy Roosevelt’s heroic exploits at Makin Island made headlines in the Washington, D.C. and New York newspapers. His naysayers now honored him in the national press as a “fighting” guy.

After Makin Island, Jimmy returned to Pearl Harbor for a short stay and shipped out on the USS WHARTON arriving at New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in September 1942. He saw further action at Midway and the Aleutian Islands before being assigned to Camp Pendleton, California as Second Marine Raider Battalion Executive Officer. He received appointment as Commanding Officer of the newly formed Fourth Marine Raider Battalion on October 23, 1942.

Jimmy was plagued with stomach ailments which kept him out of combat late in the war. In 1945, after training Marines at Camp Pendleton, Jimmy Roosevelt received orders to Philippines. While there, working as an intelligence officer tasked with helping to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa, he learned of his father’s death.

On August 13, 1945, Colonel James Roosevelt was discharged from active military service with the United States Marine Corps, completing 26 months of wartime combat duty.

After the war, Jimmy joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and retired at the rank of Brigadier General in 1959.

“I imagine every mother felt as I did when I said good-bye to the children during the war. I had a feeling that I might be saying good-bye for the last time.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember, Page 292

Elliott Roosevelt: Doing All He Can to Get Into the Fighting

Second eldest son Elliott Roosevelt could have avoided serving in World War II, having been classified as 4-F because of poor eyesight. But his love of flying prompted him to petition his case to volunteer for service to General Hap Arnold, chief of the Army Air Force. Before the war, Elliott flew as a private pilot, worked in the aviation industry for a small outfit in California, and edited the aviation section for the Hearst newspapers.

After his first service physical deemed him unfit for combat, Elliott petitioned and signed a waiver for his disability, which allowed him to receive a commission in September 1940. His first assignment, however, had him tied to a desk in the procurement division, which drew criticism from the public that he was dodging combat. Elliott wanted to see action and Captain Roosevelt, after completing a training course in intelligence, received assignment to the 21 st Reconnaissance Squadron in Newfoundland doing North Atlantic patrol work.

Elliott volunteered for a survey job to locate air force sites in the North Arctic which could be used as staging points for the delivery of aircraft from US to Great Britain. Elliott and his brother FDR, Jr., joined their father, President Roosevelt, for the August 1941 Atlantic Charter meeting in Newfoundland waters. Elliott recollected that, “I knew that Pop liked to have a member of the family along, somebody with whom he could chat, to whom he could let down his hair, in whom he could confide.” Later in the war, Elliott accompanied his father, as a military attaché, to the Big Three conferences in Casablanca, Cairo, and Tehran.

Elliott’s love of, and skill at, flying exceeded his visual disability and he soon found himself piloting unarmed reconnaissance missions. Mother Eleanor Roosevelt showed concern over Elliott’s flying skills but he wrote her, “Don’t worry about me. I lead a charmed life…I had a crack up the other day and escaped with a sore tail although my ship was demolished.” He flew a P-38 Lightning (F-5) on photographic reconnaissance missions over North Africa and received promotion to the rank of Colonel in January 1944 when he joined the 12 th Air Force.

The Army Air Force assigned Elliott to command of the 325 th Photographic Reconnaissance Wing and charged him with reorganizing all the American Reconnaissance Air Force units of both the Eighth (bombardment, strategic) and Ninth (light bombardment, tactical) Air Forces. He supervised their operations so as to obtain all information necessary to the invasion of Europe and his efforts played an important role in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944 and later for the Battle of the Bulge in 1945.

During World War II, Elliott Roosevelt flew over 300 combat missions, was wounded twice and received the Distinguished Flying Cross He is credited with pioneering new techniques in night photography and weather data gathering, but his career included controversy including accusations of corruption related to the acquisition of an experimental Hughes aircraft. By the war’s end, he had achieved the rank of Brigadier General. As James Roosevelt wrote of Elliott’s exploits in Affectionately, FDR, “Objective war correspondents have praised my brother as among the bravest of the brave.”

“Neither the President nor Mrs. Roosevelt had any more information of the whereabouts or the activities of their son than do the fathers and mothers of other officers or soldiers in the United States armed forces.”

Stephen T. Early, Presidential Secretary, August 22, 1942

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.: Big Pancho of the Mighty May

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. pleased his father greatly by participating in the Naval Reserve Officer Training (ROTC) program at Harvard for four years. He received a law degree from the University of Virginia but left his law practice in March 1941 for active duty as an Ensign with the Navy. His father arranged one of his earliest assignments: FDR summoned his sons Elliott and FDR, Jr. to attend the August 1941 Atlantic Charter meeting with Winston Churchill off the coast of Newfoundland.

Ensign Roosevelt’s first at-sea assignment sent him to the destroyer USS MAYRANT, later known as the Mighty May for its combat successes. The MAYRANT escorted convoys across the North Atlantic to Europe. A bout of appendicitis and an appendectomy interrupted Franklin Jr.’s military service in February 1942.

After his recovery, FDR Jr, returned to sea duty, and received promotion to Lieutenant (jg), and assignment as the MAYRANT Executive Officer. He participated in the North Africa campaign and was decorated for bravery with a Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy after the November 1942 Battle of Casablanca. The USS MAYRANT then participated in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. At Palermo, the ship just missed being hit by a bomb dropped by the German Luftwaffe, however, five crew men were killed and six others wounded. FDR Jr., known affectionately as Big Pancho by the MAYRANT’s crew, put his life at risk by exposing himself to enemy fire, carrying a critically wounded sailor to safety. He also took quick action to limit the damage to his ship. For his bravery, FDR Jr., the Navy awarded him a Silver Star and he received a Purple Heart for sustaining a shrapnel wound in his shoulder.

In March 1944, FDR Jr. received promotion to Lieutenant Commander and assumed command of the destroyer escort USS ULVERT M. MOORE, moving to the Pacific theater of operation. Under Franklin Jr.’s command The USS MOORE participated in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima campaigns. He received the Legion of Merit Combat ‘V’ for the MOORE’s successful sinking of a Japanese submarine during the Philippines campaign. The MOORE also was credited with shooting down two Japanese planes in combat. Standing six feet four inches tall, Lieutenant Commander Roosevelt earned the nickname, the “Big Moose” from his the crew on the MOORE.

After victory over Europe, on May 8, 1945, FDR Jr. left the combat zone to attend the U.S. Naval War College’s Preparatory Staff course as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve in July 1945, graduating in December 1945. Fellow NWC graduates included some his commanders, Admirals Ernest J. King, Chester W. Nimitz, and Howard Stark. Upon his discharge from the US Navy in January 1946, Franklin Jr. resumed his law career and eventually entered politics. He served as a US Congressman and, like his father, ran for the Governorship of New York.

John A. Roosevelt: “I Don’t Care What the Ship Looks Like Or Is”

The President’s youngest child, John Aspinwall Roosevelt was 25 years old when he joined the US Navy in early 1941. After graduating from Harvard, John began a career in retail, a set of skills that led to his assignment to the Navy Supply Corps after his enlistment. At the US Naval Air Station in San Diego, young Roosevelt applied for sea duty in early 1942. Hearing of his son’s application, FDR ordered that the request be denied. John wrote to his father, “I don’t care what the ship looks like or is, as long as she at least floats for a while,” John’s perseverance eventually led to sea duty in the Pacific combat zone.

In June 1942, John was promoted to Lieutenant (jg). He served on the aircraft carrier USS WASP for 15 months. For his actions on the WASP, under heavy fire from the Japanese, John earned a Bronze star and received a promotion to Lieutenant Commander.

Although he never commanded a military unit as did his brothers, John’s service was no less diminished. In early 1945, he transferred to the staff of Admiral Joseph “Jocko” Clark as the Task Group Supply Officer.

Both John and his brother FDR Jr., upon learning of their father’s death in April 1945, declined to return home for the funeral, remaining at their posts in the Pacific war zone.

Right after the war, John settled in California and resumed his career in retail. He continued his military service as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. While he never pursued a career in politics, he supported many political candidates, including Dwight Eisenhower, and worked as an investment banker.

Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949).

Elliott Roosevelt, As He Saw It (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946).

James Roosevelt and Sidney Shalett, Affectionately, FDR: A Son’s Story of a Lonely Man (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1959).

James Roosevelt with Bill Libby, My Parents, A Differing View (Chicago: Playboy Press, 1976).


Rethinking FDR as Commander in Chief - HISTORY

How great of a commander-in-chief was FDR during World War II?

I think he was excellent in this capacity and deserves to be ranked as the second or third greatest American President largely because of it. '

However, having said that I'd like to discuss these criticisms of him in that role:

1. He consented to putting the Japanese Americans in internment camps.

This is an unpopular opinion nowadays, but the wrong-ness of interning the Japanese-Americans was mostly realized only in hindsight. At the time, with the treachery of Pearl Harbor at the forefront of the national consciousness, it's not really all that hard to understand the fear of Fifth Column activity among those who (the public largely supposed) might have chosen loyalty to their ancestry over their current nation.

This was one of his greatest strengths as a leader. Civilian presidents are unlikely to have a background in military strategy (excepting obvious cases like Eisenhower), and Roosevelt was smart enough to realize this, and to choose men who excelled on that area.

Anyone serving in the Pacific would surely agree that they needed more resources, especially in those tenuous days of 1942. But there were only so many men and ships and planes to go around, and they needed to be allocated as best as possible to meet the threats as they existed. Germany posed an existential threat to all of Europe, including Great Britain, the loss of which would have been catastrophic for the cause of Western Civilization. Japan did not pose an existential threat to the United States, even at the height of her power. Thus, the Germany First strategy made sense.

I personally blame MacArthur for the fall of the Philippines, due to his inexcusable failure to put his forces on alert when he found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Roosevelt was stuck with a bad hand of someone else's doing, so there wasn't much he could do. I don't really have an opinion on this specific question.

The Doolittle raid was never intended to be a tactical military victory. It was designed solely to boost morale on the homefront, and in that it succeeded gloriously. Of course Roosevelt had no way of knowing that the raid would also cause the Japanese to lose their cool (having their Emperor threatened was quite earth-shaking for them) and plunge headlong into the strategic fiasco that was Operation MI, i.e. the Battle of Midway. Thus, though Roosevelt cannot be given credit for this, in hindsight the Doolittle Raid set the stage for a resounding American victory.

I've seen nothing to suggest that Roosevelt was inclined to accept anything less than unconditional surrender but even if he was, I doubt that the public would have allowed him to do so. The people, from Roosevelt on down, understood that World War II was all or nothing. It was them or us. There was no middle ground.

I have no opinion on this.

This is an unpopular opinion nowadays, but the wrong-ness of interning the Japanese-Americans was mostly realized only in hindsight. At the time, with the treachery of Pearl Harbor at the forefront of the national consciousness, it's not really all that hard to understand the fear of Fifth Column activity among those who (the public largely supposed) might have chosen loyalty to their ancestry over their current nation.


This was one of his greatest strengths as a leader. Civilian presidents are unlikely to have a background in military strategy (excepting obvious cases like Eisenhower), and Roosevelt was smart enough to realize this, and to choose men who excelled on that area.


Anyone serving in the Pacific would surely agree that they needed more resources, especially in those tenuous days of 1942. But there were only so many men and ships and planes to go around, and they needed to be allocated as best as possible to meet the threats as they existed. Germany posed an existential threat to all of Europe, including Great Britain, the loss of which would have been catastrophic for the cause of Western Civilization. Japan did not pose an existential threat to the United States, even at the height of her power. Thus, the Germany First strategy made sense.


I personally blame MacArthur for the fall of the Philippines, due to his inexcusable failure to put his forces on alert when he found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Roosevelt was stuck with a bad hand of someone else's doing, so there wasn't much he could do. I don't really have an opinion on this specific question.


The Doolittle raid was never intended to be a tactical military victory. It was designed solely to boost morale on the homefront, and in that it succeeded gloriously. Of course Roosevelt had no way of knowing that the raid would also cause the Japanese to lose their cool (having their Emperor threatened was quite earth-shaking for them) and plunge headlong into the strategic fiasco that was Operation MI, i.e. the Battle of Midway. Thus, though Roosevelt cannot be given credit for this, in hindsight the Doolittle Raid set the stage for a resounding American victory.


I've seen nothing to suggest that Roosevelt was inclined to accept anything less than unconditional surrender but even if he was, I doubt that the public would have allowed him to do so. The people, from Roosevelt on down, understood that World War II was all or nothing. It was them or us. There was no middle ground.


I have no opinion on this.


The best way to stop the Holocaust was to stop the ones responsible for committing it i.e. Nazi Germany. One can pick apart individual decisions endlessly but I see nothing to support any notion that Roosevelt didn't do everything in his power to bring the war to an end as soon as possible.

To be fair, insisting on unconditional surrender did potentially prolong the war. Any resistance that there might have been to Hitler and his sick regime within Nazi Germany was likely disheartened by the notion that nothing less than an unconditional surrender would please the allies and end the fighting. Given that circumstance, why not fight it out to the bitter end with Hitler instead of supporting an opposition leader who promised to negotiate an end to the war?


However, as I pointed out above, unconditional surrender, especially for Germany, was almost a historical necessity. The Germans agreed to an armistice to stop WWI, but were not fully defeated. There was too much fear that a not-fully-defeated Germany would again become aggressive and start a third war. Aside from this, there were only vague and unsubstantiated reports about what the Nazis were up to at the death camps. A lot of this was likely disregarded as wartime propaganda, especially considering that most humans would have a difficult time believing that anyone could be so evil to do what the Nazis were doing at the death camps.


I can't blame FDR for pursuing unconditional surrender, nor can I fault him for the increased number of holocaust victims that unconditional surrender might have caused. It is possible, though, that by agreeing to terms, the war might have been ended sooner and fewer people would have died in the Holocaust as a result.


Rethinking Lincoln’s Greatness

When lists come out from historians that rank presidential greatness, Abraham Lincoln is almost always in the top spot for his handling of the Civil War. Next to him, in no particular order, you will find Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington. Lincoln, though, almost always occupies the top spot.

First and foremost, historians point to Lincoln’s ability to preserve the Union as the rationale for choosing him for the top spot. True, as commander-in-chief and president, he was responsible for overseeing the Union Army and conducting the war against the Confederacy that ultimately resulted in the Confederate defeat. This defeat resulted in the forced repatriation of the former rebels and the preservation of the Union. This is the first bone I would pick with those who idolize Lincoln.

The fact that the Civil War dragged out for 4 years and claimed over 600,000 lives is almost inexcusable. The population of the Union was about 21 million people, while the population of the Confederacy was only about 9 million, with a third of that being slaves. The Union vastly outnumbered the Confederacy by more than 3 to 1. Additionally, the Union held over 90% of the nation’s industrial capacity to make weapons, clothing and other materials for war. They had twice the amount of railroads, which gave them a large advantage in moving soldiers and equipment. The Union also largely controlled the seas with its navy, and since most of the ingredients for gunpowder were imported, the Union held another big advantage here. The Confederacy did have a large majority of the experienced military officers at the onset of the war, but with the advantages the Union held, I see no reason why it should have taken 4 years to defeat an enemy with so few resources.

Secondly, Lincoln enjoys the unearned reputation of “freeing the slaves.” It is true that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but not until January 1, 1863, long after the start of the war and when he felt it was politically safe to do so. And who exactly was freed by it? For all intents and purposes, no one. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in states that were in rebellion, in other words, the Confederate states. Lincoln could pronounce their freedom all he wanted, but he certainly had no way to enforce it. Many saw it as a way to lure the border states back into the Union, since it was only rebellious states whose slaves were freed. If a state decided to stay with the Union, their slaves would not be freed. What it did do, however, is keep Europe out of the war. I will give Lincoln credit for a shrewd move here. He feared that Europe, who needed the cotton produced in the South, might intervene and recognize the Confederacy. Once ending slavery finally became an issue in the war, Europe bowed out since they had ended slavery decades earlier and were opposed to it. Lincoln himself even stated that if he could save the Union by not freeing any slaves, he would do it. Lincoln was no abolitionist, and the slaves were not freed until well after his assassination.

