The huge secret about FDR’s death

Americans were told their president died of a sudden stroke. Not true, says a new book.

The huge secret about fdr's deathDwight Eisenhower’s heart attack, LBJ’s gallbladder, Kennedy’s many ailments, even George Bush Sr.’s bout of nausea in Japan: ever since the occupant of the White House became the Most Powerful Man in the World, the health of U.S. presidents has been of consuming interest. Much of that concern is pure finger-on-the-nuclear-button angst, but a significant portion derives from the fate of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When the first leader of superpower America died in office in 1945, it was a shock to most of his countrymen, who were largely unaware of just how sick FDR was. In fact, according to neurologist Steven Lomazow and journalist Eric Fettmann, authors of FDR’s Deadly Secret, they are the first to crack wide open the secrecy that has shrouded Roosevelt’s health until now. FDR, they write, died of cancer, a disease that had deleterious effects on his mental as well as physical health. In concealing the cancer from the American people, the authors argue, Roosevelt was “rolling the dice with history”: he won (mostly), but it was a very close run.


By the time his health began seriously declining in the 1940s, Roosevelt was long accustomed to disguising his disability. At 39, 11 years before he was first elected president in 1932, polio left the ambitious politician paralyzed for life from the waist down. FDR took care never to let it show in public. He used a wheelchair in private, but before crowds walked with the help of five-kilogram iron braces fitted to his hips and legs, and he had hand controls in his cars so he could be seen driving. Voters never noticed—or, pinning their hopes on Roosevelt through catastrophic depression and the greatest war in history, never wanted to see—the stage management. During the 1944 campaign, caught in a New York parade during a persistent rainstorm, the president’s open car was several times whisked out of the cavalcade and into a heated garage. Secret Service agents would stretch Roosevelt out on blankets laid on the garage floor, remove all his clothes, towel him dry and rub him down; re-dressed in dry clothes and fortified with a shot of brandy, FDR was soon back in the downpour.

Roosevelt’s health was thus never an election issue, and his physicians’ explanation of his sudden death—caused, in their words, by “a bolt out of the blue,” a massive and unforeseeable stroke brought on by overwork—was accepted by Americans. Even at the time, though, privileged observers, like prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and Churchill’s personal physician, Lord Moran—both of whom recorded their shock at FDR’s appearance months before his death—knew better. In 1970, Howard Bruenn, Roosevelt’s last surviving doctor, finally admitted his patient had been fighting severe heart disease throughout 1944 and 1945.

But that still isn’t the whole story, according to Lomazow and Fettmann. They maintain FDR died from melanoma, malignant skin cancer that metastasized from his forehead to his brain, causing his fatal stroke. The brain cancer diagnosis fits better than heart trouble with the fact that the likes of King and Moran were even more shocked by the president’s sometimes rambling mental state than by his appearance. But the authors’ best evidence lies in photos, including their book’s cover image, that show a lesion over FDR’s left eyebrow. The photos date from 1923 on, and the once tiny spot steadily grows through the Depression before disappearing in 1940, probably through surgery.

Since FDR’s medical records went missing after his death (a fact suspicious in itself), the case will never be conclusive. But Lomazow and Fettmann are right that this ancient history matters. It raises anew the moral argument over whether a political leader has any right to medical privacy. If Roosevelt really did have an eyebrow lesion surgically removed in 1940, he would have known then, even before the U.S. entered the Second World War, that he had scant years to live. FDR may genuinely have believed he was still the best man to win the war—and who can gainsay him that?—but he chose not to let the voters decide. And for a man with limited life expectancy, Roosevelt was cavalier about his vice-presidents, picking them for domestic political reasons, not by who was best suited to lead in dangerous times. That the untested Harry Truman turned out, in the judgment of historians, to have been an exceptional successor, was more a matter of luck than of FDR’s foresight. Rolling the dice, indeed.




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The huge secret about FDR’s death

  1. Thank you for your kind coverage of our book. I particularly enjoyed the wonderful photograph you chose.____Indeed, during his lengthy term of office, Prime Minister King had met with many Presidents and his graphic observations of compromised Roosevelt in his later years are an important and highly credible part of the historical record.

