Franklin Roosevelt: Did he Know he was Sick?

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, SEE BELOW and the FBI was interested in who among the public knew about his condition at the time of the November 1944 election. MORE
   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
The following facts suggest FDR was aware of the serious nature of his illness:
  • Even before the November 1944 election he was asking for information regarding his burial plans, suggesting where he wished his memorial to be, and was giving personal farewell gifts to his close friends and secretaries.

  • He insisted that all 13 of his grandchildren be present at his 1945 inauguration.

  • Immediately after giving his inaugural address, FDR met with his son James, telling him that he was the executor of FDR's will and giving him funeral instructions.

  • During 13 months of examinations and electrocardiograms performed by cardiology consultant Howard Bruenn MD, Roosevelt never asked a single question.
Regarding the last point, it is likely that McIntire had answered the president's questions. FDR and McIntire were close -- they saw each other twice a day and McIntire was known around Washington as the only man who could give orders to FDR 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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