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APRIL 1944 — APRIL 1945.

Anna RooseveltOnce President Roosevelt was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and severe hypertension, his daughter Anna and Navy cardiologist Lieutenant Commander Howard Bruenn assumed his care and medical treatment. Dr. Bruenn was a constant presence and examined Roosevelt several times each day. Anna controlled his diet and curtailed his activity.

Returning to the White House from one of her frequent trips, Eleanor Roosevelt observed the growing bond between FDR and Anna. It was difficult for Eleanor to realize that her daughter knew things that she did not, regretting that, “Anna is the only one who would know about that.” Dr. Bruenn concluded that Mrs. Roosevelt could not accept that the president was really sick, or that he needed to reduce his workload, especially as they related to addressing her concerns. (1) Anna controlled the access to her father. (2)

Eleanor Roosevelt lobbied to accompany her husband on his fateful trip to the February 1945 Big Three Conference (FDR/Churchill/Stalin) held at Yalta, the Crimea.. FDR refused and took his daughter instead. At Yalta, Anna was both her father’s close companion and his informant. She made the morning rounds “to get his version of events and fill him in with any gossip that might be amusing or interesting.” (3)

President Franklin Roosevelt died in April, 1945, thirteen months after the diagnoses of congestive heart failure and severe hypertension were made.

I speculate that Anna Roosevelt, by first insisting on a comprehensive medical examination and then by controlling her father’s diet and activities, was instrumental in extending FDR’s life. What if Roosevelt instead had died at sometime prior to April 1945?

1. If FDR perished before Inauguration Day, January 20, 1945, Vice President Henry Wallace would have succeeded him as President. Wallace was considered by many to be a socialist, and was dumped from the 1944 presidential ticket in favor of the pragmatist Harry Truman.

2. If Roosevelt died before the November 1944 election, would the Democrat candidate, presumably Harry Truman, have defeated the Republican candidate, Governor Thomas Dewey?

3. If FDR died after Inauguration Day, Vice President Harry Truman would have been the US chief executive at Yalta. History showed that Truman was far more skeptical of Stalin’s Soviet Union than was Roosevelt.


Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994)
1. 503.
2. 589
3. 579

First Ladies of America
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