  2. Maybe it was a consciously good choice (Harry Truman) on his part!

    • FDR’s choice in 1944 for VP was Henry Wallace (an all but announced Communist). But southern conservative Democrats blocked his choice for VP because they realized FDR didn’t have long to live. The choice for VP in 1944 was in reality the choice for President (in one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated on the American public). FDR was dead within weeks after his inauguration. Truman was a compromise candidate.

  3. Very interesting. Wasn't cancer the "C" word back then? People didn't really talk about it. Our leaders' health is a public issue, not only because it affects how they do their job but also because it raises awareness about diseases.

  4. What makes anyone think the "voters" can choose any better?

    Stop whining.

    FDR was a very great man, and he saved us. He could not guarantee everything.

    Nuff said.

  5. So what? Still a great man, despite the warts, personal and physical. His New Deal of the 1930's is exactly what the U.S. needs now, but will never get. Elected four times, through some of the darkest times in recent history, loved by the poor, blacks, and the unemployed. And thanks to advisors like our own John Kenneth Galbraith, the initiator of social welfare programs millions still enjoy today., as well as enormous public work projects like the TVA . That he was ill much of the time, severely physically disabled, and certainly no saint makes his story all the more poignant and significant.

    Of course, unlike one of our own, if he had only gotten advice from his long dead mother and had conversations with his dog…Now there's a story- talk about lying to the voters- our own King was certifiable, eccentric and just plain nuts.

    • the fact that these programs lacked any Constitutional justification or authorization; have bankrupted America; reduced nearly half the population to perpetual government-maintained indigence; and needlessly extended the Depression for years apparently bears little weight. They did succeed in making a lot of democrat voters, and therein lies the essence.

      • if only the poor didn’t love being poor so much.
        if they would just stop wasting what little money they have on booze and abortions and instead spend more on bootstraps, then there wouldn’t be a communist muslim atheist nazi in the white house. right?

    • And wanted absolute power. He got reelected so many times that he changed the supreme court from conservative to liberal in a way that was technically legal (he kept on appointing liberal justices for 12 years) but unfair and ultimately destructive to America. He is why presidents are now limited to two terms.

    • Bill,

      Please read Amity Shlaes “The Forgotten Man,” and you make have a different take on the New Deal.

      Earl Browder, the head of the Communist Party USA, thought the New Deal was a great stride towards Communism. And many of the New Deal programs may have been planned & implemented by the clandestine Soviet agents of influence that saturated FDR’s government & were constantly at his side, whispering in his ear, giving him advice, & telling him what a great job his was doing.

      http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/FDR-s-Policies-Prolonged-Depression-5409.aspx

    • A lot of the usual huffing and puffing here on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Funny how the focus here is on the New Deal and its relevance to now. In fact, the health issue referred to arose after the New Deal was done. Roosevelt was almost totally focused on the looming war by 1940 and soon brought tons of the corporate capitalists some here think so evil back to help him win that war. It was the war that was the issue, and winning it proved vastly more important to the future of this nation and the world than the New Deal did.

      As to his hiding melanoma, I fail to understand why that mattered any more than all the other health issues that were patently obvious about this president from the start, including that he could not walk! Besides, melanoma often can be stopped in the outer skin phase, and FDR may well have assumed he had. It is only when it become metastatic that it does you in rapidly – in about nine months. Presidents live and die in office for all sorts of reasons. Like every other president, FDR saw himself as indispensable and invulnerable. He was only wrong about one of those – just ask Truman on the day FDR died.

  6. Truman remains the only leader ever to use nuclear weapons. He may have been "exceptional" but not necessarily in a good way.

    • Yes, he ordered the dropping of the nuclear bomb – but he wasn’t dropping it on Switzerland.  He used it against the Empire of Japan, which had murdered, tortured, and raped millions. And they surrendered within days after Nagasaki.  How many MORE people would have been killed without the two atomic blasts?  Furthermore,  more people were killed by a single night of bombing raids in Tokyo than were killed by the nuclear blast at Hiroshima.   

      • For further affirmation of Christopher’s claim, seek out a book by Laurens van der Post called either The Prisoner and the Bomb, or Night of the New Moon. The existence of two titles is due to British vs American publishing rules. The Japanese Empire had to be stopped lest millions more innocents die.

