tv FDR the Final Years of World War II 1943-45 CSPAN August 23, 2019 5:40pm-6:48pm EDT
revisiting the roots and evolution of its african-american storytelling. american history tv was there as former interpreters from the earliest days of the program described the challenges of portraying lives of slaves. you can see it tonight starting at 8 eastern on krmz and watch american history tv this week and every weekend on cspan3. up next remarks from historian nigel hamilton on the last book in his trilogy, profiling franklin d. roosevelt at war. war and peace. covers fdr's involvement on planning d-day nil until his death. the national world war ii museum in new orleans hosted this event. it's a little more than an hour. good evening, everyone. welcome to the national world war ii museum, all of those of you who are sitting here and those watching on the live stream, i know you are out there and with us in spirit.
and we feel your presence too. as many of you probably know i'm dr. rob satino, the samuel and murray stone senior historian at the museum. and the executive director of the institute for the study of war and democracy. tonight is the latest installment of our meet the author series. and we always like to mention our sponsor we bring this to you with the generous support of the strake foundation and couldn't do it without them. thank you. now many of you have been to our events before you foe we have a tradition at the museum. may i ask are there any world war ii veterans or home front workers in the audience tonight? if you would please stand -- or wave too. thanks, folks. [ applause ] you know i've heard the president and ceo emeritus appear others here say thank you for coming to the events.
we couldn't do it for you we built it for you. military veterans of other eras. please stand or wave. we know that's a large number. [ applause ] >> i love the waves. people give different forms of waves. i like that one. thank you, thank you so much. now we would also like to acknowledge three special guests in the audience. a current board member robert prittyp there he is. robert good to see you thank you for coming. [ applause ] . and pass board members debra lindseyy. and dr. michael kerry. in the audio ens? great to see you as always. [ applause ] . thanks so much to all of you for being with us this evening. and, of course, we'll never move on before we acknowledge the national world war ii museum cofounder, president and ceo emeritus, nick mueller here in
the front row, nick, as always. [ applause ] and to all of you in the audience or the live stream who may be members you're the people who keep us going. thanks to all of you. and finally, a sincere thanks to cspan for being here. always great to see our karms at our events. i know i stand up straighter when the cameras are in operation. thank you for that too. you've a all heard the phrase so and so needs no introduction. and you probably know what that means. you know what you're really saying is this person deserves a very fullsome introduction indeed. and so with our speaker tonight nigel hamilton. nigel is an award-winning author and biography. of the author of of the the field marshall the montgomery, known a as monty. the best selling work on the junk john f. kennedy. jfk reckless youth turned into a
miniseries. bill clinton mastering the presidency. nigel is the first president of the bioographer international organization. senior fellow at the mckormg graduate school. university of massachusetts bofrts. i'll say this flat out. he is one of the world's great writers. if you pick up a book by nigel, you know you are in for a treat. this is no exception. by all means. [ applause ] . nigel is also a dear friend of the museum. he spoke at our 2012 international conference wsh our churchill spoemsious and spoke for the first two books of the fdr trilogy under discussion tonight. best of all from a personal perspective he is a friend of nick's and mine and lives down the road in the mariny. rainle please stand be and be ac nonld in some which. thank you. and so to the main event.
we are honored nigel selected our museum as the site of his official book launch for war and peace. now this is the third book in the trilogy, the f.d.r. trilogy. here he brings the vast story home. covering the saga from f.d.r. from d-day to yalta. it's appropriate time for the release of the book and gathering here. today as you may know is the 74th naefrps of the german vend ner western europe. we are mere weeks away from the 75th anniversary of d-day. without first ado, ladies and gentlemen, i give you the incomparable nigel hamilton. nigel. [ applause ] . >> good evening, everybody.
