Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only man ever elected to four terms as president, holds a unique place in American history. Sworn into office during the depression, his economic reform program, the New Deal, changed the role of government in the United States. In 1941, he led the nation during the Pearl Harbor attacks and then through most of World War II. While he did not live to see peace, he put America on the path to victory and renewed prosperity.
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FDR and the Pearl Harbor Attack
On December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. Japanese forces destroyed or damaged 16 warships and killed over 2,400 Americans. The blame for this surprise attack fell on several men, from Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lt. General Walter Short, military leaders in Hawaii, to FDR himself. Decades later, many believe Roosevelt obtained advanced knowledge of Pearl Harbor and kept it secret, so the United States could enter World War II. While Roosevelt and his advisors knew an attack from Japan was imminent, most historical evidence concludes that the men thought the Philippines or Guam the most likely targets. Because of the great distance between Japan and Hawaii, the United States did not expect an attack and Japan counted on the surprise to conduct a successful air raid on Pearl Harbor. Conspiracy theories make history interesting, but most historians believe that FDR did not know specifically about Pearl Harbor. Also, if FDR did have advanced knowledge of an attack, so would numerous intelligence agents and even clerks. A cover-up of this proportion, over such a long time appears inconceivable. Pearl Harbor turned an isolationist America into a country eager for battle overnight, but few patriots, especially Roosevelt, would sacrifice over 2,400 American lives simply to avoid political disfavor by going to war.