      • more people died in tokyo, so it’s ok that fewer died in hiroshima/nagasaki??

        the war crimes of the imperial japanese government don’t excuse the war crimes of the usa.

        japan wanted to surrender before hiroshima. they were afraid of the ussr, especially after the soviets invaded manchuria.

        and then there’s the argument that the bombings had little to do with japan but instead were a warning to the ussr.. does that make it ok too?

    • There was also a 100,000 POWs in Japan at that point in time. If we would have invaded the Homeland, one of Japan’s first moves would have been to kill all of them. This was well known to all of the POWs.

  7. That the man died of secret causes does not interest me, nor that voters were deceived, because I accept government prevarication as a matter of course. However, people deserve to know when they've been lied to, and this certainly seems research-worthy.

    Who knows? With enough repetitive reminders to sink an aircraft carrier, the people of the world may accept that their leaders must B.S. them on a daily basis in myriad ways in order to maintain stability, and dangerous forms of ethnocentric assertion such as ultra-nationalism may come to seem laughable rather than laudable.

    Poisonally, that's how I feel about it.

    Fine work, gentlemen, and a fine post, as well.

    Cheers from Los Angeles,

    -BothEyes

  8. Truman was not chosen by FDR, but forced upon him by a corrupt, and somewhat Wall Street-controlled Democratic party machine. The Vice-Presidential post should have been Henry Wallace's. Henry Wallace was a genius, Truman was a small-minded British puppet, who went 100% against FDR's policy, starting before the body had turned cold.

    • Which political party isn’t controled by Wall Street, then or now ??

    • Wallace was a Communist stooge, not a genius.

    • Henry Wallace was a businessman, a mystic, and a communist stooge. After Roosevelt realized that Wallace had disclosed classified information to Stalin during a trip to the Soviet Union, Roosevelt replaced Wallace with Truman in the vice-presidency. A few months later, Roosevelt died. We came that close to having a Marxist in the White House seventy years before Obama. When the NorKs attacked South Korea in 1950, Wallace was shocked — SHOCKED! — that the peace loving communists of North Korea had attacked South Korea.

      • please please please look up the definitions of marxism, communism and socialism and then compare those to obama’s actual record. not his multi-contradictory tea party conspiracy theory but his actual record.
        his policies are by definition not marxist, etc.
        this is junior high school level stuff.

        • Please please please don’t be so silly. I took the state Gold Medal in American history in high school after I took the state Silver Medal in world history. Obama’s family on both sides were radical Marxists, Obama surrounded himself with Marxist mentors (Davis, Alinsky) and radical and criminal associates (Williams and Rezko) plus the Chicago thugocracy. Obama and the Mainstream Marxist Media have desperately tried to conceal the facts. You are the most ignorant fool I ever heard of or you are a psychopath enabler. Which is it?

      • it was a little more complicated than “roosevelt replaced wallace with truman”. wallace was vastly more popular than truman by the public and easily would have won the vote at the convention to be VP, but due to petty deal making and meddling by truman’s supporters…

  9. FDR's personal physician diagnosed the President with congestive heart disease in 1944 and was treating him for that. You can see that in the PBS series "American Experience," on FDR (4 part episodes).

  10. It's always to follow up your readings about your history. But still, this has no evidence or whatsoever to prove that.

  11. We never should have fought that war. Lindbergh was right.

    We should have taken in every refugee from Hitler and Tojo.

    And Roosevelt did not give anything away at Yalta the Red Army had not already won on the battlefield

  12. I find it ironic that, in a review examining the real cause of Roosevelt’s death, you state as a fact that he had polio. While that has been the widely accepted diagnosis, evidence examined recently points to Guillson-Barré syndrome as a more probable cause. fhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14562158

  13. media covered up his infirmities, as they did Kennedy’s philandering and Johnson’s scandals. That’s how it rolls for Democrats.

    • “That’s how it rolls for Politicians.” is more apt.

  14. FDR and JFK were both too sick to serve in the presidency, and both concealed (lied about) the fact. Even worse, we now have a Marxist psychopath in the White House and he is systematically destroying the Republic. Psychopaths always fail, and a major factor in their failure is that they believe that life has treated them badly, life is terrible, and they expect to fail. They want to make sure that everyone, nominal supporters and nominal opponents, suffer along with them as they fail. Economic cycles in the Soviet Union were recession alternating with depression for seventy long, miserable, heart-sick years. We are now four years into our own version of the USSA.

