Henry Littlefield- Scholar,Soldier, Coach and Educator, 1933-2000 1-15-15

Henry Littlefield- Scholar, Soldier, Coach and Educator

1933-2000

Richard J. Garfunkel

January 15, 2015

I met Henry in 1961, as a 16 year old, high school student, at AB Davis High School in Mount Vernon, NY. Henry was an exceptional history teacher and history was one of my intellectual interests then, and now. (By the way, he was always voted as the best teacher in the high school.) But, I was also an athlete and Henry was emerging as one of the finest scholastic wrestling coaches in America. He had been a great competitor at Columbia University, was a Lieutenant in the US Marine Corp, where he wrestled and earned a black belt in Judo

fter his discharge from the service, he competed in the American amateur wrestling world of Olympic freestyle, Greco-Roman, and Partire. Henry competed for the NY Athletic Club and was a member of a number of National AAU winning teams. At 6’5″ and 250 lbs he was quite a mountain of a man. John Irving, the novelist and a enthusiastic amateur wrestler and coach described Henry in his memoir “Trying to Save Piggy Sneed” affectionately and he stated in an interview with “Salon” magazine, that he had two sets of friends, the literary types and the athletes- and they were mutually exclusive. Littlefield would have been one of the few friends of his that bridged the gap between his literary and athletic sides.

Henry grew up without a father, went to Trinity Prep, lived in Manhasset, LI, taught the legendary football great, Jimmy Brown how to wrestle in the “Y” pool, went to Columbia University, wrestled and played football for the class of 1954. He met Madeline Smith from Long Island, on a blind date, fell in love, and they were married in 1956.  Madeline grew up in Baldwin, Long Island. She attended the Grier School for girls in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, then earned her BA at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, majoring in music. She studied organ and sacred music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and then earned her MA in Education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. By the way, Henry later earned his MA and PhD from his alma mater, Columbia University.

When Henry went into the Marine Corps, he met the legendary General Lewis “Chesty” Puller at Camp Lejeune, was part of the 10th anniversary, re-enactment of the famous Marine landings on Okinawa, that last great and brutal battle of 1945. After his discharge, he started to teach in Mount Vernon in 1958. He founded a wrestling club in 1960 with Mount Vernon teachers and coaches; Sully Mott and the great Bill Sywetz, He became the coach of Mount Vernon’s first official team in 1961.

When we first met, in the fall of 1961, I told Henry that I had spent one year at Horace Mann and came in contact with Gus Petersen, who was the trainer there. Petersen was a famous “turn of the century” wrestler, and an equally famous coach at Columbia where Henry met him as Petersen’s coaching career was winding down. We both liked history and Henry asked me to help him with the wrestling team. From that day on we were rarely out of communication with each other for almost 40 years. Henry loved science fiction, baseball, mysticism (especially Edgar Cayce) and the ironies of history. When I met him, in my junior year at Davis, I was already regarded as one of the top history students. I had read practically every book on WWII in the MV public library by the time I was twelve, and Henry and I talked WWII history constantly. We hardly talked about wrestling and I rarely gave him my opinion on the sport until years later. I helped him run the practices at Edison Tech, and he turned over almost everything to me that involved management. I handled the ordering of the uniforms, the wrestling shoes, not sneakers, the headpieces, the kneepads and even the tape. I organized everything with complete fiat from the Coach. We had huge teams and he had to make order out of the chaos that could have developed. The high point of the practices was the wrestle-offs. I would time and score the wrestle offs. Quite often I would let the clock run and run to make sure a real decision was rendered. But no one ever questioned me. In fact, over those five years and the ensuing 10 or so, no one ever questioned me about anything. Just the fact that I had a “special” relationship with the “Man” gave me a lifetime pass. Both Randy and Jimmy always treated me like a “brother” and we got along famously until the end of the run in 1977. I was 32 years old and had seen hundreds of matches, scores of tournaments, and G-d knows how many matches. I knew almost all the Section I greats from 1961 until 1977. Who I did not know, Randy or Henry told me about. But after Jimmy Lee’s departure, I never saw Mount Vernon wrestle again.

I always regarded Henry’s record as second to none in Section I and maybe anywhere else. He had no worlds left to conquer. In six regular seasons he coached, his teams won five straight Section I titles 1963-4-5-6-7, three Division titles and a second. MV won two holiday titles along with two 3rds in the prestigious Calhoun HS tournament. (I shall take credit for one of those Division titles. The official scorers didn’t count one of our high placing’s, a 2nd or 3rd , in one of the weight classes, and just before the trophy was about to be given over to another coach and school, I ran over to Coach Littlefield, whispered in his ear, and gave him the new count. He went to Bob Litchard the Coach of Henry Hudson HS and it was resolved. It was our closest call.) MVHS was undefeated in Section I competition for those five years, won the unofficial State Section title in 1966-7 and produced in five years over 25 Section I Champions. In fact, in two back-to-back years, MVHS had eighteen wrestlers in the finals and came away with nine champions. Counting the holiday tournament, the division, Sections and the States, Henry produced over 60 champions. Henry accomplished this unparalleled record without the benefit of a junior high school program and with the limitation of a three-year high school. Many of his great champions; Jimmy Lee, Howie Wilson, Ricky O’Daniel, Alex Cunningham, Doug Garr, Jim Hardy, Mitchell Gurdus, John Carlucci, Mike Viggiano, Ray Johnson, Mario Criscione and Bob Panoff had barely two or three years of competitive wrestling. He was a master of drilling, isometrics, technique, and adaptability. He was always the great teacher. After our only loss in the 1962-3, season to Freeport, he realized that his team had been beaten by the up-to-that date, un-experienced chicken-wing/ half-nelson hold. No one had ever been taught the counter to that move! No MVHS team ever suffered from that hold again. Those years were truly marvelous and never to be forgotten. He was able to turn a group of poor kids from the two high schools, Davis and Edison, into a cohesive and caring group. Never once in the years that I witnessed his coaching, did I ever see him lose his temper, raise his voice or experience back talk or grousing from his men. Never once, did I see him lose his “cool” around the mat. Never once, did I ever see him “bait” a referee. The officials loved and respected him and his judgment. They all knew that he was the “master”. His opponents, coaches and wrestlers flocked to him for guidance and words of wisdom. Our wrestling room was always open to alumni from MVHS and the rest of Section I.

I saw many, many former opponents listening with rapt attention at the foot of the “master”. He treated them as men, as competitors and as worthy foe. It wasn’t long before they became his “grapplers”.

When I flew up to Niagara University for the State Championships of 1967, I experienced a similar type of comradery. Here I was included as almost a member of that great team. Here was Jimmy Davis, on top of the wrestling world (he’s still talked about today), the late great Alex Cunningham, Doug Garr and Mario Criscione all winners, and scoring members of that championship team. Here is the great Henry Littlefield in the center of the action and adulation, along with Randy Forrest one of the greatest competitors of our time and me! Here I come along from Boston University, flying in from Providence, Hartford and Syracuse and landing in a snowstorm. Here I am with not a bed to sleep in, nor literally a “pot to piss in,” and Henry says, “Richie get in the picture, you belong as much as anyone!” Wow! Top of the scholastic wrestling world, and even I did not know that this was his last match. The saga ended there and that night.

I was there with him when we walked out of the door of the White Plains HS on that cool March night of 1962, and he put his big arm around my shoulder. In our first official year as a team, Henry was telling me how he had made the mistake of wrestling Bobby Danetz at 183 instead of Howie Wilson, who wrestled up at heavyweight. He told me that he would never again let his heart outweigh his brain when it came to who should wrestle where. I was always at his side during the Divisions and Sections the next five championship years. In fact, at age 18 he had me run the Sections at MVHS and I ran it the next two years. What a great five years they were. We were undefeated in Section I dual meets, won some of the Holiday tourneys and four of five of the Divisions and all of the Sections. We broke all the scoring records, and re-wrote the history book of Section I!

When Mount Vernon won its State Section title in 1967, I witnessed a rare event in sports. Virtually all of the other champions and near champions flocked to his side. They wanted to be in the pictures with the great Littlefield and his team of stars; including the great and unparalleled Jimmy Davis and the lightweights; Alex Cunningham, Doug Garr, and Mario Criscione. To me it was a magic moment burned in my mind’s eye. Who knew that that night would be the end of his fabulous run? Of course, the dynasty continued for a number of years with the successes of his marvelous protégés Randy Forrest and Jimmy Lee. As much as I admired them both, it was never quite the same. Henry’s big shadow always remained omnipresent and his twelve league boots could never really be filled. Thankfully, Henry ran wrestling clinics in Westchester for a number of years while he was at Amherst. He always brought in some of the finest coaches on the East Coast and the clinics were always fully attended with hundreds of “grapplers” from all over Section I, which in those days was made up of schools from Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.

I knew and loved that great man for 40 years until his untimely death at age 66. He left Mount Vernon High School for Northampton, Ma, and eventually Amherst College in 1967 as I had graduated college. He came to my wedding; my wife Linda and I visited him and his wife and daughters in his home on Massasoit Street in Northampton Ma. He taught history at Amherst, was Dean of Men, was their outstanding wrestling coach, and by the way, he lived in Calvin Coolidge’s old home! Henry wrote some great pieces on Cool Cal as our 30th president was known. During those years, I raised a family, ran a business, and we both talked on the phone and wrote often to each other. In fact, I estimate about 5000 letters, emails and calls were exchanged from September 1963 when I left for college and the spring of 2000 when he left us.

Henry went out to Monterrey, California after nine years at Amherst. He was such a great legendary figure in the Amherst wrestling room, that when he left, the team refused to have another coach. Henry settled eventually in Pacific Grove, ran the York School as Headmaster, taught and lectured at the Stevenson School on the Monterrey Peninsular and created a whole new world for himself. He acted, he preached Church sermons, wrote poetry and was a counselor to many. When Henry died of colon cancer, I traveled out there with of Henry’s protégé, a wonderful former wrestler and his successor, Coach Randy Forrest. Even though we flew to San Francisco together and drove down and back to Monterrey it was a lonely journey. Neither of us, both married with grown children and at ages 55 and 61, had ever been to California. It was a brave, sad, new world for both of us. Randy, a giant of a black man from neighboring New Rochelle, was a legendary figure to a nicely well-off Jewish kid from Mount Vernon. We came from two different worlds when we met in 1961. We were two different and distinct types of worshippers at the feet of this great and wonderful man. Even though he was only 11 years older than me and 5 years older than Randy, Henry was our leader bar none. We talked all the way to Monterrey and back. Once there, we were part of an incredible throng of 1000 or more people that came to his memorial service. Of those people, few even knew he had wrestled or had been one of the great coaches in America. If he had lived in the East for that extra 24 years, maybe 10,000 would have come out! It really closed a great and marvelous chapter of my life. It was a tearful farewell to his wonderful wife Madeline and their now grown children. I remembered when their second child Mary was born when I was a sophomore in high school. Now both little girls were grown women. So Randy and I traveled back after three long days together. We had not talked much in the last number of years, but we were totally immersed with each other. Can you imagine two men married about 70 years combined, traveling without our wives for the first time, and re-hashing wrestling bouts competed 35 years earlier? Strange! That was the last time I saw Randy. He moved to Virginia to be near his wife’s family and left New York, Westchester County and New Rochelle behind after 60 years. It was fitting. I met him because of Henry, and over the intervening 40 years we always talked about Henry, and now that Henry was gone maybe our time was gone too.

I remember so well Henry’s constant interest in the “Wizard of Oz.” He loved that story, and he loved mysticism. He always talked about Baum and what he was trying to say. In fact, one of Henry’s great legacies is his famous “Oz” 1964 parable, http://thewizardofoz.info/faq02.html, on the historical meanings of that legendary story. Henry always was searching for the real meaning of life. He was always wondering about those elusive answers. There was no one like him, and all who knew him will miss him forever.

Here are some thoughts on Henry by some who knew him best!

Doug Garr, one of Mount Vernon’s top wrestler, a close friend of Henry’s told of their meeting!

When my older brother Andy was a freshman at Lehigh he became hooked on amateur wrestling.  He took me to the NYAC to watch Henry wrestle, and encouraged me to write him a letter.  I was in 8th grade. I asked Henry for “tips on training” because I wanted to become a wrestler.  He never replied.  But after watching one Lehigh match in the Snake Pit (Grace Hall), packed to the rafters, I was hooked, too.

My career speaks for itself:  I was probably in the top 10 or at least 15 of MVHS grapplers based on my second place finish in the states in 1967, capping a 20-2-1 senior year.  My 73-win career total is probably in the top five or so.  Section I champion, three-time All-County, three-time division (or league) champion and Outstanding Wrestler in 1967. As a D-1 scholarship athlete at Syracuse, I fell short. Life got in the way.

Much of my success was due to Henry’s coaching and leadership.  I had a mediocre talent at best, and because of my dedication and sacrifice, it was left to the coach to mold me into something resembling a champion.

