Where Were You When FDR Died?


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives

April 10, 1957, Vol. II, No. 24

The day he died…April 12, 1945

The day Roosevelt died I was stationed in Foggia, Italy, as part of a Signal Corps team that was installing a transmitter station at the airport there…We went into our barracks and someone turned the radio on. I don’t remember how I felt when the words came nor do I remember anything that was said. We were lying around on our bunks and I remember looking at everybody and especially at Sandy, a fellow from Kansas City who had hated Roosevelt. He looked calm, but he didn’t look happy. Then I thought: “This is the way it will be when my father dies,” and I turned my face away because I started to cry and I felt I wasn’t going to be able to control myself at all. — Dan Balaban

I was in a tent on Guam, at an aircraft-recognition session — one of those things where they try to teach you how not to shoot down B-17’s…Suddenly the back flap of the tent lifted (I was sitting near the back) and Joe Lyons stuck his head in. “Did you hear?” he said to me — to me alone. “Roosevelt’s dead.” My heart stopped. “Joe,” I said, “you know better than to go around spreading rumors like that.” “No,” he said, “It’s on the radio, it’s true.” He dropped the tent-flap and went away…We went over to the officers’ tent and put on the radio. Sure enough, it was saying over and over again that the President was dead…Jack Schwartz looked up and said, in his high, soft, somewhat haughty voice: “You know what? He was the only President I’ve ever known. All my life, since I’ve known about Presidents, he was the President, the only one.” It was the same way for all of us, even I suppose for the Captain, who was a few years older, and so nobody said anything more…And that night or the next I went to the church services, the ones they put on for the occasion, but these did not do for me what I had hoped they would and I was sorry that I had gone. — Jerry Tallmer

It was a sunny spring day in the Italian hills, and the men were cleaning up around their fox holes and relaxing on the ground. It was peaceful, but there was the latent tension perhaps inevitable in the lull before a big offensive. Then I noticed a quiet rustling spreading from fox hole to fox hole along the rough hillside. My first reaction to the news was anger that anyone would joke so cruelly. Then incredulity. Then a sense of profound emptiness and fear, as if I had suddenly been deserted in an open boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. — Edwin Fancher

I first heard the words “Roosevelt is dead’ in a nipa-thatched hut on Luzon early on a very hot morning while I was lying on my cot. Someone passing by had spoken them. I told myself it was just another lie the boys had picked up over Radio Tokio. But I really knew it was true, and could not face it. So I stayed in the hut instead of going to the mess hall that morning…Sorrow was private — for me and the others. It seems strange now that the most public figure any of us had known had to be mourned privately. Our feelings were too strong, and he was — there is no getting away from it — the “father of us all.” Each sorrow was private to the mourner as mine was to me, and each had to be worked out privately in a corner of that Filipino village. A number of days later, after orders had been sent down, a memorial service was held. It meant nothing to me or anyone. It was like a eulogy given by a stranger. — Daniel Wolf

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]