    • dude, you really need more tinfoil for your hat.

  15. I listened to Dr. Donald Dipettite give a talk about a hypothetical person with terminal high blood pressure at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He proceeded to describe the decline in the patient over time, with attention to medical details as those details progressed until the patient’s death. At the close of his talk, Dipettite revealed that the person was Roosevelt.
    Dipettite did not indicate that the cause of death was cancer. He said that the immediate problem was uncontrolled high blood pressure. His doctors knew he had high blood pressure but did not know how to treat it. (Remember, blood pressure medicines came later)

  16. So the author claims FDR had malignant melanoma in 1940 when the supposed lesion was removed and then died of malignant melanoma FIVE YEARS LATER? Sorry, but there was no chemotherapy in 1940 and in any case chemo and radiation don’t work on malignant melanoma even today – when median survival time is only 8.1 months from diagnosis!

    FDR may indeed have had a melanoma removed from his eyebrow in 1940, but it wasn’t the cause of what killed him FIVE YEARS LATER.

    • Following removal of the skin lesion, melanoma often returns 5, 10 even 20 years later as metastatic disease. The median survival time of 8 months refers to metastatic melanoma.

    • Median means FDR could have had brain cancer (and mental impairment) for longer that 16 mos. And judging from some of the decisions he made, I believe he must have been at the far end of the survival scale (constantly being manipulated by the clandestine Soviet agents ever at his side, whispering in his ear, & offering him advice straight from the Kremlin).

      See “Stalin’s Secret Agents,” by Evans & Romerstein.

      • If you think those agents were “whispering in his ear,” your thinking is a lot worse than his was then. Hiss did not contribute a thing to the decisions made at Yalta – he submitted exactly ONE memorandum on one tiny and irrelevant matter. Hopkins was a close confidant and was not an agent, despite Diane West’s totally discredited claims about him that contradict all the known evidence. The other spies were even more removed. FDR made a mistake in putting the oddball Wallace in the VP slot, and he was FULLY on board with the maneuvering by which he was replaced in 1944. Does anyone really think someone else could have told FDR what to do about that in 1944? Good grief, what naivte.

  17. I must say, this article sets a new record: Most attention ever drawn to a MacLeans page from the Aryan Brotherhood, KKK, and Michelle Bachmann P.A.C.

  18. Has anybody thought about Jack Layton? I expect but don’t know for sure that he knew his condition was terminal during the election but kept it quiet.

  19. FDR, ignoring Churchill’s advice, caved in again and again to Stalin.

    That sick feeble old man had no business even trying to stand up to Stalin at Yalta. He should have done the honourable thing and resigned in favour of his VP.

    • I think FDR was completely under the control of Hiss & Hopkins. FDR’s mental impairments began long before Yalta.

  20. Mostly won? From Stalin’s perspective I suppose. (See “The Unnecessary War,” by Patrick Buchanan.)

    Germany didn’t want war with Britain. Hitler hoped Britain would be Germany’s ally & help fortify Europe’s defenses against the advancing Soviet bear. (See Mein Kampf.)

    Recall that the Soviet goal was to spread communism worldwide, either through overt revolution, war or covert subversion. WWII encompassed all aspects of the Soviets’ strategy.

    Hitler wanted to move east & reclaim lands take from Germany under the Treaty of Versailles. But Britain & France (at the urging & promised backing of FDR) declared war on Germany, not the other way around.

    After Britain & France declared war on Germany, it was forced to take unplanned defensive moves in order to secure the resources with which to fight that war.

    Today people characterize Rudolph Hess’s flight to Britain to ask for peace as the actions of a deranged, lone-wolf, madman. But likely Hess was communicating the wishes of the German leadership.

    During the 1930s, the Soviets conducted a quiet revolution in America & used its deeply penetrated puppet to help it conquer broad swaths of territory in Europe in the 1940s. That’s how the economically backward Russian became the powerful Soviet Union, spreading its tentacles into other parts of the world, & fomenting both the Korean & Vietnam wars. See “The Crushing of Eastern Europe,” by Anne Applebaum, “The Unnecessary War,” by Patrick Buchanan, “Day of Deceit,” by Robert Stinnett, “Operation Snow,” by John Koster, and “The Chief Culprit,” by Victor Suvorov.