Henry himself was humble about all this, I’m sure.  He always felt that the better athletes needed little input from people like him.  This is one of the few things he was wrong about.  I’ve always felt that leadership qualities are largely unquantifiable.  You either have it or you don’t.  Henry, of course, had it.  And one indication is that he had to coach an incredibly heterogeneous group of athletes, racially and demographically.  North side of town, south side. Well off and poor, black and white.  I was always proud of the fact that we had Jews, Italians, and you name it on the varsity, unlike most successful teams we competed with.

That Henry saved that first letter I wrote to him and sent it back to me when I was 24 years old and on my own speaks volumes.  To this day, I wonder, how did he know…..?

Mitchell Gurdus, a Section I Champion in 1965, and a collegiate wrestler at Toledo University, wrote the following: It seems to me that anyone who’s known Henry Littlefield has been impressed by the experience.  Among other things, a Littlefield image that’s been permanently etched into my memory is his squint.

HML’s non-verbal messaging: I never was lucky enough to have Henry Littlefield as a classroom teacher.  I did, though, have a morning, cafeteria study-hall hour that he monitored. He’d usually be busy, head down, correcting or reading papers.  Whenever there was a table of kids getting too noisy, HML would only have to look over with a certain look that could correct the situation.  It was not an angry or threatening look, but more a look of measured disappointment. He’d show an exaggerated squinting of his eyes, mouth closed with a wide grimace-like expression. It’s amazing how much was communicated without his saying a word.

Early one morning during school time, Dr Panitz, who was then an Assistant Principal, while showing some visitors the school, popped into the wrestling room. I was in the wrestling room, in full sweat gear, trying to sweat off a number of pounds.  It was obviously clear to him that I was skipping class.

A short while later, Panitz marched me tin to see Henry who was in his classroom with class.  Henry was not happy to see me.  Without saying a single word, he unleashed what may have been the full power of that Littlefield squint. It was a You-know-that-I-know-that you-know look of disappointed irritation. I got the message, and so did Dr. Panitz.  It was a wordless 4 or 5 second Littlefield squint, after which, Dr. Panitz said, “Go to class.”

Mount Vernon vs its two arch rivalries:

White Plains                New Rochelle

1962-3             36-6                             28-17

1963-4             36-16                           42-5

1964-5             43-2                             51-2

1965-6             36-13                           50-0

1966-7             23-22                           44-5

Totals              174-59                         215-29

Hitchcock, “The Dark Side of Genius, ” a Perspective 1-25-2015 Richard J. Garfunkel

Hitchcock, “The Dark Side of Genius,” by Donald Ploto

A Perspective

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

1-25-2015

I just re-read, after a period of many, many years, Donald Spoto’s excellent and unprecedented biography of Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest film directors of the 20th Century.

I had always been interested in Hitchcock, and from my young days, in the middle 1950s my parents took me to the movies and I saw many of Hitchcock’s films as they came to the big screen. They were avid fans of his works, and we all watched weekly his television series. He didn’t have much to do with its creativity, but, the themes of each show were always inspired by his vision and droll sense of irony. The special treats were his introductory remarks and his moralistic concluding statement on what had happened. Most of the time, they were the highlight of the production.

As I grew a bit older, I caught up with all of his early works from the Lodger to WWII and then on to Strangers on a Train, which spanned a period from the early 30s to the early 1950s. Hitchcock had a flair for suspense and in his visit to the Center of Advanced Studies at the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills, CA, he discussed at length the difference between the classic “whodunit,” or the difference between mystery and suspense.

I took this direct quotation from one of the last chapters of Spoto’s biography.

There is a great confusion between the words, “mystery” and “suspense.” The two things are absolutely miles apart. Mystery is an intellectual process, like in a “whodunit.” But suspense is essentially an emotional process. You can only get the suspense element going by giving the audience information. I daresay you have seen many films which have mysterious goings-on. You don’t know what is going on, why the man is doing this or that. You are about a third of the way through the film before your realize what it is all about. To me that is absolutely wasted footage, because there is no emotion to it…There is no emotion from the audience… the mystery form has no particular appeal to me, because it is merely a fact of mystifying an audience, which I don’t think is enough.

Hitchcock, unlike other directors, was able to eventually control his “product” and “process” with great originality and uniqueness. This talent and ingenuity harked back to the early days of cinema, when silent film producers and creators like DW Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and a few others were able to control every aspect of their work, from selecting the material, finding the players, writing and re-writing the script, finding the money, of course, and directing the film in the direction and with the message they wanted. As the studio system evolved in the middle to late 1920s, much of this was controlled by the studio heads (Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, Adolph Zukor, and the Warner Brothers) who had actors, writers and technicians under contract, or could borrow or rent contract players from others, buy material, assign producers to guide the business end of the process and hire, and also fire, directors, if they were dissatisfied by the work in progress. As one can learn by this thorough biography, Hitchcock was able to grow dramatically in power and influence when he left London in 1939, for his future career in Hollywood. He was able to sell his name and talent to various producers starting with David O. Selznick, and his success foreshadowed the decline of the Hollywood studios and the rise of the independent producer/director.

Of course, time becomes the great judge and determinate of what lasts. The faddish tastes of the moment often whither as more retrospective is given to any subject or work of art.  What thrilled audiences 75 years ago may have zero impact today? All one has to do is look at the three makings of King Kong or the two versions of Ben Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Manchurian Candidate or even Psycho and see the advances in technology, the short cuts or the differences in casting, style editing and direction.

Interestingly, Hitchcock, like many others, did change. But that change was well within his early notions of the average man/woman caught in often an intractable bind. That bind often was one caused by the legal system, the government, or others who were trying to achieve some goal with the innocent victim in the way.

Aside from the struggle of the average man against injustice, Hitchcock liked to put people in awkward circumstances. Two of the films that come to mind, was his highly rated picture Vertigo and his more controversial WWII film, Lifeboat. In both cases, which are incredibly different individuals have to deal with. In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart aka Scottie Ferguson has his fear and physical problems with high places exploited. This exploitation leads to murder and retribution. In Lifeboat, a number of survivors of a U-Boat attack are forced to cope with being at sea in a drifting lifeboat, without adequate provisions, and with the prospect of being lost. Hitchcock loved to create suspense with stress.  The survivors must learn how to deal we each other and with the reality that their future depends on a Nazi within their midst.

In Rebecca, Notorious and Suspicion individual relationships are at the heart of ongoing stress, fear, and hyper-anxiety. These films, which take place in the mid-1940s and all create difficulties for the women with their lovers/husbands. In both Rebecca and Suspicion the audience is never sure until the end of the film what will happen to the suffering wife. In both films, Hitchcock is forced to compromise the original author’s intent, and soften the conclusions. In Notorious, we are led into a tangled web of love, marriage, alienation, spying and international politics. In this treatment, the heroine, Ingrid Bergman/Alicia Huberman is basically forced to marry and spy on a man she does not love. Her safety and well-being becomes almost immediately compromised and her real lover, Cary Grant/TR Devlin must decide where his loyalties lie, with her or her mission.

Of course, Hitchcock liked to deal with intrigue and The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, North by Northwest, The Saboteur and Sabotage all deal with intrigue, spies, espionage and intrigue. In each one, other than Sabotage, the victim is a man or a women, who must convince their casual acquaintance of their sanity and innocence. In each situation, not only is their mental well-being questioned but, their “strange” tale must also be eventually accepted. Aside from that problem, there is always greater threat to life and limb which has to be confronted and eliminated.

Hitchcock, who is married to Alma Reville, a woman he met in his early days as a film maker, has long indulged in fantasy world revolving around many of his leading ladies from; Madeline Carroll, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Doris Day, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, to Tippi Hedren. This so-called obsession, seen as a pseudo-sexual longing, often strained their long marriage and working relationship. How profound it really was, is never really understood or even articulated. For sure, Hitchcock himself always seem to believe that eating and often gluttony, was a wonderful counter balance to the lack of sexual activity and experimentation.

After a long, unique and incredible career, Hitchcock, who goes through many psychological changes, reaches his peak of success with Psycho, the suspense thriller dealing with split-personality and misogynist violence. This film, which was released in 1960, seemed to mark a strong artistic and financial rebound for Hitchcock. But, over the last twenty years of his life, he would fail to reach the success of Psycho, no less his earlier work.  The Birds, Torn Curtain, Marnie, Frenzy, Topaz and others, never were able to resonate strongly with more modern audiences, but to the end of his life, Hitchcock was always seeking that new blockbuster. In the movie bio-pic, with Anthony Hopkins, one gets the impression that Hitchcock risked all for the making of Psycho, but in reality he was quite rich from his decades of successful work, and despite his luxurious tastes, his investments were incredibly successful. At his death, in 1980, he left a considerable fortune of over $20 millions.

The New Deal and Infrastructure

The amount of infrastructure projects of the WPA included 40,000 new and 85,000 improved buildings. These new buildings included 5,900 new schools; 9,300 new auditoriums, gyms, and recreational buildings; 1,000 new libraries; 7,000 new dormitories; and 900 new armories. In addition, infrastructure projects included 2,302 stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers; 52 fairgrounds and rodeo grounds; 1,686 parks covering 75,152 acres; 3,085 playgrounds; 3,026 athletic fields; 805 swimming pools; 1,817 handball courts; 10,070 tennis courts; 2,261 horseshoe pits; 1,101 ice-skating areas; 138 outdoor theatres; 254 golf courses; and 65 ski jumps. Total expenditures on WPA projects through June 1941, totaled approximately $11.4 billion. Over $4 billion was spent on highway, road, and street projects; more than $1 billion on public buildings.

The PWA epitomized the progressive notion of “priming the pump” to encourage economic recovery. Between July 1933 and March 1939 the PWA funded and administered the construction of more than 34,000 projects including airports, large electricity-generating dams, major warships for the Navy, and bridges, as well as 70% of the new schools and one-third of the hospitals built between 1933–1939.

Streets and highways were the most common PWA projects, as 11,428 road projects, or 33% of all PWA projects, accounted for over 15% of its total budget. School buildings, 7,488 in all, came in second at 14% of spending. PWA functioned chiefly by making allotments to the various Federal agencies; making loans and grants to state and other public bodies; and making loans without grants (for a brief time) to the railroads. For example it provided funds for the Indian Division of the CCC to build roads, bridges and other public works on and near Indian reservations.
The PWA became, with its “multiplier-effect” and first two-year budget of $3.3 billion (compared to the entire GDP of $60 billion), the driving force of America’s biggest construction effort up to that date.

By June 1934 the agency had distributed its entire fund to 13,266 federal projects and 2,407 non-federal projects. For every worker on a PWA project, almost two additional workers were employed indirectly. The PWA accomplished the electrification of rural America, the building of canals, tunnels, bridges, highways, streets, sewage systems, and housing areas, as well as hospitals, schools, and universities; every year it consumed roughly half of the concrete and a third of the steel of the entire nation.

Some of the most famous PWA projects are the Triborough Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state, the longest continuous sidewalk in the world along 6½ miles of Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa, Florida, and the Overseas Highway connecting Key West, Florida, to the mainland. The PWA also electrified the Pennsylvania Railroad between New York and Washington, DC. At the local level it built courthouses, schools, hospitals and other public facilities that remain in use in the 21st century.

FDR and the Jews!

FDR and His Family and Friends:

Franklin Roosevelt grew up in a home with people who were products of the mid-19th century, but neither his father James, who was born in 1828, nor his mother Sara who was born in 1854, (1854-1941) exhibited any overt racial or religious prejudice. The senior Mr. James Roosevelt (1828-1900) dealt with Jews through his business interests and Jews were welcomed in his home. In 1933 Sara Roosevelt asked her friend New York Judge Benjamin Greenspan (famous for ruling in favor of the publication of the book G-d’s Little Acre) if she could attend an Orthodox Jewish service with his four children. She went and was “so thrilled and talked and talked about it, and the sincere piety shown by his children.” (Sara and Eleanor, page 288.) When some of her old acquaintances criticized her “for the type of people” she knew, her answer was “Oh, dear, I suppose I should change my ways and learn to be a snob.” (Sara and Eleanor, page 304.)

“In April of 1938 Sara humbly accepted the Einstein Medal for Humanitarianism, given by the Jewish Forum in honor of her broad sympathy and activities in alleviating the conditions of all people throughout the world who suffer from poverty, oppression and hatred” (Sara and Eleanor page 309.) Later in October of 1938, Sara Roosevelt became active in the effort to save German Jews and was in direct contract with the Women of the League for the Honor of Israel, regarding getting more orphaned Jews into the United States.

In 1940 for the second year in a row, Sara attended the large mother-daughter Hadassah tea for the purpose of aiding Palestine projects, including the resettlement off Jews escaping from Germany and Poland. Hadassah planted 700 trees in the Sara Delano Roosevelt Grove with monies from the previous event. Hadassah was able to resettle over 250,000 Jews and created orphanages to care for 9000 children. Among the many people attending the tea were her biographer and confidant Rita Kleeman, a Jewish woman, several members of the Warburg family and the mother of George Gershwin. She gave money to many organizations including the National Jewish Hospital. She was guest of honor at a dinner in 1940 of Youth Aliyah, which supported the transport of Jewish children to Palestine, and then at age 85 she traveled to Ontario to address the Toronto Hadassah meeting. (Sara and Eleanor, Jan Pottker) Right up until her death in 1941 she was concerned about the problems of refugee Jews in Europe.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s activities had a great influence on FDR. Though the Roosevelt’s did not usually socialize with people outside of their class, they started to understand at first hand the inequities of society. Interestingly when one reads their early letters, it is Eleanor who expresses her disdain regarding the materialism of many of the nouveau riches Jews of the period. Throughout her life she would shy away from the symbols and trappings of the upper classes. In a sense, she had inherited from her Uncle, and not from her drunken loutish father, the sense of the “rugged life.” In her early letters she specifically did not like Bernard Baruch and Felix Frankfurter, who were early associates of her husband.