this is a slightly sad occasion for me because it's a sort of farewell to somebody i have lived with for ten years, franklin delano roosevelt. and i shall miss him. i never intended to spend ten years writing this series. and i certainly didn't intend for the story to take three volumes. all i did know was that it was something of a national scandal in this country that no one, no historian had written a full
scale account of president roosevelt in his role as commander in chief of the armed forces of the united states in the most violent war in human history. how was it possible that that had never been done? one of the main reasons of course was that f.d.r. died in april of 1945. he had begun to assemble his papers. i was able to interview the harvard graduate who was working in the map room at the white house who was helping him prepare those papers for his memoirs. well, he was neverible a write them. and the person who did write them was the british prime
minister, winston churchill in retirement and later when prime minister again, who was an extraordinary writer, apart from being a great prime minister and leader of his country. and -- and churchill took six volumes to tell the story of world war ii. so although i am embarrassed that i have taken three volumes to tell f.d.r.'s story. it is still only half what churchill took. i've called my talk tonight -- and thank you so much for coming. you work for years and years. and you wonder always if there is anybody out there who -- who
wants you to do it, who responds to what you are doing. i call tonight's talk, the man who saved d-day. because as bob said, we are about to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the normandy invasion. and it may be probably the last occasion on which there will be still significant numbers of survivors. the story i'm going to focus on tonight, therefore focus z on d-day itself. or rather not on d-day, but on the project of d-day.
united states decided not to launch a d-day invasion which would have been crushed. but to launch an invasion of north africa. as far as possible from german lands of communication. so that american forces could learn in the field how to meet and defeat. the second volume took up that story, and also began with a great voyage. the first president ever to fly abroad in office. flying to casablanca.
where he met with winston churchill. and again overruled his chief of staff. recognizing that in january 1943 almost no american troops had ever fired a single shot in action against a german soldier. better to continue the learning process in modern warfare and the minute mediterranean. and to declare a moral policy as much as he had done and laying down the atlantic charter. mainly on conditional surrender. no negotiation with the on conditional surrender.
at the end of the book american soldiers had landed in sicily conquered sicily, and art in southern italy. their whole german army has surrendered to generalizing and north africa. we come to the book that's been launched tonight. volume 3. i can reveal that my editor was somewhat surprised at the title. he thought it had been used before. yes, but a long time ago, nobody else had thought to use
it since. i thought it was pretty appropriate. this third volume also begins with a voyage, a journey. it begins with fdr failing on a new american battleship with his chief of staff to north africa. i think you can see i'm looking at a picture that is very small, but i think you can see general marshall, admiral lee and admiral king. going to north africa because they weren't going to go on to kia rue, once again, is going to meet with his opposite number, the prime minister of
britain. winston churchill. but, before he gets to cairo, he wants to make quite certain that he has a chance to talk with the american commander in chief. i like commander-in-chief in the military and. the young dwight david eisenhower. he is anxious, in fact there's quite a number of photographs from that period. to listen to ike. ike's abuse on saturday in europe. and to think about him for a very good reason. because ike tells him that he
is just going to see winston churchill, and is worried either prime ministers unwillingness to go ahead with the d-day invasion in 1944. when roosevelt arrives in cairo, the two men look as they've always been great friends, which they were. sometimes great friends fall out over great issues. d-day was a great issue. very quickly in cairo, the president of the united states
faces a crisis. 's main ally prime minister not only of great britain, but the commander-in-chief including australians in new zealand, and canadians has he learned to have a showdown over delaying or holding d-day. which had been agreed should take place in the spring of 1944 in a few months time. why was winston churchill a prime minister whose british empire was so essential to the
success of the invasion which would be launched from britain . why was winston churchill such an implacable opponent of the great landing? afterwards, winston churchill would cast his magical, rhetorical, and literary spell over the story, claiming it was simply that he wanted to do much more than just crush the english channel he wanted to focus on the military and. also that as prime minister he had deep giving's on russian intentions. he was against putting all the
eggs of the western allies into one basket which could be done later if at all. many historians have followed. they downplayed the opposition to the planning of 1943. some like roberts whom i admire. even claim it is not true that churchill wanted to postpone the operation. the codename has had been alleged.