    Plus (as Stalin had hoped), both Britain & France were seriously weakened by the War. Had FDR lived or had conservative Democrats not blocked FDR’s choice for VP (Henry Wallace), all of Europe may have fallen under Communist control.

    “We can’t expect Americans to convert overnight, but we can help their leaders to adopt small, creeping measures of socialism that will spread & grow until Communism finally takes over.” Nikita Khrushchev, expounding on Soviet tactics & strategies

    High level agents like Laurence Duggan, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Lachlin Currie, etc. not only helped shape our foreign policy, but they also helped open the door for other Soviet agents to gain entry into our government. Earl Browder & CPUSA recruited them, & the moles inside our government provided passage for the new recruits into highly sensitive areas of our government. See “Stalin’s Secret Agents,” by Evans & Romerstein.

    “I have a troubled sense of the futility that marked our experience. What an inane outcome! Look at what happened: We destroyed one set of tyrants only to build up others that were even more virulent, vicious, & pernicious! We “won” that war only in a limited military sense. ~ General A. C. Wedemeyer, former commander of allied forces in China, discussing the outcome of World War II

    • Nuts, but there is a lot of this out there these days – on the left, Oliver Stone, on the right, Diane West. Two peas in a pod. Germany didn’t want war with Britain? Laughable. The British were desperate to avoid a fight with Hitler at almost all costs. Hitler made a deal with his supposed main adversary so he could conquer Poland, turn to the West, take it over and prepare to invade England. But, oh, those ungrateful Brits, they went to war with him anyway, kept him from conquering them, and forced them to go after Russia instead. Poor Hitler. What choice did he have? And, yes, let’s all weep for the Europe that might have been, Russia with one half, the Nazis with the other. And England as a cowering tributary. Boy, how tragic that FDR made sure that did not happen.

      • Hamilton Fish, House ranking Republican member on the Foreign Relations Committee, met with German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1939. Von Ribbentrop told him he had made over 20 trips to Britain to seek assurances that Britain would help Germany defend against the Soviets’ designs on Europe.

        Russia was invited to join in the joint defense pact (instigated by Wm. Bullitt, FDR’s personal emissary) wherein England & France pledged to protect Poland from German attack, but Stalin feared that if the Soviets joined the coalition, it would probably discourage Hitler from reclaiming the German territory ceded to Poland under the Treaty of Versailles. So, he declined.

        A German-Soviet non-aggression pact, however, would give Hitler a free hand to reclaim those lands from Poland. Moreover, Stalin felt certain that England, as Poland’s ally, would declare war on Germany, drag a reluctant France into the conflagration, and Italy would rush to Hitler’s side.

        The Soviet Foreign Office explained Stalin’s decision in a telegram to its embassy in Tokyo: “The ratifying of our treaty with Germany was dictated by the need for a war in Europe.”4 See “Josef Stalin: Verwandler der Welt,” by Adolph von Thadden, page 88.

        “Nonintervention represents the endeavor… to allow all the warmongers to sink deeply into the mire of warfare, to quietly urge them on. The result will be that they weaken and exhaust one another. Then… (we will) appear on the scene with fresh forces and step in, naturally in the interest of peace,” to dictate terms to the weakened belligerents.”2 Josef Stalin, March 10, 1939, speech in Moscow (with his eye on the prize, i.e., the conquest of Europe)
        Nikita Khrushchev said that Stalin considered war with Germany inevitable (as it was the gateway into Europe). But first, he wanted to see Germany debilitated by war with the West.

        It must be our objective that Germany wage war long enough to exhaust England and France so much that they cannot defeat Germany alone…. Should Germany win, it will itself be so weakened that it won’t be able to wage war against us for 10 years…. It’s paramount for us that this war continues as long as possible, until both sides are worn out.5 Josef Stalin, text of a speech Stalin delivered on August 19 to a closed session of the Political Bureau in Moscow, as published in the Swiss periodical Revue de droit international on August 25, 1939

        Britain & France declared war on Germany, not the other way around, even though Germany & the Soviets attacked Poland at nearly the same time (with the Soviets conquering far more Polish territory than did Germany).

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