FDR was never quoted in any way, shape or form in a prejudicial manner. Did he have prejudices, of course! But in all of his writings (which we know were always carefully written with careful considerations) FDR never lowered himself to the level that others of his time often did. FDR had few if any friends his whole lifetime. He wasn’t bred to have friends, and for sure, after his affliction with polio, the few he had from his earlier days were either gone, dead or forgotten.

But amongst the few he may have had, he always called Henry Morgenthau his friend. Of course, in truth, Morgenthau knew FDR quite well, and knew that he depended on no one for friendship. People were associated with FDR, no one controlled his views, and he was highly influenced by Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith and Woodrow Wilson in that order. Later on, he became very dependent on many inside advisors, of which many, were Jews and many, had an excellent working relationship with him. But in fact, his inside circle was small; Louis Howe, (Livingston “Livy” Davis, before his Presidency), Missy LeHand, and Harry Hopkins. They were his only (Livingston Davis a friend from Harvard) four intimates and the four never talked or wrote about anything regarding FDR before their deaths. So stating for the record, FDR was not a prejudicial man! In fact, in 1944, FDR went on the record with his calling for Palestine to be the location of a Jewish Homeland.

In those early days there is no evidence of FDR’s antipathy towards Jews or any other group. True, at Harvard as an undergraduate, there is no evidence that he came in contact with any Jews. He was active in campus politics and spent an extra year there to edit the Harvard Crimson. Later, after graduation, he attended Columbia Law School and had a number of Jews in his class. One Jewish fellow student commented that he did not like Roosevelt, but there seems to be scant evidence that they had much contact, since FDR missed a great many classes in the two years he was there.

FDR and Zionism:

FDR steadfastly supported Zionism throughout most of his career. In those tumultuous eight years that culminated with our entry in to World War I, FDR became active in both national and international politics. After the war, he attended the Versailles Peace Conference in Paris and became familiar with the problem of Palestine, the ensuing Mandate, and the cause of Zionism. Here he met Benjamin V. Cohen who was the counsel for the American Zionist movement (1919-21). Later, Cohen would come to Washington D.C. and work for FDR and the New Deal. Cohen and his famous partner, the lawyer Thomas Corcoran would author all of the early Securities Laws that were the cornerstone of the famous “First 100 Days” of legislation.

Roosevelt became a supporter of the Zionist Movement from that period through the rest of his life. Cohen would be an unofficial advisor to FDR on the issue of Zionism throughout their relationship in Washington.

American Zionists led by Stephen Wise, Abba Hillel Silver, (1893-1963 US Rabbi, Zionist Leader, chief spokesman in front of the UN on the Palestine Hearings, 1947) Julian W. Mack (1866-1943, American jurist and Zionist leader) and behind the scenes Louis D. Brandeis, (1856-1941, Supreme Court Justice 1916-1939, Zionist advocate) for the most part considered FDR a friend to their cause. During World War II meetings with the British (The Bermuda Refugee Conference of 1943) they insisted that Palestine not be even on the agenda. In the last few months of his life, and after the Yalta Conference in the Crimea, he met with King Ibn Sa’ud, who impressed on him the Arab hostility towards Zionism. In his report to Congress on March 1, 1945; Roosevelt declared that he had learned “more about the ‘Moslem problem,’ with a Jewish state, by talking with Ibn Sa’ud for five minutes” than he had ever known before. (Franklin D. Roosevelt his Life and Times, edited by Otis Graham Jr. and Meghan Robinson Wander, GK Hall & Co., 1985.) Basically, what he was saying, that for the first time he really learned the abject hostility of the Arabs towards Jews. Most histories ignore Sa’ud’s real words about Jews!

Of course, in the last few months of his life, FDR did assure both the Zionists in America of his continued support and the British and the Arabs that he would not unilaterally force a Zionist state on them without their consent. This dualism is not easily answered. In a sense FDR was continuing his balancing act with his British Allies. He understood their deep reliance on both India and their long relationship with the Arabs. Certainly he wanted not to threaten their unity with extraneous issues not related to winning the war in both Europe and Japan. He was unaware that the Atomic Bomb would be successfully tested in the coming months, and therefore he looked forward to a long bitter and bloody struggle to subdue and conquer Japan. Roosevelt was also exhausted by his 12,000+ mile trip back and forth to Yalta. FDR, by that time he had been quite sick for almost a year, and the stress regarding his campaign for re-election in 1944, along with the pressures of the war, were taking a great toll on him. In a sense, he was trying to focus on the continued effort leading to victory and he would let nothing else interfere with that goal.

FDR, Jewish Appointments and his Relationships with Jews:

Turning first to his economic advisors called the Brain Trust, FDR closed the Banks, restructured their debt, and started on what is called today the “100 Days.” As part of this activity he called upon Felix Frankfurter, of the Harvard Law School to start sending young lawyers down to Washington to staff the emerging New Deal. Roosevelt used many of the young Jewish lawyers, labor leaders and intellectuals to turn our society around. People like Herbert Wechsler, David Reisman, Robert Stern, Paul Freund, Milton Katz, Milton Freeman, Charles Kaufman, Arthur Goldschmidt, Wilbur Cohen, Edward Bernstein, Abe Fortas, Dorothy Rosenmen, Jerome Frank, David Lilienthal, Isador Lubin, Nathan Margold, Lee Pressman and Paul Herzog among many others became famous as Felix’s hotdogs.

FDR also leaned on his strong relationship with Jews throughout his whole political life: Bernard Baruch, Henry Morgenthau, his Secretary of Treasury, David Niles, Anna Rosenberg, Herbert Lehman, Governor of New York, later US Senator, and the aforementioned Frankfurter, Ben Cohen, and Judge Rosenman. With regard to his associations with Jews, they were novel and advanced for the period. Again, he had an “open” friendship with Henry Morgenthau who served in his cabinet for 12 years. Eleanor Roosevelt was also quite close to Elinor Morgenthau, the Secretary of Treasury’s wife.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., suffered, in the cabinet from being a Jew and a confidant of FDR. Many of his contemporaries felt they could not deal with him and FDR on an even footing.  FDR appointed many, many Jews to high office, and had a comfortable, but distant relationship with most of his contemporaries. FDR was a secretive man, who always said, “I never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” He had a small circle of intimates who loyally worked for him. Almost all were paragons of discretion. He trusted Jews and one of his most famous statements came when he was asked about whether Truman would be acceptable as a vice-presidential running mate. He said “Clear it with Sidney!” (Sidney “Simcha” Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a labor advisor to FDR, and director of the CIO-Pac.)

Jews made up 3% of the population in the 1930’s but the New Deal, called the “Jew Deal” by anti-Semites, who often referred to FDR as that Jew “Rosenfelt,” but made up 15% of his administration. (FDR was elected with approximately 70% of the Jewish vote in 1932, and by 1944 he received over 93% of that vote.) FDR appointed, cumulatively, more Jews to office than all the previous 31 administrations and all that followed until the Clinton Administration!

FDR’s willingness to work closely with Jews and even had them routinely staying with him at the White House or Hyde Park seemed to puzzle his most admiring neighbors. One of them did his earnest best to explain this phenomenon to his son- “It just goes to show you how smart FDR is to have all those smart Jews working for him!”

With regard to foreign policy, as it related to Jews, Roosevelt quite often leaned upon his personal relationship with Rabbi Stephen Wise. Wise brought up the subject of Jewish immigration with FDR as early as 1933 and the unfilled immigration quotas. But immigration was an extremely sensitive issue in the United States during the Depression Years. As Hitler consolidated his power in Germany more and more anti-Semitic legislation was drafted and passed in Germany. This intense climate of persecution started to cause Jewish emigration out of Germany. By the start of World War II almost 80% of all German Jews had left.

The Divided Jewish Community and the Goldberg Report:

In America there was great opposition to any type of immigration during the Depression, because of welfare, unemployment, and the opposition of the labor unions. There also has been an ongoing controversy over how much the American Jewish community did for European Jewry before the war. In 1984, a commission, Chaired by former UN Ambassador and Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, (1908-1990, Secretary of Labor 1961, Supreme Court Justice 1962-65, UN Ambassador 1965-8) came to the stark conclusion that American Jewish groups did not do enough. Though there was controversy over the harshness of the report, the final report, approved by the commission and written by Professor Seymour Finger (1915-1990, Head of International Studies at CCNY 1972-81, former diplomat, Senior Fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute, author of American Jewry in the Holocaust, 1984) of the Graduate School of the City University, concluded that the failure of Jewish organizations was a result of disunity, under-financing, and lack of political influence. Moreover their leaders were afraid of stirring up anti-Semitism in the United States and impeding the Allied war effort. Ambassador Goldberg said, “That the failure to act forcefully hurt most in the years between Hitler’s ascent to power and America’s entry into WWII.” Again this was a consequence that resulted from a “divided” Jewish community. Some were like all Americans; they did not want more hungry-mouthed immigrants. Others, feeling the sting of American anti-Semitism, feared an escalation of hatred coming from xenophobic anti-Semitic nativist groups. There were also some, but very few, who were prejudiced against Eastern European Jews.

The Bombing of Auschwitz:

According to Martin Gilbert, (1936- ) the renowned British historian, and greatest living expert on the Holocaust, even though the Allies knew that Jews were being killed and that there were “death camps’ that were facilitating that effort, the location of the main terminus at Auschwitz-Birkenau was never identified until mid-1944. After an incredible effort, staged by volunteers of the Jewish Agency to penetrate the transportation cattle cars, evidence reached the World Jewish Congress. With this evidence, the Jewish Congress was able to warn the Allies about the Nazi’s intentions to deport the 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. This was the last large remaining group of Jews to be deported. Warnings went out by President Roosevelt and with simultaneous and coincidental bombings of Budapest and many of their public buildings; the Hungarian Fascist government did attempt to slow down the deportation. But, later on, after a hiatus of a few months, and under pressure from the German authorities, and the overthrow of the Hungarian Regent Admiral Horthy (1868-1957, Regent of Hungary until 1944), deportations began with earnest.

With regard to the issue of possible Allied bombing of “death camps,” in retrospect, there is no evidence that either the bombing of Auschwitz would have ended the killing or even retarded it. Mainstream Jewish opinion was against the bombing of those facilities even after they were identified as “death camps’ rather than as “work camps.”  Only President Roosevelt or General Eisenhower could have ordered the bombing and there is no record of any kind that indicates that either one was ever asked to issue such an order, even though Jewish leaders of all persuasion had clear access to them both. In a similar vein, the bombing raids on the IG Farben/Monowitz production plants succeeded in hitting only 2.2% of the targeted buildings. Martin Gilbert points out that the details and the secret nature of Auschwitz and even its name were not confirmed until the escape of two prisoners in April 1944, two years after the murderous process had begun. It would be folly to believe that FDR was besieged by Jewish leaders, led by Secretary Morgenthau, urging him to bomb Auschwitz. In fact, no mainstream Jewish leader or organization made that request. On August 9, 1944, the first such request came to John McCloy, (1895-1989) the Assistant Secretary of War (1941-5), regarding the bombing of Auschwitz, by Leon Kubowitzki, head of the Rescue Committee of the World Jewish Congress, in which he forwarded, without endorsement, a request from Mr. Ernest Frischer of the Czechoslovak State Council (in London exile.) Ironically Mr. Kubowitzki argued against the bombing of Auschwitz because “the first victims will be Jews.” With regard to whether John McCloy ever actually asked FDR about the bombing, there is no evidence of any meeting and no evidence in any of his extensive interviews or in his personal papers that the subject was brought up. But, in a book, “The Conquerors,” by Michael Beschloss, he asserts that John McCloy had told Henry Morgenthau III, that he had asked FDR about bombing the camps.

“By early June, when over one-third of the remaining Hungarian Jewish community had been deported to Auschwitz, Jacob Rosenheim, a leader of the world’s orthodox Jews, and others wrote Morgenthau, the War Department and Joseph Pehle of the War Refugee Board imploring them to bomb the railway lines from Hungary to the death camp at Auschwitz.” Joseph Pehle, who was a great advocate for the Jews, wrote McCloy expressing his doubts about the about bombing of Auschwitz. The War Refugee Board determined that the bombing of the tracks would do little to stop the killing, because they would be swiftly repaired. Later McCloy used about the same language and rationale to veto any further requests to bomb Auschwitz itself. (The Conquerors, by Michael Beschloss, page 64.)