others like the director of the churchill archives might count as a friend, claim it is hindsight to assume that d-day was the most important military operation in world war ii in which the success of the war against hitler depended. i have to say is a military historian, that is corn smuggle , or loyalist hogwash. i bow to no one in my admiration for winston churchill's lonely stand against hitler against the british defeat in the summer of 1940. his finest hour.
after pearl harbor, in 1941 the direction of the war against hitler is surely fdr's finest hour. i know my fdr trilogy can persuade you. i think it's persuaded me. all through volume 2 commander- in-chief, churchill has done his best to argue vainly against a cross channel landing. twice coming to the united states to argue personally with the president. war and peace reveals not only just how opposed to d-day churchill remained, but how the prime minister thanks
trajan us messages. direct to stall and without telling the president. to say d-day would have to be postponed in favor of more combating in italy. finally, in cairo, in front of the president and his military advisors, the prime minister delivered his grand indictment as he called it. on the presidents d-day strategy. and the latch dish to delay or abandoned the evasion. this was to my mind the greatest military crisis of the second world war. a crisis of churchill's own
obstinate making, and the combination of a whole year of opposition to the d-day project. the prime minister claims his earlier problem progress in quibec to carry out the process is simply a loyalists agreement. one that he can as british commander in chief tear up. she is serious. he threatened his own war cabinet. in london he will resign if the president continues to assist on d-day's spring 1944 priority and timetable. he's even threatened his military chiefs, he will risk breaking the grand alliance. by telling the americans they will be welcomed to switch
their focus to the pacific if they don't accept a delay or cancellation of d-day. in other words, the prime minister of britain is willing to break his partnership with the united states, a partnership that he himself has created rather than given. he openly complains to his staff. he is the only genius who can win the war. he is being forced to fight with one arm tied behind his back. thanks to american stupidity. the black sea, the balkans, vienna, anywhere but d-day and
normandy in the spring of 1944. he demands by the pyramid. how the president of the united states deals with churchill's rebellion is therefore the court drama of war and peace, my final volume. in his great volume or his great volume the six volume memoir, churchill gave his own version and it really helped him win the nobel prize of which are of literature. i can't match his prose, i can only offer fdr's point of view which is very different. fdr
saw d-day, and did hitler as the deciding strategy of the war against the not see third right, and thus inevitably against japan once hitler was defeated. perhaps no one will ever really explain winston churchill's opposition to d- day. what we can do at last -- 75 years after the landing, is see exactly how the president of the united states went about defusing churchill's timebomb. in cairo. and assisting that the d-day operation had been carried out
and agreed in quibec saving d- day in other words. churchill was furious, boiling with rage in fact. the two men flew to toronto as fdr arrived. where fdr got stuck into promise about backing the d- day invasion with a simultaneous russian offense on the eastern front which would force to fight on two fronts. in which case the germans would be unable to withdraw forces from the east to reinforce their armies in france. facing the allies. operation -- stolen also
promises the president to join the war against japan once hitler's surrendered. fdr's trip to cairo and tarot was historic. a triumph. when churchill was asked by his doctor whether anything had gone wrong, he snapped. a bloodied lot wrong has gone wrong. as history shows it's gone right. certainly hitler is no
doubt the defining importance of an allied cross channel invasion. for the fate of the not see third right. the landing and battle it will not be too hard to beat the western ally with an allies that he added. he doesn't have the feelings that the british have their whole heart in this attack. after the president's trip to cairo and toronto, the d-day project is energized.