Lincoln is also credited with preserving the Union. I’m not convinced that saving the Union was necessarily a good goal though. Maybe, just maybe, allowing the Union to evolve into 2 separate countries would have been better in the long run. From the very beginning of European colonization, the northern colonies and the southern developed very differently. The northern colonies consisted of small farms and later became industrialized. There was no need for slavery in the north. The southern colonies relied on King Cotton, and therefore, slavery. There was surprisingly little interaction between the northern and the southern states during the first 100 years of our country’s existence. Railroads in the north ran to the west, not to the south. There was little interest in the south. Westward expansion and manifest destiny ruled the day. These two areas of the country, divided at the Mason-Dixon Line, lived separately under one roof, the U.S. Constitution.

When the South seceded, he should have let them go! I don’t mean that to sound snarky, but consider the advantages had Lincoln simply accepted the South’s desire to form a new country. For starters, over 600,000 Americans would not have lost their lives fighting in the Civil War. Secondly, the entire Reconstruction fiasco that resulted in the creation of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws probably would not have happened. Slavery? It would have ended anyway once mechanization took hold in the South, making harvesting cotton much faster and cheaper than slavery. The South would have had to change and adapt.

Fast forward to today. On almost any map you choose, you can still see the sharp divisions between the old Union states and the old Confederate states. Look at which states are right-to-work states and which have strong labor unions. Look to see which states have strong anti-abortion restrictions, or lax gun laws. Look to see which states have resisted the stay-at-home orders other states have put in place to combat Covid-19. Look to see which states have the lowest levels of education, the lowest levels of income and the highest rates of poverty. Look at a map of recent presidential elections. Each of these maps will strongly resemble a map of the Civil War. The similarities are striking. In short, we are right back to being 2 nations, a red one and a blue one, living under that same roof.


Rethinking FDR as Commander in Chief - HISTORY

markg91359

How great of a commander-in-chief was FDR during World War II?

I think he was excellent in this capacity and deserves to be ranked as the second or third greatest American President largely because of it. '

However, having said that I'd like to discuss these criticisms of him in that role:

1. He consented to putting the Japanese Americans in internment camps.

2. He was very "hands off". The generals and the admirals were left to make most decisions on their own.

3. The decision that was made early on in the war to devote most resources to defeating Germany lead to a scarcity of a military forces and arms in the Pacific Theater. As a result, the invasion of Guadalcanal in late 1942 was conducted with inadequate men, ships, and airplanes. As a result, the campaign there went on for months. Should we have put more resources into the conflict in the Pacific early on than we chose too?

4. Should FDR have been honest with General MacArthur during the early part of the war and simply told him it would have been impossible to send more troops to the Philippines to relieve American forces there?

5. Was the Doolittle Raid on Japan that he ordered an unnecessary expenditure of good pilots and airplanes for little real purpose?

6. Was FDR wrong to insist on unconditional surrender from the Axis forces? Would drawing up specific surrender terms--no matter how harsh--been more to the advantage of the Allies in terms of ending World War II?

7. Was FDR too physically frail at the time of the Yalta Conference to properly represent the USA?

8. Did FDR not do enough as President to prevent or stop the Holocaust and other war-related atrocities by German and Japanese forces?

I would appreciate those commenting to offer background and explanations rather than just providing "yes" or "no" answers. Anyone can have an opinion. Let's see some reasoning.

Well, I would say #2 is not a weakness, but a strength. Compare to Johnson's constant meddling during Vietnam.

As to #3, I think given what FDR and his crew had for intel at the time, never mind that some of it was wrong, Germany was the more dangerous foe. Japan was bottled up on a few islands and was constantly running short of oil and other resources. Even if unopposed, they didn't have the capability to invade CONUS. They barely managed to invade a few Aleutian islands. That said, Guadalcanal could have been done better, in hindsight.

#5 - hard to say. Doolittle's raid was strictly for psychological purposes on both sides. It was too costly in terms of lost crews and aircraft for the military effect of the bombing. As to if the psychological effects made it "worth it", I really can't say. I'm an engineer. To me it looks like a mistake, mostly.

Thanks for kicking off what should be a really good thread, I hope to learn some things from it.

How great of a commander-in-chief was FDR during World War II?

I think he was excellent in this capacity and deserves to be ranked as the second or third greatest American President largely because of it. '

However, having said that I'd like to discuss these criticisms of him in that role:

1. He consented to putting the Japanese Americans in internment camps.

2. He was very "hands off". The generals and the admirals were left to make most decisions on their own.

3. The decision that was made early on in the war to devote most resources to defeating Germany lead to a scarcity of a military forces and arms in the Pacific Theater. As a result, the invasion of Guadalcanal in late 1942 was conducted with inadequate men, ships, and airplanes. As a result, the campaign there went on for months. Should we have put more resources into the conflict in the Pacific early on than we chose too?

4. Should FDR have been honest with General MacArthur during the early part of the war and simply told him it would have been impossible to send more troops to the Philippines to relieve American forces there?

5. Was the Doolittle Raid on Japan that he ordered an unnecessary expenditure of good pilots and airplanes for little real purpose?

6. Was FDR wrong to insist on unconditional surrender from the Axis forces? Would drawing up specific surrender terms--no matter how harsh--been more to the advantage of the Allies in terms of ending World War II?

7. Was FDR too physically frail at the time of the Yalta Conference to properly represent the USA?

8. Did FDR not do enough as President to prevent or stop the Holocaust and other war-related atrocities by German and Japanese forces?

I would appreciate those commenting to offer background and explanations rather than just providing "yes" or "no" answers. Anyone can have an opinion. Let's see some reasoning.

Just a comment on the bolder part above.

While FDR is often criticized for 'giving away the house' to Stalin at Yalta, it should be noted that Churchill was also there, wheeling and dealing. Churchill and Stalin basically came to the agreement that in the Balkans, Greece would fall into the British sphere of influence while Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary would fall into the USSR's. FDR was not party to this bilateral agreement. In Poland, Stalin agreed to open, democratic elections. While he reneged, it is often portrayed that FDR was blindsided while the wily Churchill knew precisely what was happening. In reality, Churchill would return to Britain and tell Parliament that he thought Stalin would abide by his agreement, and would write in his memoirs of that hope.

Of course, it has to be understood that Yalta was not about handing eastern Europe to Uncle Joe. Stalin already had much of it and the western Allies were in no position to stop him from gaining more of it. They tried and failed because they had no leverage and the best they could do, absent leverage, was to hope for the best. What was to be done? War? That wasn't done in 1956 (Hungary), 1968 (Czechoslovakia), 1979 (Afghanistan) or 1981 (martial law in Poland). So it's not like FDR's (and Churchill's) refusal to threaten armed conflict over eastern Europe was some sort of historical anomaly. Simply put, they both recognized the reality on the ground. Neither they, nor the American or British publics, had any interest in going to war with the USSR over eastern Europe.

It is also worth noting that at Yalta, FDR and Churchill extracted agreements from Stalin to enter the war with Japan within 90 days of Germany's surrender. Stalin kept his word here, and the role in the Soviet attack on Japan is widely underappreciated in the West for its role in convincing Japan to throw in the towel. Also, at Yalta Stalin agreed that Manchuria would be returned to China after the war with Japan was concluded. That agreement, too, he fulfilled. His price was the southern half of Sakhalin and the Kuriles.

I love FDR but always felt that his, and many of his generals, advisors, etc., worst weakness was in not seeing the threat/danger of Soviet Russia. In the end, after FDR's death, we got the Cold War and virtually even country/area that the Nazi's occupied was taken over by Stalin.

Just a comment on the bolder part above.

