Franklin D. Roosevelt, affectionately known by his initials FDR, was the 32nd U.S. President and one of the most important politicians during the mid 20th century. His first term as President came in 1933 and he set about improving conditions caused by the Great Depression. His second term began in 1937 after a landslide election win the year before. World War II became a major focus of this term and the United States remained neutral for much of this term, although support was provided to China and Great Britain. In an unprecedented move he ran for a consecutive third term in office. At the time it was an unwritten rule that two-terms was the maximum term that could be served. Despite, this he won the election in 1940 and set about providing stronger support to the Allies in the war. The United States was fully drawn into the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and he announced war on Germany and Japan the next day. He worked closely with the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and the Premier of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, to help bring about an allied victory and end to the war. His policies are also credited by many with the successful economic recovery after the Great Depression and World War II. Amazingly, he was re-elected for a fourth term in office in 1944, but his failing health meant that he didn’t end up seeing out the full term. Let’s take a look at the last years of his life.
In 1921 Roosevelt contracted polio after a vacation in Canada. He remained permanently paralysed from the waist down and spent the rest of his private life in a wheelchair. Amazingly, this fact was hidden from the public and he taught himself to walk short distances with a cane by fitting iron braces to his legs. In public, he almost always appeared standing and was supported by an aide or one of his sons.
Those close to FDR knew of his failing health by about 1940 and in 1944 he attended Bethesda Hospital for extensive testing. The results were astonishing as his health was failing due to years of compensating for the paralysis along with his smoking habit and stress. He was found to be suffering from a number of conditions including; chronic high blood pressure, blocked arteries, heart disease and congestive heart failure. This information was kept hidden from the public during the 1944 election campaign.
Last days and death
He travelled to Egypt in February of 1945 and met with a number of world leaders. The physician to Winston Churchill commented that FDR was a dying man. He addressed Congress on his return in March, but was very frail and unable to stand. On April 12, 1945, he stated he had a pain in the head, slumped forward and became unconscious. His physician diagnosed a stroke and at 3:35 pm on the same day he died.