it will go forward in the spring of 1944. it's energized for one extra historic reason. mrs. presidents surprising decision not to appoint general marshall to commend the d-day invasion, but the man he interviewed as we saw on his way out to cairo. young general dwight eisenhower. this was one of the most inspired appointments of world war ii. a coalition war. involving the forces of many nations, but led by the united
states. typically fdr isn't content to send a telegram. returning from tehran and cairo, he stays with eisenhower, and together the two men fly in the presidents plane nicknamed the sacred cow. to sicily where the president decorates general mark for his bravery and leadership in toronto, and tells lieutenant general george whom i think you can see next to the last figure in the back of the chief. despite the current black cloud hanging over and
threatening the gis, in a field hospital. you will have an army command in the great normandy operation. thus was a grand alliance phase , d-day is set in stone and the supreme commander appointed. back in washington returning on the island the president is a conquering hero. from hyde park surrounded by his family he boarded a christmas message, announcing to the world his appointment of the eisenhower supreme commander.
of the forthcoming assault. he looks and he isn't. p soon falls ill with flu. and he never gets better. the second half of war and peace, it tells a sadder story. fdr behind the scenes is finally diagnosed with fatal heart disease. neither he nor eisenhower who is moving to england to take command of the d-day invasion has been able to stop
churchill's from mounting his own version of d-day in italy. under new british supreme command. one of the prime minister's worst military sessions in the entire war which results in 43 thousand ally casualties in three months. and no purpose before d-day. 43,000. by contrast, the d-day invasion is a triumph of allied success. the president is a prayer on behalf of all americans for its success, and
the landings not only prove one of the great combat achievements in history, but they did prove his forecast of an english channel running in blood. the president assist on an american invasion of southern france. is is part of a normandy invasion. the president insists on an american invasion against british his unwillingness of southern france to give eisenhower more haft as he advances into germany. that invasion is similarly successful. in the public
image the president is the master strategist of the war. in fact he even fails by battleship. that summer, to pearl harbor. entering pearl harbor itself. to force general to sits down at last with admiral. and you see how the united states navy actually operates. then, within minutes to present it with their best ideas on how they proposed to defeat japan without incurring worldliness casualty. normally
this would have been vintage fdr blessed with charm, the ability to get commander to work together arriving at a clear strategy. but, the president isn't in vintage good health. he is dying of heart disease. he can barely work two hours a day. or give a public speech. he is here's a photo of what he gives on his return to the united states. he is asked to stand using his legs, and he has a heart attack doing it. continuing as president and u.s. commander-in-chief is a titanic struggle for him. sure by up all of his advisors
there's no one else that can possibly lead the nation to victory, not only in the war but preparing the allies for the postwar. for peace. he agrees to stand for reelection. well aware that he will never survive another term despite being 62 years of age. is triumphed to the polls as not nation day of 1945, but is ravaged healthwise. i'm not sure how clear this is, but this is a map of his voyage. once again traveling to get
there in the primary for a second meeting to discuss the war and game. they're using it on the way out. how to get the russians to help in the war against japan, to form a way, and how to establish the united nations and the un security council. as well as discuss the problem of pulling. it's something of a miracle. of survival. you can see just how ill he looks with churchill there.
he's just managing to get through the conference. on board his battleship coming back they're coming back to the united states. his military assistant general actually dies of a heart attack. during that voyage. the point is, the president is not sick, he is dying unable to stand. beyond his sense of duties of commander in chief of the u.s. armed forces, one thing perhaps more than any other has kept him alive since his doctors gave him their sentence of death 12 months
before. they diagnosed his fatal case with a lot of his life. lucy has become a widow, and she inspires him to go on at least two hitler's end. he almost makes it, though not quite. he takes the train to warm springs and works on his speech. leaving his white house chief of staff in washington to mind the store. he is joined in springs by lucy rutherford. his longtime
part neighbor. daisy is also in the room. the personal secretary bill when the end comes. to have time to read a short passage? >> once gathered like laundry, the private secretary put them neatly in a folder. lucy and daisy were sitting on the sofa watching madame at work. she is painting as fast as she could. she became aware that
suddenly his gaze had a faraway look. he was completely solemn. wait until you see the san francisco stance with the united nations. seemed to have moved somewhere else in his mind. staring at lucy next in. it was about 1:15 p.m. to the filipino butler, the president said they needed 15 more minutes to work before taking lunch which he was looking forward to. elizabeth recalled he raised his right hand and passed it over his four head several times in a strange jerky way without making a sound.