While FDR is often criticized for 'giving away the house' to Stalin at Yalta, it should be noted that Churchill was also there, wheeling and dealing. Churchill and Stalin basically came to the agreement that in the Balkans, Greece would fall into the British sphere of influence while Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary would fall into the USSR's. FDR was not party to this bilateral agreement. In Poland, Stalin agreed to open, democratic elections. While he reneged, it is often portrayed that FDR was blindsided while the wily Churchill knew precisely what was happening. In reality, Churchill would return to Britain and tell Parliament that he thought Stalin would abide by his agreement, and would write in his memoirs of that hope.

Of course, it has to be understood that Yalta was not about handing eastern Europe to Uncle Joe. Stalin already had much of it and the western Allies were in no position to stop him from gaining more of it. They tried and failed because they had no leverage and the best they could do, absent leverage, was to hope for the best. What was to be done? War? That wasn't done in 1956 (Hungary), 1968 (Czechoslovakia), 1979 (Afghanistan) or 1981 (martial law in Poland). So it's not like FDR's (and Churchill's) refusal to threaten armed conflict over eastern Europe was some sort of historical anomaly. Simply put, they both recognized the reality on the ground. Neither they, nor the American or British publics, had any interest in going to war with the USSR over eastern Europe.

It is also worth noting that at Yalta, FDR and Churchill extracted agreements from Stalin to enter the war with Japan within 90 days of Germany's surrender. Stalin kept his word here, and the role in the Soviet attack on Japan is widely underappreciated in the West for its role in convincing Japan to throw in the towel. Also, at Yalta Stalin agreed that Manchuria would be returned to China after the war with Japan was concluded. That agreement, too, he fulfilled. His price was the southern half of Sakhalin and the Kuriles.

Here was the real leader who won the war

#5. The Doolittle raid was a short term morale booster and had both negative and positive consequences. The bombing of Tokyo was one of the main reasons that the Japanese were convinced to push their defensive line against US forces further to the east at Midway Island. They were humiliated that the Imperial Palace had been threatened. We of course smashed the Japanese carrier fleet in that battle and eliminated many of their most capable naval aviators.


The most serious negative consequence to the raid was the enormous casualties the Japanese inflicted on Chinese civilians in the areas around and near the makeshift landing zone where the Doolittle planes were supposed to land. The Chinese took great risks to aid the fliers with medical treatment and transport to areas where they could escape and return to the US. Accurate statistics are hard to come by but several thousand Chinese civilians were murdered as revenge for giving aid and assistance to our fliers.

Here was the real leader who won the war

Here were the two great military masterminds that led the American war efforts, and Douglas MacArthur often displayed brilliant tactical and strategic command (especially with his post-war rule in Japan), despite great failures at the beginning of the war, and, arguably, in demanding the liberation of the Philippines.

Consider not only that Marshall appointed Eisenhower over many more senior generals, Roosevelt, Churchill and Truman all considered Marshall so indispensable that he wasn't allowed to take a direct operational command.

E.g., how fortunate was the U.S. to have an advocate of air power in the post of Army Chief of Staff. Consider that only the U.S. developed and employed heavy bombers before WWII, and that the revolutionary B-29, along with atomic bombs, ended the Pacific War without an invasion of Japan.

<<Former British prime minister Winston Churchill said:

"There are few men whose qualities of mind and character have impressed me so deeply as those of General Marshall . He is a great American, but he is far more than that . He has always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement and disillusion. Succeeding generations must not be allowed to forget his achievements and his example."

Churchill also called Marshall the "true architect of victory" in the West European theater of World War II. Here's why, and also why FDR was the greatest of American Presidential war leaders (consider by comparison Lincoln's floundering efforts to establish competent leadership of the Union army and also that Marshall was a VMI graduate and not West Point not mentioned in the above story is that the iconic John Pershing also had advised Roosevelt of Marshall's excellence, having benefited greatly from Marshall's brilliance in World War I and afterwards).

<<Roosevelt was not opposed to preparedness, however his concept centered on airplanes rather than a balanced force. For his part Marshall proposed a $675 million dollar crash program that called for the creation of a balanced force of 1.25 million men by 1941, the bare minimum needed in his mind for a nation still at peace but prepared for war.

When Marshall and Treasury Secretary Morgenthau went to the White House to ask FDR for the necessary authorization, the president breezily dismissed the program. Morgenthau then asked the President if he would hear Marshall. “I know exactly what he would say,” Roosevelt replied. “There is no necessity for me to hear him at all.”

According to Morgenthau’s diary, Marshall, his face red and his temper barely under control, then asked the president for three minutes to speak. Marshall then passionately presented a warning about the threat faced by the dire straits of its armed forces. “Did the president not understand the danger? Did he not understand that his inaction was putting the nation at risk? If you don’t do something,” he concluded, “I don’t know what is going to happen to this country.” Two days later Roosevelt sent the program to Congress and the Congress soon after appropriated $900 million dollars for it.16>>

In his championship of Marshall's abilities, Pershing in a personal appeal to FDR perhaps scuttled the anticipated replacement of Eisenhower by Marshall for the invasion of France.

<<Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Army Air Corps chief, remembered that at the outset Chief of Staff Marshall lacked a full appreciation of air power but that he learned quickly and was open-minded, part of “his ability to digest what he saw” and incorporate it into his “body of military genius.” [13] Gen. Omar Bradley recalled a revealing occurrence that took place soon after he joined the secretariat of the new chief of staff in 1939: “At the end of the first week General Marshall called us into his office and said without ceremony, ‘I am disappointed in all of you.’ When we asked why, he replied, ‘You haven’t disagreed with a single thing I have done all week’.” Later, when Bradley and his colleagues questioned the contents of a staff study, Marshall said approvingly, “Now that is what I want. Unless I hear all the arguments against something I am not sure whether I’ve made the right decision or not.” And to Eisenhower, before the North African landings, Marshall declared, “When you disagree with my point of view, say so, without an apologetic approach.” [14]

If it is not clear how Washington came by such qualities, it appears probable that Marshall was significantly influenced by his mentor, General Pershing, for on various occasions in after years Marshall mentioned approvingly Pershing’s remarkable capacity to accept dissent. As Marshall informed Col. Edwin T. Cole in 1939, Pershing “could listen to more opposition to his apparent view than any man I have ever known, and show less personal feeling than anyone I have ever seen. He was the most outstanding example of a man with complete tolerance regardless of what his own personal opinions seemed to be. In that quality lay a great part of his strength.” >>

Marshall, despite his immense accomplishments, was not infallible as a war leader, as described in the above article:

<<But Marshall and the British clashed over strategy a number of times during the war. He had proved himself a brilliant organizer but was less sure footed in his approach to the most important strategic choice facing America in World War II: when and where to deploy U.S. forces on a large scale. He correctly supported the Germany first strategic priority, but the timing he proposed was premature and caused serious misunderstandings with the British. He advocated a cross-English Channel invasion in 1942, when manpower and resources, particularly landing craft, were limited, and which, as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill rightly warned, would have been catastrophic.

Marshall fiercely opposed the North African campaign and pressed again for an invasion of France in 1943. But manpower and resources were still inadequate, the U.S. Army had still not gained enough experience against the hard-fighting Germans, and the Allies had yet to achieve mastery in the Atlantic and in the skies over Europe. A cross-Channel invasion in 1943 would have carried great military risk.>>

Historians often credit Marshall with making Allied victory possible by championing the nation's first peace-time draft in 1940 and its extension in 1941, with the latter passing in the House of Representatives by only one vote.


Never before had such massive armies confronted each other with such deadly force. Mobilizing and maintaining these large armies became a central focus for both sides.

"I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves."
—Abraham Lincoln, May 7, 1861


Rethinking FDR as Commander in Chief - HISTORY

Since 1798, when Congress authorized John Adams to employ the navy to capture armed French vessels preying on American shipping on the Atlantic coast, U.S. presidents have grappled with the crucible of war. Some have dealt with it skillfully while others have tended toward the inept. Some have wanted to exert their war powers while others have shied away from them. Some have been successful while others have not.