For decades after World War II, McCloy insisted that he had never talked to the President on that subject. He told Washington Post reporter Morton Mintz in 1983 that he never talked with FDR about the subject.  Even David Wyman, in his 1984 book, The “Abandonment of the Jews,” wrote that the bombing requests “almost certainly” did not reach Roosevelt. Later McCloy, in an interview in 1986, three years before his death, had an unpublished exchange with Henry Morgenthau III, who was researching his book, Mostly Morganthaus, claimed that he had spoken to FDR about the bombing of Auschwitz, Supposedly FDR “made it very clear” to him that the bombing would do no good, and “we would have been accused of destroying Auschwitz by bombing these innocent people.” Of course McCloy was telling this to Morgenthau’s son, decades after his father, Henry Jr. had referred to him as an “oppressor of the Jews.” Maybe McCloy’s true feelings were exposed when he also stated to Morganthau’s son, “I didn’t want to bomb Auschwitz…It seemed to be a bunch of fanatic Jews who deemed that if you didn’t bomb, it was an indication of lack of venom against Hitler…” (The Conquerors, Michael Beschloss, page 65-7.)

David Ben-Guriun, (1886-1973, Prime Minister of Israel 1949-63) the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, and later the first Prime Minister of Israel, in June of 1944, responded to a proposal that the Allies be asked to bomb the extermination camps. At a meeting presided over by Ben-Gurion, the Jewish Agency voted eleven to one against the bombing proposal.

There is no doubt that according to intelligent reports, “It is clear from this analysis that nothing was known by those (Allied Combined Intelligence Unit who prepared a Top Secret report on the principal sites of German synthetic oil production. At Auschwitz-Monowitz. It was clear, ‘progress has been made with the construction’ of the Buna plant.”) of the purpose, or role of Birkenau and its sidings.” (Auschwitz and the Allies, by Martin Gilbert, Henry Holt, 1981, page 331.)

In other words there were many air reconnaissance photos taken over the area that included Auschwitz, and there were also numerous raids, late in 1944, directed at the various known industrial plants in the near vicinity, like the synthetic oil production plant at Monowitz. But unfortunately when Allied long-range bombers were able to make flights from our airbase in Foggia, Italy, with log-range fighter support, they were unaware of what was going on down below in the “death camps.” Could they then have bombed the marshalling yards at Birkenau? Yes, they could have, but by that time all activity had really ceased and the Germans by November 29, 1944 were dismantling the crematoria at Auschwitz, and making efforts to re-locate, or kill the balance of the Jews that remained. By the December 27th roll call, 18,751 Jews remained. In fact during some of those late December days when the crematoria was being dismantled, errant bombs dropped by Allied raiders did hit Auschwitz, killing some German guards.

Also, with regard to the bombing of railroad tracks, leading to any of the known “death camps,” no Axis trains were able to run during daylight, for fear of destruction from the air. Tracks were virtually impossible to hit from high-level strategic bombing. Even when individual tracks were hit and destroyed they were almost immediately repaired. Low-level medium bomber and fighters had a greater effect on rail lines but they did not have the range to hit rail targets in Poland. Most of the important railroad destruction came with massive continual strategic daylight bombing of marshaling yards near railroad stations. The effect on this type of bombing was worthwhile, but German work crews, numbering thousands, would spend the nights repairing these yards. Remember, as Martin Gilbert points out, “the details and even the name of Auschwitz were not confirmed until the escape of two prisoners in April, 1944.” The Nazis treated the Auschwitz, like every other extermination camp, as a top-secret project.

The Morgenthau Plan:

Franklin Roosevelt was a confirmed “German-hater.” He told the NY Times in August 1944, “If I had my way, I would keep Germany on a breadline for 25 years!” He wrote Cordell Hull, (1871-1955, US Secretary of State 1933-44) “Every person in Germany should realize that this time Germany is a defeated nation… and that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decency of modern civilization.” It was FDR who advocated, against the wishes of Winston Churchill (1874-1965) the policy of “unconditional surrender” and a tough peace. He said that Germany should be dismembered and their leaders punished. Roosevelt never rejected the “Morgenthau Plan” that called for the economic destruction of post-war Germany, authored by Henry M. Morgenthau. Even when Secretary of War Stimson (1867-1950, US Secretary of War 1940-45) took a softer line and complained about its brutality to the President, he found FDR unwavering in its support, for the concept of a destroyed industrial state, surviving only on agriculture. Whether the plan was sensible or not, or whether the plan was even viable, Truman scrapped the plan and accused Morgenthau of Jewish vindictiveness. Both Truman and Stimson agreed that no Jews, especially Morgenthau, should be at any peace conference determining the fate of Germany

The Holocaust was the fault and creation of the Nazis, and with the prevailing anti-Semitic opinions of Europeans of that era, and their relatives in the United States, any ability to prevent it, short of world war, was impossible. Ironically, with all that Hitlerism stood for, a large majority of Jews escaped or were chased out of pre-WWII Germany. The thought that a war of extermination against the Jews would ensue once hostilities existed was beyond anyone’s thinking. In fact, until the Wansee Conference, January 20, 1942, there was no established plan regarding the “Final Solution.” Yes, the Nazis had murdered many Jews in Poland, the Baltic States and through their rampage into the Soviet Union, but it wasn’t until millions of Jews became under their control that their plans for Jewish annihilation was set. Therefore, again, who knew their plans in 1937, though the invasion of Poland and onward?

FDR allowed Secretary of Treasury Morgenthau to attend the Quebec Conference with Winston Churchill, and to promote his idea, the Morgenthau Plan, for the dismantling and dismemberment of Germany and turning it into a collection of agricultural states. Of course, whether that really would have happened is pure conjecture. FDR did listen to Morgenthau and his ideas on Germany. FDR literally forced a reluctant Churchill to sign off on the Morgenthau Plan.

FDR was the sole author and original advocate of the “Unconditional Surrender” edict, against Churchill’s wishes. When the news of the Quebec Conference was revealed to the world, Joseph Goebbels, (1897-1945) the Propaganda Minister of Nazi Germany, exploited the news from Quebec and the revelation of the Morgenthau Plan and Churchill’s endorsement. No matter how it was accomplished, Churchill initialed the Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany. Goebbels claimed, “Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to the Jewish murder plan.” German radio announced that Roosevelt’s “bosom” friend Henry Morgenthau, the “spokesman of world Judaism” was singing the same song as the Jews in the Kremlin,”- dismember Germany, destroy its industry and “exterminate forty-three million Germans.” (The Conquerors, by Michael Beschloss, page 144.)

FDR and the Subject of the Murdering of Jews:

With regards to the claim that FDR did not identify Jews specifically in the repeated Allied war warnings that the Nazis, collectively and individually, would be held accountable for their barbaric crimes, that is not true. There was a time earlier in the war when it was thought best not to identify the Jews specifically in the reporting of Nazi crimes. Interestingly, it was Churchill who started this practice of not drawing attention to the Jews, for fear it would be seen as special pleading and would fuel Nazi propaganda.

“In 1942 FDR made it clear through governmental statements and messages to the mass rallies organized in those years that Nazis would be held collectively and individually accountable for their crimes against the Jews.” Even with this strong statement, Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress, prevailed upon Felix Frankfurter to visit with FDR in September of 1942 and to remonstrate with the President. According to Frankfurter the President had assured him that most of the deportations of Jews was for forced labor. The decision to exterminate every Jew in Europe, and millions of others was only taken at Wannsee in January 1942, when almost all doors had been closed… (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, Conrad Black, page 815). (I have no idea over the veracity of this account. FDR certainly knew this was not true as indicated by his June 1942 statement, and by the various news reports. Also Frankfurter knew it was not true that there were mostly deportations for the purpose of forced labor.)

In 1944, FDR, in his statement to the people of the United States and of Europe, on March 24th, said, “In one of the blackest crimes of all history—begun by the Nazis in the days of peace and multiplied by them a hundred times in time of war- the wholesale systematic murder of the Jews of Europe goes unabated every hour…it is therefore fitting that we should proclaim our determination that none who participate in these acts of savagery shall go unpunished…That warning applies not only to the leaders but also to their functionaries and subordinates in Germany and in the satellite countries. All who knowingly take part in the deportation of Jews to their death in Poland or Norwegians and French to their death in Germany are equally guilty with the executioner. All who share the guilt shall share the punishment.” (Comments on Michael Beschloss’ “The Conquerors,” by William vanden Heuval.

In summation, with all we know today, could the Holocaust been avoided? Could many more Jews have been saved? Who bears responsibility for this chain of events that destroyed not only 6 million Jews, but also 61 million others? Was the West partially at fault?

Only the early destruction of Hitler and his Nazi brigands could have prevented most, if not the entire Holocaust. How that could have been accomplished will be debated forever. Could the West have saved more Jews? Yes! Could the West have saved more of the Eastern European Jewish community? In most cases very little of the eastern European Jewish community could have been saved. Would massive bombing of the “death camps” saved Jews? In retrospect the destruction of Auschwitz would have backed up the timetable of death quite a bit. Would that have helped? Probably so! But, all in all, Lucy Dawidowicz, the author and an imminent expert on the Holocaust wrote that “killing the Jews” was a war aim of the Nazis and nothing but destroying the Nazis would have put a halt to that effort. Certainly once the war was begun, and Europe was overrun little could be done. But French complicity in the hunting down, and deportation of Jews is a great stain on the West. Also the fact that the French hid behind their so-called vaunted Maginot Line, when Germany attacked Poland contributed to the success of Germany and sealed the fate of Europe’s Jews.

In retrospect, there some obvious conclusions that can be drawn regarding the above questions. More Jews could have been rescued by a greater effort by the United States. Every extra Jew saved would have been a “blessing,” but attitudes in America, from all quarters, were against immigration, certainly not pro-Jewish and certainly against a unilateral effort by the President to get us into the war, especially on behalf of the Jews. Divided Jewish thinking in this country also hindered the effort to change public opinion to force a greater and more overt effort to rescue Jews. Could more Jews have been rescued by an easing of immigration laws from Eastern Europe? Probably not! They had no access to freedom, they were overrun quickly in Poland, and they had little help from unfriendly fascist allied governments in the neighboring countries. In the Soviet Union they had no thoughts or ability to leave Russia or the Ukraine even if they wanted to.

Immigration; a Secret Conspiracy to Keep the Jews out of the US:

Was the President complicit in a “secret” conspiracy to keep Jews out of the United States? Assuredly no! FDR was again much more focused on the problem of keeping England in the war against Germany. All of his efforts were to keep the Congress and the military supplying Britain with the “tools of war.” He knew that he must make America “The Arsenal of Democracy” first.

Were the Jews a victim of domestic American politics? There is no doubt that FDR, under the pressure from the America First xenophobes, who were loosely aligned with the Liberty Lobby, and other anti-interventionist groups, understood the problem facing the future of the United States. He also knew that to make an issue out of Jewish immigration, or to be seen as leaning over to help non-English speaking foreigners was political suicide. He felt that he needed to be able to build an argument based on American self-interest. Would an effort by him to ease Jewish or other refugee immigration restrictions hurt his re-election bid in 1940? Probably yes! Even later in the war when the effort was made to bring Jewish children into the country on a humanitarian basis, the Congress balked. On the other hand, the Congress never balked when it came to British children. Roosevelt only ran for a third term with the idea of being the only one who could eventually save this country from eventually falling under the “boot” of fascist oppression. In retrospect, none of the contenders for the nomination of the presidency in 1940 had shown any proclivity, in their careers, to be pro-Jewish or certainly pro-interventionist. Whether his successor would have been Taft, Willkie, Garner, Farley, or someone else, there was no indication that anyone of them would have even continued support for Britain, no less worked to ease immigration quotas. Roosevelt took great risks opposing the “neutrality” laws, backing “Lend-Lease,” arming our freighters and sending out our fleet into the Atlantic to fight an undeclared naval war against Germany. But until Pearl Harbor, the America public stood wholeheartedly against going to war, no matter how great the potential threat. After Pearl Harbor all things changed. The United States, under the inspirational leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to mobilize and unite the country into a mighty force.

Immigration and the US Attitudes:

As early as 1924 there were very strict immigration laws regarding National Origin. In 1930, because of the severity of the economic depression, President Herbert Hoover ordered the State Department, whose Consular Division issued entry visas to applicants, to be quite strict in enforcing restrictions against persons “likely to be become a public charge.” Unfortunately when it came to Jews these actions were taken with unusual severity. Under FDR, Breckinridge Long, (1881-1958) who headed that division of the State Department, and who had wide spread Congressional support, exercised tremendous prejudice against Jews when it came to visa applications. He did not believe that there was a “universal right of anyone to enter the United States.” The Roosevelt Administration admitted over 90,000 German Jews, about 18 percent of the Jewish prewar German population. Long disliked and resented Jewish and Catholic leaders and felt they all hated him. In the summer of 1940 he wrote a memo to James Dunn and Adolph Berle (1895-1971, former member of the “Brain Trust”, asst. Secretary of State 1938-44) that he advised our counselor people overseas to “put every obstacle in the away of and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone, and postpone the granting of visas.” (Franklin Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, Conrad Black, page 815.) Author Conrad Black believes that FDR must have been aware of Long’s actions. But of course there is no proof of that. But even though the Wannsee Meeting wasn’t to be held until 16 months later there was a profound amount of Nazi murders of Jews, and there was an opportunity during that period to get more Jews out of Europe.