at least as far she could hear. a record the president looking for something. his head forward, his hands fumbling. immediately she rose. he looked at me with his four head far out in pain and tried to smile. he put his left hand to the back of his head and said, i have a terrific pain in the back of my head. this would be the president's last words. he said it distinctly but so low i don't think anyone else heard it. my head was not a foot from his , and told him to put his head back on his chair.
the president is sick, call the doctor. dr. brune comes and administers medications for the president's heart. epinephrine, liberal nitrate. but the president suffered a quick massive cerebral hemorrhage or a catastrophic stroke. his blood pressure was over 300 and there is nothing despite attempted artificial respiration that could be done except wait for the end. he is told that there was a
long siege ahead, but in the event the siege did not last long, lucy rutherford recognized immediately that the end was approaching and told elizabeth to pack her easel and bags, and summon nicholas the man who took this photograph. in a white cadillac they set off before the press could arrive. the president passed away when they stopped tell a friend -- the flag was already at half mast. they asked if they knew what had become national, in fact global news at 3:30 5 pm local time 1945 the commander-in-
chief the last words of the author of this book. the commander-in-chief was dead. thank you very much. >> [ applause ] >> nigel thank you for the wonderful presentation. really wrapping this wonderful individual up. we would like to open the floor for questions, and we will start in the center about halfway back. please stand when they bring the microphone to you.
we briefly talked while you are saying my book, and i would like you to share with the audience your contrast with hitler's interference with his command and his army with what roosevelt did with his army. >> i enjoyed meeting you, and you raised an interesting question, what was it that describes fdr's style of leadership , and can he be faulted for interfering with his military staff? >> yes he did interfere with them, sometimes a president is the one who has to do that. after fdr , harry truman would have to do it. in the second world war, fdr had to do it several times as
i explained with his chief of staff over premature decisioning to launch d-day in 1942, and 1943. before american forces, not just the forces, but the combat commanders. they had shown that they could beat the market in open battle. 's is a tough enemy. so, i would say that fdr's contribution to military command is his willingness where he felt necessary to step in and save lives. i think that's what a president has to do. he has to think of the human equation, not just whether his
military advisors should be allowed to go there and wait. at once having made his strategic decisions, fdr was truly remarkable in letting his team get on with the business. and the support that he gave to eisenhower once the das decision was reached. he is in direct contrast to the way that adolf hitler tended to interfere with the command decisions, especially in battle of his generals. >> let me go back to the center again. thank you very much. he talked about tehran. it
seem like one of the difference was fdr's illness and declining health. do you believe that if he had been healthy, and if you had continued as he was at tehran, any decisions made would have been altered, or even if you live that long would have been different? based on this. >> that's most difficult question. historians are still debating that. it becomes a political debate. i cannot believe that fdr wouldn't had been tougher with marshall stalin, if he had
been in good health at the altar. when you read the documents there was careful minutes taken during the conference. he is always deferring to the president. he is running a conference. the president didn't alter the conference. stalin and churchill did and battle over particular over poland, but with so many millions of russian boots on the ground, already in it was ultimately that much difference particularly when polls are naturally unwilling to surrender territory. who knows. in some ways it was a relief to in the book where i did.
