“His Final Battle” by Joseph Lelyveld is the story of the final 16 months of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s life. He was dying with limited time to live. He knew it, but few, if any other than his personal physician, shared that knowledge.
He learned in March 1944 that his congestive heart condition would be fatal. That would remain a secret even from his wife.
With the conclusion of World War II, FDR longed to leave the office of president with a United Nations in place and some agreement with Russia that would provide a stable foundation for long term peace.
He sought that end at the Yalta Conference with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill in February 1945. This much-discussed historical event has forever been the subject of debates as to whether FDR was in such poor health that he capitulated to Stalin.
Lelyveld writes that even in perfect health, not much would have been different. There was another reason FDR was willing to plant such hope in the tyrant Stalin, and that was his desire not to suffer the same fate as beloved former President Woodrow Wilson.
That part of the book is intriguing and historically significant.
Should he have gone to Yalta with his health so bad for a conference that would shape the future of the world? Did Stalin realize FDR’s yearning for a lasting peace could be turned against him? The discussion in this work on such matters is extensively researched and intriguing.
FDR ran for president for a fourth term knowing his time was limited. He withheld all information of his congestive heart disease. Should he have made his condition known, a move that would probably have cost him an election win?
He died 82 days into this last term on April 11, 1945, having just the day before written to Stalin seeking some accommodation on the arrangements for a post-war Europe.
Was this end the same as that of President Wilson: a world without peace?
“Returning to Washington, FDR declared that Yalta Conference had put an end to the kind of balance-of-power divisions that had long marred global politics. His assessment echoed Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic and equally inaccurate claims at the end of World War I.” ― Madeleine K. Albright, “Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948”
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2017 season is his 11th with the club and 32nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
* Hitting the Books with Gary Thorne. © Copyright 2017 Gary F. Thorne. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gary F. Thorne and MASNsports.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.