Only when Secretary Morgenthau became aware of Long’s actions did he come straight to the President. With that knowledge at hand, FDR created by Executive Order the War Refugee Board. In January of 1944, this Board was to facilitate and attempt to rescue any and all refugees that could be reached. Again it is hard to believe that FDR was really aware of Long’s actions, and by that time (1942-3) there would be no real purpose for him to support those actions.

Immigration, the Quotas, the Cellar and Wagner Bills:

With respect to America’s xenophobia regarding the Jews, immigration and our entrance into World War II short of being attacked, in 1937 two out of five Americans voiced anti-Jewish sentiment. In March of 1938, 41% of Americans believed that Jews had too much power, and 50% believed that they were to blame for their own persecution. After the German invasion of Austria and the resulting Anschluss, FDR asked for a greater expansion of the German immigration quota, Congress rebuffed him. Regarding this effort, when Congressmen Emmanuel Cellar of NY, and Adolph Sabath (1866-1952, Member of Congress for 44 years) of Ill., introduced a bill to increase the quota, they were told by their southern colleagues, that if they continued their efforts, the quota would be removed by Congress. Their bill was withdrawn. Ironically when there was talk of opening the quotas or increasing them, almost all of the European countries demanded an “equal” opportunity to deport their “Jews” to the United States. In a sense it spread the virus of “Judenrein” which the Nazis had originally authored. When Senator Robert F. Wagner, Sr., (1877-1953, US Senator from NY 1927-49) proposed a bill, with Congresswoman Edith Rogers, to bring German refugee children into the United States (20,000 who were understood to be almost all Jewish), the bill was forced to be withdrawn for lack of support. Later a bill to allow English children to come to the United States sailed through without opposition. A poll of Southern Democratic Representatives and Senators regarding the Wagner-Rogers Bill, reflected their opposition to by 0-223. When it came to Lend Lease, these same Congressman favored it 223-0.

Americans were so opposed to intervening on behalf of Britain that in the last Gallup Poll taken in November, 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, 90% of the public said that American should not physically help Britain even it meant their invasion and collapse! Actually between 1933 and 1937 only 40,000 Jews came legally to the United States, of course many had left Germany for other countries, never expecting their lives to be threatened outside of Hitler’s grasp. Also, please note, that in the early years of the FDR Administration; 1933, 4, 5, and before the enactment of the restrictive German racial laws, requests for visas from German Jews were much less and the quotas were not filled.  One national poll in 1938, reflected that over 77% of the American population did not want one more German Jew allowed into the country.

Most Jews never anticipated a world war and they surely never expected to be victims of the “Final Solution.” After Kristallnacht, almost all Jews filled the American national origin quota and over 110,000 Jews legally immigrated to the United States. In fact during those years over half of the immigrants to the United States were Jewish. There was also much illegal immigration and the administration did not make an effort to prevent it from happening.

From a political perspective Roosevelt was being attacked from all quarters on his international positions. Knowing the American people were against any type of immigration he urged the British to allow more Jews into Palestine. In that regard FDR attempted to bring worldwide attention to the need to find places of refuge for Jewish immigrants. In 1938, President Roosevelt proposed a major conference to discuss aiding refugees, and the United States invited twenty-nine nations to meet that summer at Evian-les-Baines, France. But nothing of value came from the meeting. Of course there was no war going on, so there was no concept of an immediate threat to the life and limb of European Jewry. The book, co-authored by Richard Breitman, “Refugees and Rescue, the Diary and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1935-1945,” goes a long way to explain FDR’s secret and behind the scenes efforts to save Jews in the period before the start of WWII,” I suggest many read it! Subsequently Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, in their book, “FDR and the Jews,” discusses many of these same issue

The Saint Louis and Cuba: 

The German ship, “St. Louis” was one of three ships that brought passengers, including Jews, to Cuba at that time. Cuba, because of the influence of local Nazis, put onerous restrictions on Jewish immigration. Already 6000 Jewish immigrants were living in Cuba, most without legal documentation. Also a house-to-house check was being made for all German refugees and there was great fear from the Joint Distribution Committee in the United States that a pogrom was being planned if more Jews were granted asylum. When a $500 cash bond was put up for each passenger, amounting to $500,000, the Cubans refused. There were definitive conflicts between Batista and Manuel Benitez, who was receiving bribes for each illegal alien allowed into Cuba. Strongman Colonel Fulgencio Bastista wanted his “cut” or would end the practice. Two other ships had already just arrived, the British ship “Orduna” and the French ship, “Flanders.”  Within a twenty-four hour period more than 1200 refugees had arrived from three European ports. The Cubans had just passed a law limiting to 1500 the number of immigrants that could be yearly allowed to land. Eventually, after a collapse in negotiations, the ship left port and while off Florida, on June 4, the figurehead President Bru relented and said that they could land for $650 per head. The Joint Committee refused to pay the extra dollars. They thought there would be more ships and the price would continue to escalate. The “St. Louis,” amidst all of the negotiation with Cuban and the American officials, who were trying to get around our strict immigration laws, turned seaward to Germany. The JDC was besieged with criticism from the American Jewish community and its friends, but felt they were being blackmailed by the Cubans. It has been erroneously reported that the passengers were “returned to Germany and certain death for all abroad.”  Of the 936 Jews on board who had left Hamburg, 29 disembarked in Havana, 907 sailed back to Europe; 288 disembarked in England and lived through the Holocaust. The remaining 619 went to France, Belgium and Holland. The 392 of 619 who had disembarked at Antwerp, survived the war. The remaining 227 were murdered by the Nazis. The US Holocaust Museum estimates more than two-thirds of the passengers survived the war. Also, in June of 1939, it certainly was not yet the Holocaust. War had not been declared, over 75% of the Jews living in Germany, at the time of Hitler’s ascendancy to power, had either left Germany or had been forced out. German policy was “Judenrein” not extermination. Up until Kristalnacht, under 1000 Jews had been killed in Germany from 1933 until late 1938. Even up until the war, which started on September 3, 1939, relatively a small percentage of the remaining Jews from the 1930 population of 500,000 had been killed. In June of 1939, few in Europe really believed there would be a”real” war, no less World War. Few Jews, outside of Germany, thought their lives were eminently at risk, and the Low Countries and France were not invaded until the spring of 1940. Most Jews believed that Germany only was interested in ridding itself of Jews. But, it is true, that many Jews wished fervently to get out of Europe. These are incontrovertible facts reported in numerous histories of that era.

Was FDR Jewish or part Jewish?

When the question was brought up about his ancestry, he stated, “In the dim distant past my ancestors may have been Jews, Catholics or Protestants, but what I am more interested in is whether they were good citizens and believed in G-D. I hope they were both. (His Dutch progenitor was one Claes von Rosenvelt.) It seems both anti-Semites and the some Jews claim FDR was Jewish. Some Jews, out of some strange sense of ownership and or pride, want to claim that he was Jewish! FDR’s ancestor, Nicholas Martens, the son of Martin, had a charge of slander brought against him by Philip Teyler at the Council of New Netherlands in 1638. Whatever Martens had said against Teyler has not been recorded. The charge was dismissed. Nicholas Martens held his tongue for 11 years and over that period of time it is not recorded where he had been. He came back to New Amsterdam in 1649, bought a farm from one Lambert van Valkenburgh, and had a wife Jannetje. It would have been located between present day 4th Avenue (in 1942) and 29th Street in NYC. The farm was known as Rose Hill-maybe it was known also as the Field of Roses from Zeeland where he was born. This Nicholas Martens or as he was variously known as Claes, was also known as the “The Little One” because he was so big and strapping. The legend about him said that he was the son of Martin and Anna of the village of Het Rosen Velt (Field of Roses) on the island of Tholen, near Zeeland.

Therefore, from all evidence available, his name was taken, either in New Amsterdam (New York) or Holland, from the Dutch translation of a hill or field of roses, not a Jewish sounding derivative name like Rosenvelt. The Martens were Dutch Protestants in New Amsterdam from the 1640’s. There is no evidence that he or his forbearers were Jewish in Holland. FDR was certainly a believer in G-d, was somewhat influenced by the Reverend Endicott Peabody’s (headmaster at Groton) concept of Protestantism but did not have a consistent history of attending church services. As a young man he did tend to agree with his illustrious cousin Theodore Roosevelt that G-D looked favorably upon the United States, but nowhere does history seem to indicate that he had any sort of messianic complex. According to Conrad Black, in his book Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom, he states, “Franklin D. Roosevelt’s G-d was indulgent but exacting, fair and condign and ultimately forgiving. Beyond this, his exact ecclesiastical views, like most of his inner thoughts, are indiscernible.”

As for Sara Delano, one ancestor of Sara was Richard Warren from London. He was a religious man, and was not a member of the Church of Leyden when he sailed on the Mayflower. He was a signer of the Compact. Another passenger on the Mayflower and a descendent of FDR was one Degory Priest, who had married Isaac Allerton’s sister Sarah. He died in the first winter and his widow married again and one of her daughters married a Frenchman named John Coombs. Among some of the other people that felt oppressed and settled in Leyden was a family of French origin named de la Noye. A son of that family; Philippe, eventually, after going from Leyden to England and then to the New World on the ship “Fortune,” married an English girl named Hester Dewsbury from Duxbury, Ma. After establishing himself in Duxbury, he answered the call by the Connecticut General Court to fight the Pequot Indians along with some 90 others and several hundred warriors from the Narragansett tribe. Under the influence of the English colonists with who he associated, his name soon lost its French spelling, and became Delano.

Basically, in conclusion, there is no evidence that his earliest recorded paternal ancestor, Claes Martens was Jewish or that his maternal descendants, Richard Warren or Phillipe de la Noye were Jewish either.

The Truman Myth:

In fact, Harry S Truman, a man revered by many Jews as a great friend of the Jewish people and the one who recognized the State of Israel, was from a virulently anti-Semitic background. Even though he had a Jewish partner in the haberdashery business, named Eddie Jacobson, he was never far from his anti-Semitic roots, as his letters attest. Even Truman, when told of the vast, but stilled generally hidden evidence of the massive killing machines of the “death camps,” initially stated, that “the Jews brought it upon themselves!” (Recently quoted from an article by William Safire in the summer of 2003.)

Truman’s partner Eddie Jacobson (who my grandfather knew quite well) owned a men’s clothing business in the early 1920s. I think he was always embarrassed by the constant reference to his former partnership. Also, remember their business went bankrupt Truman prided himself in making sure all of his creditors were paid back! I have no real idea whether Jacobson helped with that effort. I am sure Truman took a great deal of heat for that relationship from his family, in-laws and friends. With regards to Eddie Jacobson, (1891-1955), as his letters attest, Truman   had only a “cordial relationship with Jacobson- but (later) needed Jews for the 1948 nomination.” (Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidency, Bert Cochran, Harper & Row, 1973, page 96). The head of Truman’s financial team in the Midwest was a leading Zionist from Kansas City.

It was and is well known that his family, and that of his wife Bess, was at times, virulent anti-Semites. Truman was quite flattered, but not personally changed by all of the attention paid to him by the Jewish community. The Jews in the Democratic Party and the intellectual and labor circles certainly supported him. What else could they do, and where else could they go? He recognized Israel reluctantly against the advice of George Marshall and others. He hated the pressure that Jacobson brought on him and he berated him about using an emotional appeal. For years after Israel was recognized, Truman never spoke or saw Jacobson until they got together a few years before Jacobson’s death. I am sure that Truman felt that Jacobson had been paid back sufficiently and their relationship was closed. I watched interviews with HST very closely from the last years of his life. I waited in vain for any remark that favored Israel or reflected his support for the Jewish people or against anti-Semitism. I never remember any support or statement, made by him, in that vein. He had ample opportunity to capitalize on the adulation the Jewish community had given to him. He had ample opportunity to thank or compliment the Jewish community. He was quite silent on those subjects. He was too honest and non- hypocritical to send a “beau geste” to the Jews. Personally I believe he never really liked Jews, saw them as courtiers and sycophants or individuals with hidden agendas. He regarded himself as a very crafty experienced individual. His reputation was made in the Senate as the thrusting sword of the Truman Committee that spent its time investigating war profiteering and wartime government waste. (He may have come in contact with some Jews in that regard!)

I do know that some foolish Jews started to believe that FDR was anti-Semitic and that HST was their true liberal hero. Nothing could be further than the truth. FDR shunned his traditional class anti-Semitism that was rife at the time. His mother initially and Eleanor were not friendly towards Jews, but both came around to his thinking. FDR was never quoted in any way, shape or form in a prejudicial manor. Did he have prejudices, of course! But in all of his writings (which we know were always carefully written with the highest considerations) FDR never lowered himself to the level that Truman did constantly. In fact, in 1944 FDR went on the record with his calling for Palestine to be the location of a Jewish Homeland. Unfortunately Truman’s remarks regarding the fate of the Jews, at the hands of the Nazis, reflected his primitive stereotypical view of the average Jew.