Never having had their authority clearly defined, the presidents, as commanders in chief, have been allowed to interpret the scope of their involvement in wartime decision making. The question of whether a president can order forces into combat against another nation has never been resolved and precedent supports both sides. "Essentially," says Raymond O'Connor, "the president can do whatever he can get away with."

&ldquoHighly recommended for students as well as scholars.&rdquo

&mdashJournal of Military History

&ldquoCollectively, the articles in Dawson’s volume constitute a valuable guide for understanding how past presidents have carried out their roles as commanders in chief. It offers excellent insights into the way policies have and have not been transformed into effective strategy during America’s wars.&rdquo

&mdashAir Power History

&ldquoEach of the essays is well written and informative taken together they provide an excellent overview of the uses and abuses of presidential power as it relates to the conduct of war.&rdquo

&mdashWar in History

&ldquoWhat makes this book enlightening is the thoughtful analysis of our chief executives by a team of eminent historians.&rdquo

&mdashNaval War College Review

&ldquoThis book will inform and delight a large readership of specialists in American diplomatic and military history.&rdquo

&mdashRobert D. Schulzinger, author of Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy.

Commanders in Chief, offering an enlightening look at the president's constitutional and political roles during wartime, brings together the work of prominent historians. These experts analyze the war powers of the presidency as well as the wartime leadership of six presidents—William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

Two of the authors take provocative revisionist views of their subjects. Lewis Gould asserts that McKinley delivered able and talented leadership during the Spanish-American War, while Robert Ferrell sharply criticizes Wilson's leadership during World War I. On the other hand, Warren Kimball emphatically confirms the high ranking by most scholars of Roosevelt as the most gifted wartime chief executive of the twentieth century, and Clayton James substantiates Truman's feisty and pragmatic leadership in two conflicts. In Frank Vandiver's essay on Johnson and Stephen Ambrose's on Nixon, the authors emphasize the diversity of challenges the two presidents faced during the controversial Vietnam War.

Revising and updating earlier studies, including The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief, the 1960 classic collection edited by Ernest May, this book offers a thoughtful and thought-provoking critique of the character and capabilities of America's modern commanders in chief and presents fresh insight into an issue that affects us all.

About the Author

Joseph G. Dawson III is associate professor of history and director of the Military Studies Institute at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Army Generals and Reconstruction: Louisiana, 1862-1877 and associate editor of the Dictionary of American Military Biography.


Contents

Franklin D. Roosevelt was laid down at New York Naval Shipyard on 1 December 1943. Sponsor Mrs. John H. Towers, wife of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, christened the ship Coral Sea at the 29 April 1945 launching. On 8 May 1945, President Harry S. Truman approved the Secretary of the Navy's recommendation to rename the ship Franklin D. Roosevelt in honor of the late president, who had died four weeks earlier.

Roosevelt was commissioned on Navy Day, 27 October 1945, at the New York Naval Shipyard. Capt. Apollo Soucek was the ship's first commanding officer. During her shakedown cruise, Roosevelt called at Rio de Janeiro from 1 to 11 February 1946 to represent the United States at the inauguration of Brazilian president Eurico Gaspar Dutra, who came aboard for a short cruise. [1] During April and May, Roosevelt participated in Eighth Fleet maneuvers off the East Coast, the Navy's first major postwar training exercise.

On 21 July 1946, Roosevelt became the first American carrier to operate an all-jet aircraft under controlled conditions. Lieutenant Commander James Davidson, flying the McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom, made a series of successful take-offs and landings as Roosevelt lay off Cape Henry, Virginia. [2] Jet trials continued in November, when Lt. Col. Marion E. Carl, USMC, made two catapult launches, four unassisted take-offs, and five arrested landings in a Lockheed P-80A. [1]

Fleet maneuvers and other training operations in the Caribbean preceded Roosevelt's first deployment to the Mediterranean, which lasted from August to October 1946. Roosevelt, flying the flag of Rear Admiral John H. Cassady, Commander, Carrier Division 1, led the U.S. Navy force that arrived in Piraeus on 5 September 1946. [3] This visit showed U.S. support for the pro-Western government of Greece, which was locked in a civil war with Communist insurgents. The ship received thousands of visitors during her calls to many Mediterranean ports. This was the first of twenty Mediterranean deployments Roosevelt would make, initiating an American aircraft carrier presence that would develop into the United States Sixth Fleet. [1]

Roosevelt returned to American waters and operated off the East Coast until July 1947, when her open bow was destroyed by a storm, which caused her to have to undergo Norfolk Naval Shipyard an extensive overhaul. At that time, her quad 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns were replaced by 40 3-inch (76 mm) Mark 22 guns in Mark 33 twin mountings.

From September 1948 to January 1949, Roosevelt undertook a second tour of duty with U.S. Naval Forces, Mediterranean. In 1950, Roosevelt became the first carrier to take nuclear weapons to sea. [1] In September and October 1952, she participated in Operation Mainbrace, the first major NATO exercise in the North Atlantic. Roosevelt operated with other major fleet units, including the aircraft carriers USS Midway, USS Wasp, and HMS Eagle, as well as the battleships USS Wisconsin and HMS Vanguard.

Roosevelt was reclassified CVA-42 on 1 October 1952. On 7 January 1954, she sailed for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to undergo extensive reconstruction. Too large to pass through the Panama Canal, Roosevelt rounded Cape Horn and arrived at the shipyard on 5 March 1954. She was temporarily decommissioned there for her refit on 23 April 1954. [1]

Roosevelt was the first of her class to undergo the SCB 110 reconstruction, at a cost of $48 million. She received an enclosed "hurricane bow," one C-11-2 and two C-11-1 steam catapults, strengthened arresting gear, an enlarged bridge, a mirror landing system, and a 482-foot (147 m) angled flight deck. SPS-8 height finding radar and SPS-12 air search radar were mounted on a new tubular mast. The aft elevator was relocated to the starboard deck edge, the forward elevator was enlarged, and all elevators were uprated to 75,000 lb (34,000 kg) capacity. Aviation fuel bunkerage was increased from 350,000 to 450,000 gallons (1,320,000 to 1,700,000 L). Standard displacement rose to 51,000 tons, while deep load displacement rose to 63,400 tons. As weight compensation, several of the 5-inch (127 mm) Mark 16 anti-aircraft guns were landed, leaving only 10, and the 3,200-ton armor belt was removed. Hull blisters were also added to cope with the increased weight. Roosevelt recommissioned on 6 April 1956. [1]

After post-refit trials, Roosevelt sailed for her new homeport of Mayport, Florida. In February 1957, Roosevelt conducted cold weather tests of catapults, aircraft, and the Regulus guided missile, in the Gulf of Maine. [1] In July, she sailed for the first of three consecutive Sixth Fleet deployments. Her assignments in the Mediterranean added NATO exercises to her normal schedule of major fleet operations, and found her entertaining a distinguished list of guests each year.

During a 1958 mid-year overhaul, the 22 remaining 3-inch (76 mm) guns were removed.

On 24 October 1958, Roosevelt supported USS Kleinsmith in the evacuation of 56 American citizens and three foreign nationals from Nicara, Cuba, as the Cuban Revolution came to a climax.

In late 1960, the Control Instrument Company installed the first production Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (FLOLS) onboard Roosevelt. She recorded her 100,000th aircraft landing in March 1961. During a 1963 overhaul, six more 5-inch (127 mm) guns were removed. [1]

While operating in the Eastern Mediterranean in the fall of 1964, Roosevelt lost a blade from one of her 20-ton propellers. She proceeded from Naples, Italy, to New York with the number one shaft locked. After replacing the propeller at Bayonne, New Jersey, Roosevelt returned to the Mediterranean to complete her cruise.

From August 1966 to January 1967, Roosevelt made her only deployment to Southeast Asia, spending a total of 95 days "on the line." Her embarked airwing, Carrier Air Wing One, consisted mainly of F-4 Phantom IIs and A-4 Skyhawks. Roosevelt received one battle star for her service during the Vietnam War. [1]

In January 1968, Italian actress Virna Lisi was invited by Roosevelt ' s crew to participate in the ship's 22nd birthday celebrations. Lisi helped prepare 5,000 T-bone steaks at a large cook-out staged on the flight deck.

