Off to war with Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Posted by John Kanelis on

There had been a tradition in American politics that presidents should serve a maximum of two terms and then step aside. It wasn't written into the Constitution -- yet.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been elected twice by landslides in 1932 and 1936. Then came the 1940 election and the nation's 32nd president felt he had more work to do. So he ran for a third term, and won.

But by the term his third term began, Europe and North Africa had exploded into war. Japan had invaded China and was making plenty of noise about joining its German and Italian allies in seeking to conquer the world.

"The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" continues Friday at 7 p.m. on Panhandle PBS by examining the course from peacetime to war in a segment titled "The Common Cause: 1939-1944."

Well, the "common cause" was delivered to the United States on Dec. 7, 1941 when Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

FDR went to Congress the next day and asked lawmakers to declare war to avenge "the date which will live in infamy."

The president managed to mobilize the nation. By the end of World War II, more than 16 million Americans had worn their country's military uniform. The war transformed this nation into the greatest industrial and military power the world had ever seen.

And the Great Depression came to an end as the country went on a war footing, battling tyranny in Europe, Africa and Asia alongside our allies in Britain, France, dozens of smaller countries and, oh yes, the Soviet Union.

FDR would win one more term as president, in 1944. However, Americans by and large did not know he was a gravely ill man. He took office in January 1945 and then died in April of a cerebral hemorrhage.

He had led his nation out of economic collapse, sought to use the government to build infrastructure and put people to work and sought to pack the Supreme Court with justices of his choosing.

FDR stood shoulder-to-shoulder with allies and fought the tyrannic powers into submission.

In the end, it all would kill him.

FDR lived just 63 years.

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