Truman, when President, was told of the vast, but still generally hidden evidence of the massive killing machines of the “death camps,” initially stated, that “the Jews brought it upon themselves!” (Recently quoted from an article by William Safire, in The NY Times in the summer of 2003.)

Of course Truman also said “The Jews claim G-d Almighty picked ‘em out for special privilege. Well I’m sure he had better judgment. Fact is I never thought G-d picked any favorites.” (Off the Record- The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, edited by Robert Ferrell- Penguin Books, 1980, page 41.)

“Miami is nothing but hotels, filling stations, Hebrews and cabins.” (Truman, by David McCullough, Simon and Shuster, 1992, page 286)

Bluma Jacobson, Eddie’s wife said “Eddie and I were never at the Truman’s house.” (Plain Speaking, by Merle Miller, GP Putnam, 1973)

Conclusions: 

Were the Jews a victim of domestic American politics? There is no doubt that FDR, under the pressure from the America First xenophobes, who were loosely aligned with the Liberty Lobby, and other anti-interventionist groups, understood the problem facing the future of the United States. He also knew that to make an issue out of Jewish immigration, or to be seen as leaning over to help non-English speaking foreigners was political suicide. He felt that he needed to be able to build an argument based on American self-interest. Would an effort by him to ease Jewish or other refugee immigration restrictions hurt his re-election bid in 1940? Probably yes! Even later in the war when the effort was made to bring Jewish children into the country on a humanitarian basis, the Congress balked. On the other hand, the Congress never balked when it came to British children. Roosevelt only ran for a third term with the idea of being the only one who could eventually save this country from eventually falling under the “boot” of fascist oppression. In retrospect none of the contenders for the nomination of the presidency in 1940 had shown any proclivity, in their careers, to be pro-Jewish or certainly pro-interventionist. Whether his successor would have been Taft, Willkie, Garner, Farley, or someone else, there was no indication that anyone of them would have even continued support for Britain, no less worked to ease immigration quotas. Roosevelt took great risks opposing the “neutrality” laws, backing “Lend-Lease,” arming our freighters and sending out our fleet into the Atlantic to fight an undeclared naval war against Germany. But, until Pearl Harbor, the America public stood wholeheartedly against going to war, no matter how great the potential threat. After Pearl Harbor all things changed. The United States, under the inspirational leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to mobilize and unite the country into a mighty force. But until Pearl Harbor the America public stood wholeheartedly against going to war, no matter how great the potential threat. After Pearl Harbor all things changed. The United States, under the inspirational leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to mobilize and unite the country into a mighty force.

FDR, the Soldier of Freedom, the author of the Atlantic Charter, the creator of the Arsenal of Democracy, the initiator of Lend-Lease, and the architect of world-wide victory over the forces of darkness and evil was the key player and force in producing the effort that saved all of our lives here today. Without his leadership and immense effort, the war would probably have been lost. No Jew would have been safe in the new or the old world. Israel would have never existed and the western culture as we know it would have been snuffed out as a new Dark Age emerged.

 

 

 

 

The Roosevelts and the 20th Century

The PBS series on “The Roosevelts” should be watched by all Americans. It reflected the commitment of three definitively different individuals to the call to public service, personal ideals and the commonweal. It also reflected how these remarkable persons overcame personal and physical challenges to compete in the public arena of ideas, action, and public policy.

America has always been well-served by individuals were willing to move forward, sacrifice, and lead. The Roosevelts, in their own way and time, were at the forefront of the American Saga from the turn of the 19th Century to the Space Age. Over those 60+ years, their impact and vision moved America forward into the position of preeminence regarding world leadership. The Roosevelts were practical idealists, who in their own time sought to improve the lot of the average American and fight against the forces of darkness, bigotry, and ignorance. We are all better for their unparalleled legacy.

The Teapublicans and their Place in History!

One thing I learned is that most Teapublicans are either, racist or stupid or both. If they were just racists I could understand their positions a bit better. Being a racist is not as historically old as being just stupid. Stupidity was around a lot longer than racism. In fact, stupidity and venality seemed to have been present even in the Garden of Eden and all through the Bible. But racism is sort of a more modern concept as travel brought people into new contact with formerly unknown civilizations

But one continuing theme I see in the insipid minds of the average Tea Bagger is protecting the Constitution and recovering their lost rights and freedoms. I say where were they lost? Maybe we can get Sherlock Holmes, Hercules Poirot or even Nero Wolfe to find them. If they were recently lost, I am sure these top notch sleuths could find them quite quickly. But many believe that they have been eroding since the days of FDR. Maybe it was the right of the banks and Wall Street to swindle their money that was lost. Maybe it was the right of the polluters to foul our water or air? Maybe it was Saint Valentine who polluted “Love” Canal? So there is a mystery on our hands. Some of these intellectual wannabees believe that it was the left-wing press like the NY Times, the Tri-Lateral Commission and the Rockefellers who stole their rights.

I often wonder whether it was really lost when way back in time John Hancock and Sam Adams were out in Boston Harbor throwing tea into the murky waters. Maybe during the night, without a great deal of illumination, the original Tea Party patriots misplaced some of the rights of others; the rights of English capitalists to sell tea to thirsty colonists?

Talking about losing one’s rights, how about having the right to organize, the right to have clean air and water, and the right to have pure food and drugs? Maybe they lost their right to prevent women from voting. How about their right to inflict poll taxes and literacy tests on others? How about their right to own slaves and destroy families? Maybe they were unhappy about their right to segregate the schools, or teach scientology? Maybe they were unhappy that they now had bank insurance, or that their brokers had to reveal their formerly hidden fees? Maybe they were unhappy about the loss of the right to monopolize when the Sherman and Clayton Anti-Trust laws were passed. Maybe they were unhappy that they lost the right to hire child labor or lock the doors to their sewing factory

It seems like the Tea Bag Brigade’s Platform calls for lowering taxes on the rich and shrinking the social safety net. I assume they believe that women will be forced to stay home with their aging and infirm parents when their money runs out for long-term care and there is no Medicaid to pick up the tab. Therefore with all those women back in the home and the kitchen, jobs will open up for the unemployed!

Conservatism and Where it Stands 1-20-2014

It’s great to listen to the dumbest of dumb curse out liberalism and the Progressive Era. What did the progressives give us? Well, clean water, clean air, the Pure Food and Drug Act, clean healthy meats via Ida Tarbel and Upton Sinclair. But what did our conservative friends give us: monopolies, inter locking directives, rigging, price fixing, rancid food, pollution of our lakes and rivers (acid rain and PCBs), and strip mining. What did the plutocratic Gilded Age give us regarding the work place: horrible conditions (The Triangle Shirtwaist fire and hundreds and hundreds of other tragedies,) child labor, abuse of women, toxic, long work weeks (60-72 hours), no breaks, no sick leave, no vacations and sexual harassment. But , what of the horrible, commie liberals and what they worked for: safe work conditions, the right to collectively bargain, wages and hours, the minimum wage, the ban on child labor, defined holidays, pregnancy leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, job protection for drafted soldiers and regulations on work place conditions: clean bathrooms, first aid equipment and ventilation. Oh how terrible these union, social rats are! They helped the workers, what a sin!

How about voting? Let us see what our “enlightened” conservative friends brought us: grandfather clauses, poll taxes, white property owner’s qualifications, intimidation at the polls, phony robo-calls, disinformation, photo IDs, among many other restrictions. But, what about the commie liberals, woman’s suffrage, the Hatch Act, 18 year old voting, overseas voting for soldiers, the end of Jim Crow laws on voting, the right of recall (Wisconsin progressives), the right to have referendums, and the secret ballot. Are these democratic policies or commie, fascist ones? Only dopes on the right can argue against those gains and reforms.

But let’s talk about the business world and anti-trust! The “liberal, so-called commies” supported the Sherman and Clayton Anti-Trust Acts, which the conservatives opposed. The liberals and the Democrats created the Federal Reserve System which regulated monetary policy, brought order to the markets and stabilized interest rates. The conservatives love caveat emptor, (let the buyer beware), support deregulation of the banks and have no concern about collusion between the banks and business (the Savings & Loan disaster of the 1980s). But, what of the stock markets, the series of severe recessions from the Depression of 1907, to the Great Depression of 1929? If the right wing could read, they should open up “The Crisis of the Old Order,” and really learned what caused the stock market boom and bust of 1929.They opposed all sorts of regulation and it took four years of Depression, after the Crash, to bring on the New Deal. What did the New Deal bring: the SEC, Glass-Steagall and reforms of the market place, and the banks, along with the Security Laws of 1933, 1934, and 1940? It’s the FDIC that protects your bank account wherein from 1929 thru 1933, 5000 banks failed with the loss of nine million private bank savings accounts. Blame that on the Liberals, the progressives and the Democrats!

Who opposed these regulations? The conservatives, who else? But, did this limit growth and prosperity? In deed, the first four years of the New Deal saw huge increases in growth and by the beginning of WWII, America had recovered enough to be the Arsenal of Democracy. The size of the economic cataclysm is almost hard to perceive. Even though the Department of Commerce listed unemployment at 25% many estimates believe it ranged as high as 36% and the most likely number is probably a bit above 30%. The amount of new capital financing had declined 95% since 1929. The amount of new building contracts had declined by at least 75% in those same years. The Dow Jones Average was off 90% since its high in late 1929, and there were 5000 bank closings since the crash, which eliminated nine million, pre FDIC uninsured accounts. US Steel, which had almost a quarter of a million full-time employees in 1929, now employed no one but executives. Schools in major cities and some states virtually shut down for lack of money. In the first half of 1933, 250,000 homes were taken over by the banks, and over 1000 families per day were cast homeless into the streets. This is what Franklin Roosevelt inherited on March 4, 1933.

By 1933, business failures had risen almost 50% from the end of 1928 (109 to 154 per hundred thousand). From 1933 to 1935, only two years they dropped to almost 40% from the 1928 levels (62 to 109 per thousand). Unemployment rose from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933. From 1933 through 1937 unemployment dropped 44% to 14%. This figure did not include over 2 million workers employed by the WPA. As to the Gross National Product, by 1933 it had dropped from $103.6 billion in 1929 to $56.4 billion in 1933. This represented a loss of 44% of the total goods and services of the country in 3 years. In FDR’s first administration it rose approximately 64% to $92 billion. By 1940, with defense spending still only 22 % of the federal budget (from 1928 through1932, defense spending represented an average of 38% of the US Budget), and 2% of the GNP, the GNP had risen to $101.4 billion or 4% higher than 1928!  Because of the New Deal, hourly wages which had dropped from 58 cents per hour in 1928 to 49 cents for hour in 1933 (a drop of approximately 25%) rose 74 cents per hour in 1940. This represented a strong recovery of 28% from 1928. These figures are undeniable.

Did we have a recession after the war? No! The regulations that were put in place enabled America to have its greatest growth until the oil embargoes of the 1970’s. Despite three severe recessions in the Eisenhower Years, America grew steadily under Democratic presidents and a basically Democratic Congress. They gave us Medicare for seniors, Medicaid for the aged and the poor, Civil Rights, voting rights and women’s rights in the market place and in their bedrooms. What did the GOP and the conservative puppet masters give us? More Jim Crow, more Bull Connors, more insider trading, more phony stock deals, more restrictions on Choice, opposition to birth control, more censorship and a litany of other regressive efforts for the few versus the many. In other words, who are they for?

The right wing stands for nothing. It celebrates phony patriots. It wraps itself in the flag, the last refuge for scoundrels; it’s backward, inward and self-serving. Their sites are forums for racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny. It is closed –minded, it exclusionary and devoid of new ideas. It is the opposite of open, free-thinking, innovative and creative. It has opposed the expansion of understanding, the acceptance of new culture and ideas and it notoriously backward.

But the conservatism has an even more backward side to it. This side is known as the “lunatic fringe,” which rejects science, Darwin and toleration. It believes in myth, conspiracy and its hates everything it isn’t. It blames government, it hates other races and religion and it justifies its strange existence through arcane Biblical metaphor. Therefore, it celebrates faith over reason, rumor over fact and their view of the universe rejects science. If the liberal says white, they say black. They defend so-called individualism over working for the community, the greater good, or the commonwealth. They accuse every one who is not in lock step with their mantra as being communist stooges. In other words they are the “lunatic fringe.” Name it, they oppose it. Talk about safety nets, they claim people are lazy; working together they claim socialism, supporting public art, museums, libraries, parks, they say you are a commie! But take away their benefits, their federal aid and the roads and infrastructure government must do, they are the first to yell, “foul!”

 

 

 

The Middle Class and the Republicans 1-13-2012

All over the right-wing sites, I read two themes constantly repeated: President Obama and the Democrats are socialists, and take back the country to the people. Of course, the idea that this country is socialist is economically incorrect, unrealistic and a misunderstanding of history. For over a century, since Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement there have been efforts to provide safety nets for the workers, public education, and job safety. Because of people like Ida Tarbel, Upton Sinclair, Frances Perkins and others, the meat packing industry, the drug industry and the issue of clean water were addressed. There has been a century old evolution of reform, including; women’s suffrage, the end of the poll tax and the literacy test, the passing of wages and hours legislation, Social Security, child labor laws, sweat shop regulation, safety in the work force, Medicare , Medicaid and the end to Jim Crow Laws. These are just the major elements, but there are many other reforms that were basically addressed to the middle class and the working poor. There is nothing socialist in any of these efforts.