Roosevelt was initially slated to undergo an extensive reconstruction (SCB 101.68) similar to that received by Midway from 1966 to 1970. This plan was derailed by massive cost overruns in Midway ' s reconstruction, which eventually totalled $202 million. Roosevelt was therefore limited to an austere $46 million refit (SCB 103.68), enabling her to operate the Grumman A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II.

In July 1968, Roosevelt entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her 11-month modernization program. The forward centerline elevator was relocated to the starboard deck edge forward of the island, the port waist catapult was removed, the crew spaces were refurbished, and two of the four remaining 5-inch (127 mm) anti-aircraft turrets were removed. Roosevelt also received a deck edge spray system using the new seawater compatible fire-fighting chemical, Light Water. She put to sea again on 26 May 1969.

From 1 August 1969, Roosevelt embarked Carrier Air Wing Six, which served as the ship's air wing for the next seven cruises. [4] In January 1970, Roosevelt returned to the Mediterranean for another Sixth Fleet deployment.

Roosevelt ' s twenty-first Sixth Fleet deployment was marked by indirect participation in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, as she served as a transit "landing field" for aircraft being delivered to Israel. The Roosevelt battlegroup, Task Force 60.2, also stood by for possible evacuation contingencies.

From 1973 through 1975, VAW-121 operated aboard Roosevelt as one of the last Grumman E-1 Tracer squadrons in the fleet. Roosevelt received a multipurpose designation, CV-42, on 30 June 1975, but she did not operate any anti-submarine aircraft. In June 1976, Roosevelt embarked VMA-231 with 14 AV-8A Harrier attack aircraft.

The ship embarked Carrier Air Wing Nineteen for its final deployment, which lasted from October 1976 to April 1977. [5] VMA-231 was on board for this deployment, which demonstrated that VTOL aircraft could be integrated into fixed wing air operations, although limited fuel capacity required careful scheduling of their launch and land cycles. The AV-8A concentrated hot exhaust impinging directly perpendicular to the fight deck was unusually destructive to painted non-skid surfaces, and blowing detached pieces of the non-skid coating about created a high risk of foreign object damage (FOD) to nearby jet engines. [1] On 12 January 1977, Roosevelt collided with the Liberian grain freighter Oceanus while transiting the Strait of Messina. Both ships were able to proceed to port under their own power.

By the late 1970s, Roosevelt was in poor material condition. Deprived of the upgrades that Midway and Coral Sea had received, Roosevelt was the least modern and least capable of the class. Furthermore, Roosevelt used General Electric turbines, which gave persistent problems and reduced speed compared to the Westinghouse units used on the other ships. The Navy therefore chose to decommission Roosevelt when the second Nimitz-class carrier, Dwight D. Eisenhower, entered service in 1977. Roosevelt completed her final cruise in April 1977. She was officially decommissioned on 30 September 1977. The decommissioning ceremony was held on 1 October 1977 and the ship was stricken from the Navy List on the same day. Efforts to preserve Roosevelt as a museum ship in New York City failed.

Roosevelt ' s generally poor condition weighed against retaining her in the reserve fleet. Moreover, her low hangar height of 17 feet 6 inches (5.33 m) limited the aircraft types that she could handle. It was reasoned that existing Essex-class aircraft carriers could handle the same types of aircraft at lower cost. Some admirals also feared that if Roosevelt were retained, the Carter Administration would use her reactivation as a reason to cancel future Nimitz-class carriers. [1]

On 1 April 1978, the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service sold the ship to River Terminal Development Company for $2.1 million. After usable equipment was removed from Roosevelt at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard's Inactive Ships Facility, the carrier was towed to Kearny, New Jersey. She arrived on 3 May 1978 and was scrapped that year. [1] One of USS Franklin D. Roosevelt's 5”/54cal Mk.16 gun is on display at White Sands Missile Range Missile Park.


Dying FDR’s Right-Hand Man Ran the War

President Franklin D. Roosevelt beslows the Distinguished Service Medal on Admiral William Leahy on July 28, 1939. Leahy had just retired as chief of naval operations. In 1942, he would become Roosevelt’s chief of staff. (Library of Congress)

Admiral William Leahy was the acting commander in chief as the president’s health failed

“Bill, I’m going to promote you to a higher rank.”

A meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from left, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall, Admiral William Leahy, and Air Force Chief, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. (Everett Collection Inc./Alamy Stock Photo)

In early January 1944, an increasingly weak President Franklin Roosevelt turned to William Leahy in the White House and told his longtime friend that he wanted to make Leahy, since 1942 the president’s chief of staff, America’s only serving five-star military officer. FDR said nothing about promoting Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, Chief of Naval Operations Ernest King, or General of the Air Force Henry Arnold, but Leahy was adamant that the other Joint Chiefs of Staff be advanced as well, and the president relented. Leahy quickly moved on Roosevelt’s plan, meeting with Representative Carl Vinson (D-Georgia), chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee and a longtime Leahy friend. The plan entered the congressional pipeline.

Roosevelt and Leahy went back more than 30 years. In 1912, Roosevelt, 30, was a rising Democratic politician and assistant secretary of the Navy. Leahy, 39, was a U.S. Navy captain. His specialty was gunnery, a skill he had brought to bear on a recent American incursion into Nicaragua. His performance there, and his reputation for political savvy, had led to Leahy’s appointment as the Navy’s assistant director of target practice, bringing him into Roosevelt’s orbit. Each enjoyed the other’s company, and the men became friends, fixtures in their respective Washington circles, and powerful figures. In 1937 President Roosevelt named Admiral Leahy U.S. chief of naval operations. The two collaborated to enlarge the Navy for what seemed destined to be a two-ocean war. Upon Leahy’s retirement from the Navy in 1939, Roosevelt named him governor of Puerto Rico, a civilian position with a strong martial component. In 1940, he made Leahy ambassador to Vichy France. In April 1942, an embolism claimed Louise Leahy. That June, accompanying her coffin, William Leahy sailed home. He buried his wife at Arlington National Cemetery. His president had a new job for him: he was to be the first chief of staff to the commander in chief, Army and Navy of the United States, presiding over the Joint Chiefs of Staff and serving as FDR’s most senior military adviser. William Leahy was to have, as the saying goes, a very good war.

Excerpted from The Second Most Powerful Many in the World: The Life of Admiral William D. Leahy, Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff by Phillips Payson O’Brien. Published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, May 7, 2019. Copyright 2019 by Phillips Payson O’Brien. All rights reserved.

Leahy was at the height of his power when he got those five stars. He was FDR’s most important strategic advisor and more than comfortable as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He had grafted his vision of how the war would be won in both Europe and the Pacific onto the American war effort. The Allies would invade France in the spring, with the Italian campaign resuming secondary status, and, for all the fine words about Germany-first, the war in the Pacific would receive a huge American effort. The war was progressing well, Leahy thought he hoped the Allies might beat Germany by the end of 1944 and, by the end of 1945, force the Japanese to capitulate. Leahy’s biggest worry was not the war—it was Roosevelt’s health. The president had returned from a December 1943 conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in Tehran, Iran, in a state of exhaustion. Roosevelt and Leahy continued their daily briefings when the president was well enough, but as Roosevelt slept more the start times were pushed later and later into the morning.

