His Final Battle
The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt
Vintage Books 2016
In November 1944 Franklin Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term as president of the United States, despite suffering from heart disease and other medical issues that contributed to his death six months later. In His Final Battle: The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt (Vintage Books, 2016), Joseph Lelyveld examines the final months of Roosevelt’s life, detailing both his maladies and his accomplishments. This was a momentous period for Roosevelt, as he participated in two summits and several other meetings with his allies to dictate the course of the war and the peace that would follow. Yet while noting both Roosevelt’s deteriorating health and the stress the grueling itinerary imposed on him physically (which was not helped by the travel accommodations of the time), Lelyveld views the claims afterward that his medical problems inhibited his contribution as more often the product of retrospective accounts than reliable contemporary assessments. It was Roosevelt’s desire to finish the task of shaping the postwar peace that led him to run for a final term, even though many of his closest aides believed that the president was unlikely to finish it if he won. This made Roosevelt’s health the great unspoken issue of the election, one that determined the selection of Harry Truman as his running mate and defined how the president conducted his last campaign for office.