and leave those questions to another biographer of a subsequent president. >> nigel have a question online , kent from missouri wants to know how do you excuse fdr for not informing truman of the a- bomb, or do you? >> i can't. as i say in the book it's very difficult to understand why fdr -- again going back to your earlier question, i think fdr had been in basic health, he need to be suffering from the element. he would have understood how vital it was to put his vice president and
successor in the picture that he relied on the henry stimson to do that, and the truth is by those last weeks when perhaps he thought he was going to spend more time, he did see truman, and obviously he'd given instructions that stimson should share the atomic bomb secrets with the president. he just wasn't well enough to be honest. i think if he sat down with truman, i'm not sure how much sense he would have made in terms of whether or not to drop the bomb. i am often asked whether he --
whether i think as his biographer if he would have dropped the bomb, and i can say that we had done through. he is the president that funded the manhattan project, who walked as the scientific research was done. i quoted showing that he was well aware of what the germans were wanting. he discussed with winston churchill whether or not they should share it with stalin. he's totally on the atomic bomb page on two of these fatal illnesses that reduces him to a very lame president by the end, but he thinks he
has accumulated in his fourth term in office, that's pretty historic, but also in all of the work he has done with winston churchill, he thinks he's accumulated the sort of stature that nobody else could have, and to some extent i think that is true that no one else could have done what he did in that final year. >> on that point michael r wants to know was it that he had such confidence in his subordinates that they knew the right thing to do at this point in his life that they were going to carry on his message, his legacy to his
successor, and was part of his secrets to a success the fact that he would stay hands-off. >> i don't think that is quite true. when necessary he accepted the role of the president and commander-in-chief is to make the ultimate decision and handle while things are being done, but when you come to a question like okay, do we deliberately go ahead with an invasion which is going to kill , not just so many tens, but hundreds of thousands of soldiers and even civilians. only a president and commander- in-chief can make that decision.
something that eleanor was upset, but she hadn't been present when her husband died. she was annoyed with her daughter anna for not having kept it secret. i don't think there's any truth in that. i don't think that's why emily decided against it for her own reasons. i don't think there is much exaggerated feeling of anger. the point is it's impossible for any historian to do believe that they are paralyzed and unwell. but it's impossible to believe that the president surrounded by staff, i don't know but advisors.
by politicians. it's impossible to believe the claim that eleanor did not know that lucy was keeping him alive, and after fdr drive died. eleanor went to lucy and sent her an object. i think fdr had an extraordinary relationship with eleanor. obviously you shouldn't have. had that adulterous relationship during world war i. when that ended he was completely loyal to eleanor who looks after him when he suffered his polio. , and i find it very moving
that at the very end of his life he did have this charming relationship with a woman he had once loved so much. and who loved him. >> we have time for one or two more questions. >> there is a report he had sent a 40 page memorandum to truman seeking to halt if they were going to surrender. there's also report that there was for the first time there
had been a secret communication with japan. attempting to negotiate a surrender. indicating that the emperor would be retained. did you believe those happened, and should had then been considered consistent with fdr's instructions that should be unconditional surrender, and requiring the dropping of the bomb. >> it goes beyond my grief tonight in terms of fdr's life. it was how he looked on the war with japan. and i do quote evidence in the book that not only was fdr willing to soften the a condition surrender in
specific cases, he writes a wonderful man to random to the secretary of state on how there's a difference between principal which you want to hold to, and practical realities which may require you to do something else, and later he does talk to somebody about the japanese. he's worried that the japanese seem so willing to encourage civilians to commit suicide, not just troops. there's the concern about american pows. i don't think fdr was ideological about dropping the bomb into go back to that previous question, i think he would have weighed the matter
very carefully, but certainly in a state that he was at the end of the war, i think he is merciful that he wasn't the president. we had a president who refused to pass the bar. >> the last question from the lifestream audience. winston who seen his cloud decline in his empire almost end, and it seems that the correspondence were there, but there might have been through there. did you see this as an opportunity to reestablish his greatness and the united kingdom's greatness. >> i don't think churchill in
any way wanted to exploit the president's death. he didn't come to the funeral, but i wonder how many times in human history there's ever been a correlation of two liters. they have so trusted and communicated with each other. is evidence of the fact that we did actually have it out. i have reached that myself. finishing this book would've had me thinking of mortality. i prefer to think of churchill not coming to the united states because in some ways he may
not have been able to control his own emotions which i find difficult enough. >> thank you very much nigel. >> he proved this as he always does. know the drill by now, by the book, nigel will be happy to autograph copies of the book. drive calf carefully, and good night. one more time for nigel hamilton.>> [ applause ]