In his 1950 memoir, I Was There, Leahy trod a fine line in discussing Roosevelt’s decline. “The terrific burden of being in effect Commander-in-Chief of the greatest war yet recorded in global history began to tell on Franklin Roosevelt in 1944,” he wrote. “He required more rest and it took him longer to shake off the effect of a simple cold or of the bronchitis to which he was vulnerable.” In truth, Roosevelt was dying. His heart was deteriorating, and his arteries were narrowing his blood pressure could soar, putting him at constant risk of heart failure or stroke. His appearance could shock those who had not seen him for a while. He steadily lost weight, his cheeks hollowing and his skin taking on a grayish hue. His hands shook, and he often slumped back in his wheelchair, seeming exhausted or disinterested. He barely was able to work. In January he took two weeks completely off, and more than a week each in February and March, spending much of the time at his home in Hyde Park, New York. Americans, however, were being deceived. FDR’s personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, stated that Roosevelt, who was only 62, was in fine condition for his age. McIntire later destroyed some of Roosevelt’s medical files to keep the truth from emerging.

Leahy knew the truth, but never said anything. At the time and later, he was torn between writing about what he was seeing in his friend and his desire to protect first the man and then the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt.

Worried constantly about Roosevelt’s health, he was covering for the president, who was skipping whole workdays and -weeks. When these absences came up, Leahy usually described the president’s health issues through outward explanations such as bronchitis or influenza, never admitting the underlying concerns, such as hypertension or heart failure.

To make matters worse, Harry Hopkins’s health was even worse. On New Year’s Day, Hopkins, Roosevelt’s longtime political counselor, collapsed. His health had been precarious for years, and recently he had undergone cancer surgery to remove 75 percent of his stomach. Three days later he checked himself into the hospital for emergency care. His weight had dropped to 126 lbs., and the malnutrition brought on by his compromised digestive system had left him perilously weak. Hopkins began months of shuttling in and out of treatment, including more surgeries, often at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His physical separation from Roosevelt accentuated an emotional distance growing between him and the president.

These developments meant that in the period between January 1944 and Roosevelt’s death in April 1945 Leahy was controlling much of American strategic and foreign policy. FDR, understanding the extent to which he had grown to rely on the admiral, began involving Leahy even more in his political and private life. Leahy became more forward with his own policy preferences—a noticeable shift, as if he was aware that his influence was growing.

Leahy, who always was protective of Roosevelt, started acting even more ruthlessly as a gatekeeper. A range of people, from the other Joint Chiefs to industrialists to representatives of Allied nations and even major American political figures, had to go through Leahy to get issues brought to the president’s attention. Leahy often became the voice of the president. He drafted many, maybe even most, of the telegrams transmitted that year to Winston Churchill and to Josef Stalin, one of the reasons that Roosevelt’s messages during this period were particularly dull.

A 1942 photo Admiral William Leahy in dress whites. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

In Roosevelt’s stead, Leahy also became the court of appeals on even the most sensitive policy questions. On January 22, when Roosevelt was in Hyde Park, Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy came to Leahy to get approval, following D-Day, for General Dwight Eisenhower to turn over to the Gaullist French Committee of National Liberation civil administration of areas of liberated France. Leahy replied that if it was all right with the State Department, it was all right with him. On February 4, determined to see the British live up to their end of agreements, he drafted and sent to Churchill a formal telegram urging the British to turn over some captured Italian naval assets to the Soviets. On February 23, with Roosevelt again resting at Hyde Park, Leahy worked with the new undersecretary of state, Edward Stettinius Jr., to clarify U.S. policy toward oil-producing regions of the Middle East. Leahy spent much of March on economic issues, such as efforts by Electric Boat Company, the largest American submarine manufacturer, to protect the draft deferments of 300 of its specialists in Groton, Connecticut. Also in March, with Roosevelt just back from yet another Hyde Park stay, Leahy lunched with Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau to discuss when the U.S. should offer its allies a new wartime loan—the beginning of regular lunchtime meetings between the men.

Roosevelt’s health did not improve. In late March, Leahy admitted that even after a week of total rest the president’s “bronchitis” was persisting. FDR needed a long break, somewhere warm and completely isolated.

On April 8, the president’s train again pulled out of Washington late at night, this time heading south for Hobcaw Barony, an estate in coastal South Carolina owned by financier Bernard Baruch. There is something touching, if melancholy, about Leahy and Roosevelt during this holiday. For a month, Leahy had to be both the president’s close friend and his sole link to serious war work. Hobcaw’s 20,000 acres of pine forest, streams, and swamps was a perfect place for a “recuperative vacation” during which Roosevelt planned to sleep 12 hours a day. Except for the incessant insects, which particularly seemed to irritate Leahy, the estate was an oasis of quiet and privacy. Baruch’s daughter Belle, who resided on a neighboring property, was a tall lesbian who lived openly with a number of lovers—or, as Leahy quaintly termed them, “women friends.” He found Belle educated and entertaining and marveled in his diary that on one afternoon hunt she had been the only one to shoot an alligator. A bond of friendship formed, and Belle would even visit the admiral when she passed through Washington.

At Hobcaw Leahy did everything possible to protect Roosevelt. To those in the know, he was practically running the war. White House naval aide William Rigdon, who tracked all the in- and outgoing information from the White House Map Room, noted how Leahy was in control:

“My Hobcaw log, and all other logs, show that Admiral Leahy was always close to the President. He was not only the President’s chief
planning officer, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the highest-ranking American officer on military duty—he held ‘five-star’ commission number one—but he was also the President’s confidant and adviser on matters other than the military. FDR trusted him completely.”

The routine at Hobcaw showed how weak Roosevelt had become and how much he had grown to rely on Leahy. After an early breakfast, Leahy would review all top-secret dispatches sent to the president. He would answer some on his own, disregard others, and decide which needed to be discussed personally with Roosevelt. The president rose late and was unable to work until noon, at which point he and Leahy went through the messages Leahy had selected. For about an hour they would make decisions and plan responses before Roosevelt’s workday was done and lunch was served.

At Warm Springs Georgia, FDR and Bernard Baruch had a close social relationship. Roosevelt often visited Baruch’s South Carolina estate, Hobcaw Barony. (Time-Life Pictures/Getty Images)

The president rested again until about four o’clock when his party—including presidential appointments secretary Edwin “Pa” Watson and other intimates—usually went for an excursion. Car rides and alligator hunts were options, but mostly the choice was a fishing trip along a snakelike system of creeks and inlets that carved up marshland or led into the Atlantic. The fishing was terrible, mostly slow trolling as the president let his line dangle limply in the water. Leahy usually sat next to Roosevelt, at the president’s insistence. Back on land, they would enjoy an early dinner, sometimes with jokes at Pa Watson’s expense, followed by a movie or a game of cards. Roosevelt typically retired to bed not long after dinner.

Slowly Roosevelt’s health began to improve, albeit marginally. More than a week after they arrived, Leahy wrote to his aide in Washington that he still had no idea when the party would return to the capital. On April 28, Navy Secretary Frank Knox died suddenly of a heart attack. The president, keeping Leahy beside him, sent Watson to attend the funeral in his place.

Official visitors were kept to an absolute minimum Roosevelt wanted only trusted friends around. Perhaps Roosevelt’s favorite visitor was the woman who had once nearly ended his marriage. Lucy Mercer had been serving as Eleanor Roosevelt’s social secretary in 1916 when she embarked on an affair with her boss’s husband. When Eleanor discovered the relationship in 1918, Franklin almost left her, but was forcefully persuaded by his mother to stay married and avoid scandal. He continued to have contact with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd for decades, and during World War II began to spend time with her when he and Eleanor were apart. During his stay at Hobcaw, Eleanor was allowed to visit only once.

At Hobcaw Barony, FDR’s favorite visitor was friend and sometimes paramour Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, shown in 1930. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

When it came to Lucy Rutherfurd, Leahy was at his most discreet. During the Hobcaw stay, she lodged in a nearby house and visited Roosevelt frequently. Elliott Roosevelt, the president’s son, claimed she came by almost daily. Given Leahy’s near-constant presence with the president, he would have regularly dined and chatted with Rutherfurd, yet he never mentioned it in his diary or to interviewers.

Another favored visitor was Margaret Suckley, an old confidante and distant cousin of Roosevelt’s. She arrived in May and found him still “thin & drawn & not a bit well.” “Everyone conspires to keep the atmosphere light,” she wrote. Suckley found that Roosevelt, having sensed that his doctors were not being honest with him, was now better informed about the seriousness of his medical condition.” Roosevelt must have been aware at times that his health was failing. At other times, he undoubtedly tried to forget this reality and press on.