As to government controlling the means of production, setting wages and price controls, and restricting one’s ability to seek employment, none of that exists in America. We have all sorts of markets and exchanges from the NY Stock Exchange, to the NASDAQ, to the every type of commodity exchange from coffee to sugar to cotton. In other words, one can invest where they want, freely work where they wish to and to “organize” for their own benefit, as is done in the sports leagues, American industry and in civil service. The right to organize goes back to the 19th Century and the founding of the American Labor Movement to the New Deal and the Wagner Act in 1935. This right is as American as apple pie. Why shouldn’t there be a counter balance to capital through organized labor.

As to which party represents the Middle Class, the Republicans or the Democrats, why don’t we look at the record. The Republicans have been on the record against Social Security and Medicare for generations. GW Bush worked for six years to privatize Social Security. In a sense that is why his popularity crashed and the Republicans lost Congress in 2006. Currently Rep, Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare and have every senior buy into a private plan for $6,000 or more dollars. Will that cost be stable? Who knows? Is there any evidence that private health insurance is stable? Well it isn’t. In the last two years private health care insurance plans have skyrocketed in cost. Most people who not in a group cannot get insurance, pre-existing conditions are more prevalent then ever, and the cost for a private plan, if one can get one, is prohibitive. The average employee is paying a co-premium of $4000 with a $1,000 deductible. That means, with a plan provided through an employer, the average worker is behind $5000 before a dollar is reimbursed. How does this help the Middle Class or the working poor? The current tax plan put forth by the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney calls for a 1% tax cut for the lowest brackets and a 38% cut for the most highly compensated workers. Another tax plan calls for a 20% flat tax for all earners, zero capital gains tax and a zero corporate tax rate. Is the revenue neutral? No! Is that fair for the average worker? Are you kidding? The average upper income taxpayer is paying a lower affective rate than when President Reagan pushed through his two tiered tax rate of 15 and 28%. In terms of the economy, since Harry Truman, the presidency has been in controlled by Republicans for 36 years and the Democrats 28 years. Over that period of time, the Democratic Administrations have created 2 million jobs per year as opposed to the Republicans. Those are the facts. With regards to government jobs, there are 4.43 million federal workers and that number has been stable for years. There are 18.8 million state and local workers and that number, reflective of the Bush Recession, has shrunk by a few hundred thousand workers. With regards to federal expenditures, less than 20% of all government workers are paid by your withholding tax, and over 50% of those federal workers are members of the Armed Forces. So the argument framed here about “big” is with the states, much more than with the federal government.

With regards to the argument that 47% of the public does not pay taxes well that is patently false. Every worker is paying a payroll tax of a maximum of 8% up to $106,000 in income. In fact, every America worker is paying down weekly, through the payroll tax, our greatest, future liabilities we face: the entitlements Social Security and Medicare. In fact, as a worker earns more than $106,000, their percentage of reducing the entitlement deficit is reduced. Who benefits from Social Security and Medicare? It is the Middle Class and the working poor. In fact, most Americans who pay zero taxes should probably pay a minimum tax. But, would another $500 or $1000 per low income family equal raising the top bracket from 36.5 to 39.5%? It would not. Today, with a capital gains tax rate of 15% on dividends and venture capital income, the rich are very, very well off. Of the 400 richest Americans, only 200 are employed and therefore, they for sure do not create jobs. In fact, of the remaining 200, are they creating jobs? Many of these individuals make their huge incomes in the financial sector and do not create jobs or new businesses. There are $375,000 Americans making over $1 million per year. They are paying the lowest taxes since the Crash of 1929. But even when the Constitutional Amendment creating the income tax was passed in 1914, there was always a very high bracket, of at least 90%, for the richest of all Americans. Why would a return to the Clinton Era top tax rate of 39.5% and a graduated capital gains tax hurt these folks? I believe it will not. The Middle Class would be better served by an increase in the payroll tax to $212,000, which would save Social Security and Medicare for generations, and would not affect any one of you! In reality an increase in the top bracket to 39.5% would affect almost no one in the middle class!

 

Letters regarding “Roosevelt’s Centurions” September, 2013

Dear Mr. Garfunkel,

   I cannot overstate what it meant to me to get your letter and the copy of your cogent review of Roosevelt’s Centurions. Most gratifying to me is that your commentary captured perfectly what I was trying to say in writing the book. Your own writing style and gift of expression are not surprising given your long run program on WVOX. I too regret that I never had the opportunity to appear on the show. And I further appreciate the added coverage your review will enjoy by your posting it on your site and on Facebook.

`    The stamps you affixed to the letter’s envelope are an added bonus, and

you may be sure that both the review and the stamps will find their way into the scrapbook my daughter always assembles for each of my books.

Again, thank you so much.

Joe Persico

Dear Mr. Persico,

I just read your most gracious response to my letter and essay. I am quite gratified that you enjoyed my perspective on your well-constructed history of that time. As I may have described in my letter, I have been a student of the life and times of FDR since I was a youngster, and by the time I was twelve, I had read a great many of the books in the Mount Vernon Public Library ( a Federal Depository library and the 6th largest in NY at the time) on WWII. That interest has never left me in the intervening 56 years. Today, I have over 1000 books on WWII, the contemporary history of that period leading up to the war, and on FDR. I have been a member of the Roosevelt Institute and can call Bill vanden Heuval a friend.

FDR, the emergence of America as a modern world-wide society and the triumph of democracy are forever intertwined. His leadership, was not perfect, as we all know, and even though he was known as the “Irreplaceable Man,” the graveyards are littered with irreplaceables. As to his judgment, where you scored a grand slam, was on his ability to choose the right people. Henry L.Stimson, a veteran of government from the days of Taft through Hoover, thought his management style was atrocious, but others thought it was remarkable. Maybe those conflicting reviews summed up the essence of the man. He was the Sphinx and kept his cards very close to his vest. He liked his subordinates to argue out solutions. He often delegated overlapping responsibilities and liked to keep people guessing on his motives and his ultimate decisions. In that sense, all those attributes caused frustration, vexation and criticism. But, all in all, that made him one of the most engaging and interesting men of all time. He still possesses the most famous name in the world, and to a degree with his illustrious 5th cousin, who he called the greatest man he knew, and his remarkable wife, that name will last far into the future, when his critics are long forgotten.

No one can be right all the time, and if one hits .300 for a lifetime, they often get into the Hall of Fame. FDR’s batting average, from my perspective was as high as one could get. Even his mistakes, which both you and I both know, could be rationalized at the time. I have written extensively about FDR and understand fully the problems and criticism of the Court Reorganization, the Japanese Internment, the Mid Term Election Purge and his caution on Civil Rights and Immigration. FDR cogently remarked about the failure of leadership. He said, and I paraphrase, that when a leader looks back over his shoulder and cannot see his followers, he has gotten too far ahead of his constituents and fails to lead. FDR understood vividly the pulse of his not only his constituency, but the fever pitch of the Nation.

Fighting for lost causes or expending political capital in fighting windmills, may enhance one’s standing with their ideological brethren, but it usually bodes failure of an executive. Interest in FDR seems never to flag, and here it is 68 years after his unfortunate passing, and he is still the most important figure in American history. William Leuchtenburg, in his great work, “In the Shadow of FDR,” summed it up when he so intelligently observed that all FDR’s predecessors were affected by his tenure in office.They all know when they are sworn in, what indelible model FDR constructed.

Again, thank you. I have added a piece on Mark Clark, who was also a talented, controversial and interesting personage of that era. I hope you enjoy it.

Richard

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“Roosevelt’s Centurions,” by Joseph Persico A Review – August 27, 2013

I just finished his excellent and comprehensive, and of course, well-written history of WWII, regarding the leadership of FDR, his chiefs of staff, his allied partners, and the American theater commanders.

Not only does the author, who has written numerous books, including two regarding FDR, analyze his remarkable ability to choose the right people for the job, but he describes in detail his relationships with those same people who became household names for generations to follow. He also analyzes FDR’s remarkable skills within the context of his knowledge of the sea, his perspectives on world history, his understanding the threat of world-wide Fascism, his incredible grasp regarding the minutia of logistics and weaponry, along with his unparalleled knowledge of world geography, which came about from his initial, early exposure and love of philately (the collection of stamps).

Over the years there have been other books, which have attempted to describe the main players under FDR’s command, but this book encompasses not only those individuals, but his partners in the effort, the political leaders like Stimson, Knox, and Forrestal and the international personalities so well known to all of us.  Among my hundreds of books regarding WWII, which include biographies, anthologies, autobiographies and detailed general and localized histories, some books have tried to capture the essence of the leadership that fought the war. Some that come to mind, were Edward Larrabee’s “Commander-in-Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his Lieutenants and Their War,” “Nimitz and His Admirals,” by Edward Hoyt, “19 Stars” by Edward Puryear, and “Men at War,” by Stephen Horwath.

The main players in this most costly and dramatic chapter of world history became household names during the war and with the succeeding generations.  Starting with his promotion of George C. Marshall, to the greatest command position in history, as the virtual Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, FDR was able to add the Henry Arnold, who was practically an unknown, as FDR elevated the Army Air Corps to the new designation of Army Air Force. His addition of Admiral Ernest King, a tough as nails, no nonsense, 64 year old, who was virtually in retirement to Chief of Naval Operations, showed his commitment to an independent, sometimes irascible figure to head the growing two-ocean navy. As his own Chief of Staff he chose the seasoned naval person, Admiral William Leahy.

Aside from this top-notch staff which built the largest army we had ever had, they built the largest navies and air forces the world had ever seen. From total forces that numbered in the hundreds of thousands, these men, with the guidance of FDR created a force able to win victories in the Pacific and put together the incredible multi-service and national forces that successfully invaded Europe and prosecuted the European War from North Africa, to Sicily, to Italy, and then on to Normandy and Marseilles, before it moved on to the Rhine River and into the heart of Nazi Germany.

FDR also chose Republicans Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox to head the War and Navy Departments, along with William “Wild Bill” Donovan,” a Republican, who ran against Herbert Lehman for Governor of New York, as his personal envoy,  his chief information gatherer, without portfolio, and eventually the head of the OSS, (Office of Strategic Services.) It was this spy and espionage agency which became the forerunner of the CIA.

FDR’s greatest skill was balancing the needs, egos, and innate rivalries of these ambitious, talented men. He also had to balance the political necessities involving the Executive Branch regarding State, the War and Navy Departments, and the needs and desires of Congress. With the leadership of the skilled, non-partisan Marshall and politically astute Stimson and Knox, American wartime policy was able to balance the different needs expressed by Cordell Hull, the American Secretary of State and FDR’s friend and upstate NY, neighbor, Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who did a masterful job in financing the massive spending required during WWII.

Persico outlines our path to war and how FDR was able to maneuver around the arcane and foolish Neutrality Laws to help out Britain, first; through “Cash and Carry,” to the 50 Destroyer Deal and then “Lend-Lease.”  FDR’s skills in alerting American opinion to the national threat of the Axis, culminated with his historic meeting with Churchill and the drafting and signing of the Atlantic Charter in their Argentia Bay meeting. Even with the great threat posed by Nazi aggression and the expansionist designs of the Japanese military, American public opinion was mostly swayed by the neutrality and isolationist arguments espoused by the American First movement, led by Charles Lindbergh, and others, on both the right, and the left. Lindbergh, especially, was able to feed the natural American isolationist, and anti-British sentimentalities, with a large infusion of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Harsh memories of the bloodshed of WWI, fed by American revisionism of the 1920’s, along with a large German-American population, made for a lethal combination regarding isolationist disregard for future American security.

The American military decisions regarding Europe First, the proposed Cross Channel invasion, American public opinion to strike back at Japan, our first actions on Guadalcanal, the North Africa campaign championed by the British, along with the invasions of Sicily and Italy, and the “Unconditional Surrender” doctrine first articulated and announced by FDR at the Casablanca Conference were some of the major decisions made by FDR, with the consultation, agreement and often opposition of his Joint Chiefs. FDR was swayed by the Churchillian argument of attacking the soft-underbelly of the Axis through the Mediterranean. Most of the American planners wanted a cross channel effort in 1942 and 1943. This action was opposed by the casualty averse British and FDR’s thoughts that the American troops were too green and unprepared to take on the German Army in France without combat experience.. Persico described the intense disagreements between the Allies, and their staffs, regarding the logistical efforts in Italy which drained supplies and men from potential D-Day needs.

Later on, as the war proceeds, Persico analyzes the competing personalities of MacArthur, King and Nimitz in the Pacific Theater, along with Eisenhower, Marshall, Bradley, Patton and Clark in Europe. Roosevelt also had to deal with the problem of China with the corrupt leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, the intrigues of his wife, one of the influential Soong sisters, Claire Chennault and the AVG, Joseph Stillwell, and the ongoing civil war between the Nationalist Kuomintang Forces and the communists. FDR early on understood the potential of China. He was a bit early in his thoughts on the emergence of China as a world player, but in essence he was quite correct.

