Franklin Roosevelt: FBI Squelches Chatter about his Medical Condition

The nation was stunned when FDR died unexpectedly on April 12, 1945 -- less than six months after being elected to a fourth term in office. The death was unexpected because the president's personal physician, VADM Ross McIntire, whenever asked, had proclaimed that FDR's health was excellent. McIntire, an otolaryngologist and then surgeon-general of the U.S. Navy, must have known FDR was gravely ill -- FDR's physical decay was plainly evident even to non-physicians in the final months 1. FDR must have known, too, MORE and the FBI was interested in who among the public knew about his condition at the time of the November 1944 election. SEE BELOW
   Given his ill health, why did FDR run for a fourth term? FDR told his son he felt compelled to run because he had "to maintain a continuity of command in a time of continuing crisis" 1. World War II was, after all, still raging in 1944. Was FDR justified in this decision? If McIntire was an accomplice in the deception, was he acting for a greater good?
   Today, no one can precisely say how much McIntire knew and when he knew it. FDR's medical record, which was kept in a safe at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, has been missing since the president's death. VADM McIntire was one of three people with access to the safe. 1
At the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY, there is a letter from J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the FBI, to Stephen Early, then secretary to FDR. It appears that Early was concerned about news of FDR's condition leaking out before the election, and asked the FBI to investigate.

Attached to Hoover's letter was a four-page memorandum, whose flavor may be appreciated from the following paragraph:

It seems that Dr. ----- is a Lieutenant in the Navy, assigned to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and residing at -----. When interviewed on October 27 relative to any statement which had been made concerning the state of the President's health, Dr. ----- denied making any statements of this kind, but stated that the President's health had been the subject of a general discussion at a luncheon recently held at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda. When asked to name specifically the persons who had attended the luncheon, Dr. ----- declined to do so and stated that the reason the President's health had been discussed at the hospital was because members of the hospital staff recognized the picture of one of the Navy Hospital doctors, Dr. H. G. Bruenn on the President's train at the time he was making the acceptance speech. Dr. ----- stated that he had not discussed the subject of the President's health with Dr. Bruenn. Dr. ----- was obviously disturbed and uneasy during the interview.
The memorandum also recounts that a leading specialist from the Mayo Clinic, who had recently returned to Minnesota from a temporary assignment to Bethesda Naval Hospital, was interviewed by the FBI simply because he had made the statement that "the President has a serious heart ailment" while at a luncheon in Washington.

Hoover's letter summarizes by saying that there was "a lot of loose conversation and talk, all predicted [predicated?] upon the supposition that the President was suffering from some heart ailment by reason of the fact that Bruenn's picture appeared in the group with the President." 1

Cited Sources
  1. Goldsmith, HS. Unanswered mysteries in the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Surgery, Gynecology, & Obstetrics. 1979;149: 899-908. Pubmed: 388705.

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