Leahy, long comfortable with Suckley, confided in her that, to protect the president’s health, he had been rigorously controlling the information shown to FDR and described his dilemma, inadvertently admitting to the immense power he was wielding. Every morning, he confessed, he had to sort through a pile of the president’s confidential correspondence, “analyze it, pass judgment,” and make a recommendation to the Pres. [sic] Half the time it is almost a question of ‘tossing a coin’ to decide one way or the other.”

On May 6 the president finally returned to the White House, his health only marginally better. Leahy wrote optimistically to an aide that “the Boss is in good shape at the end of his vacation.” Admiral McIntire reported to Leahy that the president had returned to his “normal condition” of health. Yet McIntire understood just how weak Roosevelt was “normal” was hardly a ringing endorsement.

On his first two days back in Washington, Leahy chaired a meeting of the Joint Chiefs, met with newspaper columnist Constantine Brown for the latest Washington gossip, and conferred or dined with a wide variety of influential men, including diplomats Stettinius and Averell Harriman, Navy Undersecretary James Forrestal, War Department Undersecretary Robert Patterson, and Admiral Ernest King. He also hosted the naval representatives of the Dutch and Free French governments.

Spring 1944 marked the start of one of the most intensely political periods in Leahy’s life. With a wartime election fast approaching, he had constant opportunities to dabble in the political and public side of Roosevelt’s existence. Within days of returning, the president confided, “Bill, I just hate to run again for election. Perhaps the war will by that time have progressed to a point that it will make it unnecessary for me to be a candidate.” Yet when Roosevelt announced a few weeks later that he was running, Leahy was not surprised.

The day after Roosevelt’s announcement, Harry Hopkins, just back to work after another long break at the Mayo Clinic, stopped by Leahy’s office to discuss politics—specifically, the vice presidency. Vice President Henry Wallace was at the far left of the Democratic Party, and no favorite of Leahy’s. Hopkins felt he could use Leahy to influence the president and push Jimmy Byrnes, a Roosevelt ally who had represented South Carolina in the U.S. Senate and served on the U.S. Supreme Court, a sinecure he had given up at FDR’s request to head the Office of War Mobilization, for the second spot. Leahy also thought Byrnes the best person to be vice president. Leahy had worked closely with Byrnes on war production and manpower policy, and subtly had been lobbying Roosevelt to put him on the ticket in 1944. But the more closely Roosevelt worked with Byrnes the more he soured on the South Carolinian, recognizing in him a streak of extreme self-importance.

That Harry Hopkins now needed Leahy’s support on issues like Roosevelt’s VP had,
perhaps strangely, led to Hopkins’s relationship with Leahy arriving at its most trusting point. When Hopkins was well enough to work, he and Leahy together drafted important telegrams, particularly on politically sensitive topics. At other times they collaborated to control the Joint Chiefs. One, when Hopkins felt Ernest King, a committed Anglophobe, had given a deliberately antagonistic order to the American naval
commander in the Mediterranean to forbid the use of American equipment to a British-led operation, he hurried to Leahy to get the order countermanded. Leahy agreed with Hopkins and advised the chief of naval operations that it would be sensible if he backed down—which King dutifully did.

Even vital questions such as aid to the Soviet Union, which were extremely important to Hopkins and which he had tried to dominate earlier in the war, now often were referred to Leahy in the hope that the admiral would obtain the preferred decision from the president.

Some of the most powerful people in the United States wanted to take advantage of Leahy’s influence with Roosevelt.

Not long after Roosevelt and Leahy left Hobcaw, their host, Bernard Baruch, hoping for a position in government, wrote to the admiral, “You are just tops. You are a good sailor, a fine statesman, and a splendid friend.”

Leahy kept a copy of the letter in his diary, but he was one of the least self-interested people among the powerful names of American history. He never used his post for financial gain and had little in the way of possessions or property. He was scrupulous about not using his influence to benefit himself or his family.

In early 1944, one of his brothers asked if Leahy could prevent the transfer of his son, a Navy man based in Chicago, Illinois, but recently ordered to Newport, Rhode Island—and presumably from there into action.

Leahy refused. In the only example that can be found of Leahy asking a favor for a relative, he wrote in late 1944 to David Sarnoff, boss of RCA and NBC, with a “personal request” that Sarnoff employ his niece in NBC’s new television division. Sarnoff immediately sent back a handwritten note saying he would be delighted to help in any way that he could.

Leahy, behind Roosevelt, in naval uniform with aide-de-camp’s braid, accompanied his boss to meet Winston Churchill, left, and Joseph Stalin at February 1945 at Yalta in the Crimea. Six weeks later, Roosevelt would be dead. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/US Army Signal Corps/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

Leahy’s increased authority after Hobcaw also shows in his direct dealing with cabinet members. One of the first things that Leahy asked Roosevelt to do after they returned from the South was to appoint James Forrestal secretary of the Navy. Leahy had excellent relations with Forrestal and believed that they could work closely together. Roosevelt quickly made the appointment.

Leahy began lunching with Morgenthau even more regularly he used the Treasury secretary to keep tabs on issues that mattered to him. One was lend-lease, announced by FDR in 1940 as a way to aid Britain after the fall of France and to provide both Britain and the Soviet Union with massive economic and military support. Leahy, by nature inclined to isolationism, wanted lend-lease to end when the war was over. Learning that Roosevelt was going to appoint Morgenthau chairman of a committee to oversee the future of lend-lease, Leahy scheduled a lunch with the Treasury secretary to get a full update on his plans.

Leahy’s already strong links with the State Department became more intimate, partly for institutional reasons and partly for personal reasons. In late 1943, after Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles’s forced resignation resulting from his scandalous behavior involving solicitation of men for sex, the State Department started addressing formal inquiries for the Joint Chiefs of Staff directly to Leahy, who scrutinized and signed the responses to those queries. In 1944, H. Freeman Matthews, who had worked for Leahy when he was ambassador to Vichy, became State’s deputy director for the Office of European Affairs, working with the admiral to improve the flow of crucial documents between the military and the diplomats. Matthews would call Leahy if he needed special information or to get the Joint Chiefs’ approval for State Department directives. Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s declining health made him an even more peripheral figure in Leahy’s life. In the summer of 1944 Hull was such an outsider that he often was left to communicate with Roosevelt through Leahy, and even then could not be sure of getting an answer. By November, Hull was in such poor condition that he had to resign and was replaced by Stettinius.

This story appeared in the February 2020 issue of American History.


Legacy

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 transits into San Diego prior to mooring at Naval Air Station North Island. Nimitz is preparing for a 2009 regularly scheduled Western Pacific Deployment.

Admiral Nimitz was the US signer of the peace treaty with Japan after their surrender in WWII aboard the battleship Missouri.

His influence, expert knowledge of submarines, and support of Captain Hyman G. Rickover’s proposal for a nuclear submarine led to the building of the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.

He was the last officer to ever serve as Fleet Admiral, he was Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights, a roving ambassador for the United Nations, the first professor of Naval Science at the University of California, a regent of the University of California, and in retirement was Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier.

Admiral Nimitz submitted an affidavit to the Nuremberg Trials supporting unrestricted submarine warfare which both he and German Admiral Karl Donitz had employed during the war. This affidavit may have been one of the reasons Donitz was only required to serve 10 years.

He won more awards and received more decorations than can be listed here, including several Gold Stars. Roosevelt declared October 5 th “Nimitz Day”. He was present for a parade in his honor on that day in 1945 and on October 17 th , 1964 on “Nimitz Day” at the University of California.

Nimitz participated in fundraising to help restore the Japanese Imperial Navy battleship, the Mikasa, with the intention of restoring goodwill with Japan.

Nimitz is featured on a United States stamp and several things have been named after him including ships, schools, foundations, museums, freeways, military institutions, hills, summits, a glacier, musical compositions, eight schools, and even the town of Nimitz, WV.


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