Roosevelt’s elevation of Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of SHAEF, the disappointment of Marshall regarding a major field command, the resurrection of Douglas MacArthur, after the disaster of his Filipino and American forces in the early days after Pearl Harbor, and the problems regarding Eisenhower’s competency and ability to command, dogged FDR. Churchill, General, and later Field Marshal, Alan Brooke, Chief of the British High Command, and others like Montgomery and Alexander; British Corps and theater commanders, all had questions about Eisenhower’s actions and abilities. But, FDR felt that keeping the western alliance together was paramount, and he had great confidence in Ike’s ability to deal fairly with all the competing personalities and interests. Eisenhower proved to be a very skilled politician as a general, though many of his strategic decisions were questioned, then, and now. For sure, the over-sensitive Bernard Law Montgomery, who was elevated to Field Marshall status, was an ever present thorn in Ike’s side, and his later historical accounts of the war were quite critical of Ike’s actions. To give credit to Eisenhower, many of his decisions were backed by Marshall and decided by the Joint Chiefs, as with the issue of “who gets to Berlin first.”  Even though Ike had that option, the decision on future “occupation zones” was already decided at Yalta, the military importance of Berlin was almost meaningless, and the Americans took no casualties in any proposed, but not consummated, attempt to cross the Elbe and rush into Berlin. On the other hand, the Soviets lost over 80,000 soldiers killed. As to the theoretical option of rushing into Berlin and other areas including eastern Austria to blunt Soviet eventual domination of Eastern Europe, that was an unrealistic pipedream. No American planner from FDR down wanted to fight the Soviet Union over Eastern Europe. Russia paid with blood, as they incurred five times the amount of fatalities than all the Western Armies combined. What Russia won with blood, treasure and “boots on the ground” wasn’t going to be easily taken away.

Roosevelt’s effort to keep the alliance together was paramount with regards to his leadership skills and his role as the key strategist of WWII. He was willing, even with his failing health and disability, to travel thousands of miles in relative discomfort to far off places like Casablanca. To accommodate the xenophobic and adverse to travel Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, FDR first went to Tehran and then to Yalta, the least desirable place to have a major meeting. Stalin claimed that he would not be able to stray to far from his command responsibilities. Most felt that he was more afraid of domestic threats than his disconnect from direct command decisions. All in all, FDR’s heroic efforts caused him further debilitation and the effort to accommodate the alliance at Yalta, for sure shortened his life. FDR’s diplomatic efforts at Yalta, which on the surface annoyed Churchill at the expense of keeping Stalin committed to their agreements, was well intentioned. FDR, like all of the American planners were fearful of the enormous cost of an invasion of Japan. The catastrophic casualties at Iwo Jima and Okinawa alarmed everyone who focused on the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands, which was planned for November, 1945. Estimates by various planners on the potential carnage, ranged from the high hundred thousands to even a million. The idea that the atomic bomb would even work was not even being considered. Therefore, with the information (later proved to be an over estimation) that millions of Japanese troops of the Kwantung Army were still in Manchuria and could be transferred to the Japanese home islands,  FDR and his war planners were alarmingly concerned over the potential casualties caused by suicidal resistance of the Japanese. Estimates of the Japanese having 5000 planes ready for Kamikaze missions, and with exquisite regard for the potential huge naval losses caused by the “Divine Wind” tactics of the enemy, further worried FDR and his staff.

Even though many American military leaders, including and especially the Anglophobe, Ernest King, did not even want British naval support in the Pacific, they realized that Russian help in Asia may be required. This was delicate balance that FDR tried to muster. He also understood the Soviet demand over war reparations, their angst over the brutality they had suffered at the hands of the murderous and rapacious Nazis, and their innate fear that the anti-communist, Western Allies, would turn on them at the end of the war. Later on, the maniacal and possibly mentally ill, Lt. General George Patton was openly talking of arming German prisoners of war and going to war with them against the Russians. Eisenhower had trouble throughout the war with the enigmatic Patton, who had a history of aberrational conduct, was a racist and an anti-Semite. His jealousy regarding the decision to give Mark Clark, the command of the 5th Army in Italy, seemed to stem from the fact that Clark’s mother was Jewish.

At Yalta, the Russians feared that the new and proposed United Nations would put them in a position of weakness, and made demands for greater representation. They even wanted fifteen seats reflective of their so-called Republics, but eventually settled for three, which included the Ukraine and White Russia. FDR handled this “delicate balance” with Stalin as well as anyone. He was obviously sick, tired, weary and worn out at Yalta, but according to most observers, he was sharp when he needed to be and measured exactly what the realities on the ground were like. Only thirty-six hours after he returned from his debilitating trip from Yalta, which included the tragic loss during the voyage of his military aide and confidante, General Edwin “Pa” Watson, from the affects of a stroke, he addressed a joint session of Congress. This was the first time he had ever addressed Congress while sitting, and began with an apology, “I hope you will pardon me for the unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say… but I know that you will realize that it makes it a lot easier for me to not have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs and also because I have just completed a 14,000 mile trip.” FDR was finally conceding the reality of his disability. He reiterated his position and demand for unconditional surrender. He stated, “It means the end of the Nazi Party and all of its barbaric laws and institutions, along with the punishment of war criminals.” He basically told the assembled audience that he had gotten the best deal he could get. He understood the numbers regarding Eastern Europe and the Soviet juggernaut.

As to any conclusions, which are mixed, regarding FDR’s physical and mental abilities at Yalta, much has been written. FDR was a sick and possibly dying man during the conference. The trip was exhausting and he had been suffering from hypertension, an enlarged heart and arteriosclerosis for quite some time. But, in the words of Charles “Chip” Bohlen, “who had to interpreted the president’s every utterance, and would later advise seven U.S. presidents and serve as ambassador to the USSR and France, concluded that the president ‘was lethargic, but when important matters arose, he was mentally sharp.’”

As a recruiter of men, inside and outside, of the military, FDR was second to none. His high leadership team was extra ordinarily stable. In Persico’s words, “The men he put in place to run each service department in the beginning were all there at the end.” As to the theater commanders; MacArthur and Nimitz in command of divided sectors of the Pacific were there at the end. Clark finished his work, though untidy and costly, in Italy. Eisenhower and his two top commanders, Montgomery and Bradley were there at the end when Berlin collapsed. On the home front, FDR’s work with Secretaries Morgenthau though the Treasury, Hull at State, until his retirement, Stimson, Knox until his death, and the rest of the Executive Branch team were stable throughout the war. His work with the production colossuses like Henry Kaiser, William Knudson and Andrew Higgins proved pivotal in building our fleet of ships, planes, tanks and assault craft. Wherein Churchill, Stalin, and even Hitler fired their generals right and left, FDR’s penchant for picking the right people, not getting involved in battlefield strategy served his team well.

As to the chief strategist of the war, there were all sorts of questions regarding: the 2nd Front, “Unconditional Surrender,” the Italian Campaign, the “Cross Channel” (Bolero to Overlord) invasion and its timing, the creation of the Manhattan Project, the successful development of the A-Bomb, (with Groves and Oppenheim), the cost of frontal attacks in the Pacific; Tarawa, Saipan, the Palaus, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the liberation of the Philippines, the Japanese Internment, the integration of the armed forces, the creation of a Women’s Army Corps, the problems with Vichy, Darlan, Giraud, De Gaulle and the participation of the French in the future occupation of a beaten Germany. Despite the success of the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American units performed terribly in Italy. The Japanese Internment was a blight on American civil liberties, no matter how it really came about. Eventually Japanese-American volunteers were accepted in the service, men were drafted from the interment camps and the camps were gradually dispensed with. The Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team performed with great heroism in Italy and was one of the most decorated American units during WWII. Persico discussed the debate over bombing the tracks, the marshalling yards, and the Death Camps. But he came to no real conclusions regarding the ability of the American Air Forces to change the equation of death. There is no evidence that any bombing, if possible, if authorized, or accomplished would have changed any result. These discussions and arguments have been made in detail in numerous books on the subject. With regards to strategic bombing, post war analysts had mixed reviews. Many even declared that the sacrifice, which punished mostly civilians, did little to affect German war production and the manpower and expense could have been used in other places more affectively. That of course is a highly debatable argument. For sure, strategic bombing tied up the Luftwaffe with regards to the defense of the Reich (Homeland), and eventually, with long-range fighter escort, the German air defense was basically worn down and eliminated as a fighting force. Because of this attrition, this action insured that the D-Day landings were virtually unopposed from the air and made German troop movements vulnerable to attack with almost impunity. The victorious air war over Germany did make life extremely uncomfortable for the German citizenry by killing and wounding millions, destroying their homes and disrupting the survivor’s normal routines, especially sleep. It did cause a dispersion of their war industries, but interestingly, even with massive attacks of over 1000 bombers at a time, it did little to affect their morale, stir hatred towards Hitler or his clique of fanatics. Post war studies showed how strong the affect Nazi indoctrination had on its citizens.

As to FDR’s role as the grand strategist, “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.” There is no doubt that FDR had disagreements over with Churchill over an early “Cross Channel” effort and acquiesced over the efficacy of the Italian Campaign. For sure, American planners thought that both North Africa and the Mediterranean were expensive, secondary diversions to satiate post-war British interests in the region. As to the theory that an Allied invasion of Italy would pin down German troops and therefore put less pressure on the Russians seemed to have been disproved by the reality that unfolded. In fact, more German divisions were diverted to the Eastern Front from Itay than had been predicted. But, all in all, it did cause the downfall of Hitler’s fascist partner, Benito Mussolini, and the psychological affect of knocking Italy out of the war, was lost on no one.

Finally, as Persico judges FDR as a “Home Front Leader” and how he performed as the president of a nation at war, he writes, “At the end of FDR’s life, the columnist Walter Lippman wrote, ’The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.’ Clearly, Roosevelt left such a legacy.” In the words of the Sun King, Louis XIV, “L’Etat, c’est moi, I am the state.” In the same sense, Roosevelt is the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party is he. Without his legacy, there would be no Democratic Party, just a collection of regional, nay-saying parties scratching for their existence.

He is, in the words of James MacGregor Burns, in 1970, “The Soldier of Freedom,” and decades later in the words of biographer Conrad Black, “The Champion of Freedom.”  The philosophy and conduct of the Free World that followed his time was, in a great degree, modeled on his Four Freedoms Address given during his 1941 State of the Union speech and the Atlantic Charter, which he authored.

As the “Home Front Leader,” Persico wrote, “He was bolder than the Congress or his generals and admirals; witness the destroyer deal done on his own hook, Lend-Lease with its rickety legality, his stretching ocean boundaries to limits that would have astounded President James Monroe and his Doctrine, his willingness to fight an undeclared war in the Atlantic, his risking billions on an atomic weapon whose workability was uncertain at best. Had he been less bold, Britain could have collapsed and Hitler would have won the war.”

Of course, in the words of the author, at the time of his death all the battles have been won and victory was a certainty. He had gone out on a limb and promised an unconditional surrender and that was achieved. We did not suffer the same problems that the Armistice, which ended WWI, had brought upon the world. Again, he ends with these thoughts, “His vision of a United Nations was about to be realized. An end to imperialism, which he preached and practiced, would become a hallmark of the post war world. Roosevelt bore the burden of leading the nation in fighting two successful wars on opposite end of the globe while enduring pain and immobility that would have broken a lesser spirit. There is no comparable case in history of anyone rising to the leadership of a great nation as severely crippled as was FDR. The president’s life can only be regarded as heroic. The American people and all liberty-loving nations were blessed that when the world needed a giant, one emerged. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ranks with the immortals, with Washington and Lincoln, both as president and a commander in chief.”

From my perspective, unlike Churchill, FDR was the single greatest elected politician in modern history and was able to overcome the devastating physical challenge of Polio. He was a vigorous man who overcame a lifetime of sickness. He had wonderful mentors, Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith, and Woodrow Wilson. He took something from all of them, and was smart enough to avoid the problems they all experienced. He shaped his own destiny, built the new Democratic Party, reversed the Depression, rallied the public, instilled great respect from the world at large, inspired great enemies and opposition, took on the Fascists when America wanted no part of that fight, created the United Nations, built the “Arsenal of Democracy” and through his actions, at the Atlantic Conference in Argentia Bay, put forth his vision of the world based on the “Four Freedoms.” His vision is the vision of the modern world; his vision is of one of the world community pulling together for the common good. Not unlike Churchill, who was one of the lone voices protesting against “appeasement,” FDR had withstood an “American First” isolationism that cut across almost all social and political barriers and subgroups. FDR had to use his unequalled mastery of the America political landscape to, on one hand, re-arm America, and on the other hand, battle the limitations of our Neutrality Laws and the passion of people like Charles Lindbergh, who were his most vocal critics.

In retrospect, of the two great western leaders, Churchill really left no governmental legacy. He really never governed. FDR’s legacy was one of not only unprecedented leadership, but of government innovation, reform and restructuring. Both have great-unequalled places in the history of our world and our time. But, as Joseph Persico so eloquently has written, in his quote from Walter Lippman, about “that the final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.”