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Editorial Note on President Roosevelt’s Death
April 12, 1945
“We have lost a great leader,” said General Marshall in response to the announcement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, in Warm Springs, Georgia. At Mrs. Roosevelt’s request, Marshall was in charge of Roosevelt’s funeral arrangements: the journey by train from Warm Springs to Washington, D.C., for the funeral service at the White House on April 14 and then to Hyde Park, New York, for burial the next day. Tall Sergeant James W. Powder, Marshall’s orderly and at times chauffeur, was in command of the pallbearers and walked behind the horse-drawn caisson bearing the late president’s body. (McCarthy Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, April 13, 1945, GCMRL/F. McCarthy Papers [U.S. Army 1941-45].)
“My dear General,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the evening of the funeral, “I want to tell you tonight how deeply I appreciate your kindness & thoughtfulness in all the arrangements made. My husband would have been grateful & I know it was all as he would have wished it. He always spoke of his trust in you & of his affection for you. With my gratitude & sincere thanks.” (Roosevelt to Marshall, April 15, , GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
Meanwhile, the military chiefs met with President Harry S. Truman at the White House on the morning of April 13 for about an hour. Secretary of War Stimson noted that the president “was very friendly in his manner and words. He made a brief statement telling us that he was very much gratified with the way that the war had been carried on by the two Departments” and he wished “us to stay on and carry on just as we had been doing.” Then “Marshall gave a very good statement as to the affairs on the European and Burma fronts and King followed with a statement on the war in the Pacific. The President listened intently and had evidently been following the war very closely. . . . On the whole my impression was favorable although, as General Marshall said in the car coming back with me, `We shall not know what he is really like until the pressure begins to be felt’.” (April 13, 1945, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 51: 30].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 141.