June 15, 2018

1945. CBS' Robert Trout on the Death of President Roosevelt

"The Loss of One of the Key Architects of Victory"
"CBS wartime staff in London 1942: (left to right) Edward R. Murow, Paul Manning, John Daly, and Robert Trout" (source)
Robert Trout

Columbia Broadcasting System

Thursday, April 12, 1945

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to analyze the news in the usual fashion tonight. The tragic news from Warm Springs has stunned the world so, with its shocking suddenness, that nations, and the men and women who make up the nations, must take time to catch their breath.

The tributes, the words of grief and affection and respect, are pouring out of the world's most important cities and into Washington. There are millions everywhere from whom no words are expected; millions whose names are not newsworthy and whose tribute of sorrow will be given in silence, away from the glare of public events. Those whose position makes fitting a public expression have found the words, or are finding them, tonight.

The shock has been sudden. But it is possible now to find the right words to say, and the right things to do. There has been time, during this long evening, to think of what the President's death means tonight. But there has not been time to think what it will mean in the days ahead.

Franklin Roosevelt was a battle casualty. He died during the war; and he died in the war. Even had he been spared to witness the great victory, to which he has given so much, his death—later, after the last shot had been fired—would still have been a war death. For he did give much of himself; he contributed immeasurably to the triumph that is coming, and in doing so he gave the most that any man can give.

Most battle casualties are sudden and shocking. They leave a space which seems particularly tragic because it was unforeseen. It is human nature, among the great and famous as well as the unknown, to avoid considering a terrible loss that may happen as long as there is a reasonable chance that it will not. It would be too much to expect that the President's colleagues among the Allied nations—such men as Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin—have planned the actions they must take, or have thought long and consistently of what the death of Franklin Roosevelt will mean. And it would be equally unwise to fear that, now that the blow has come, the responsible men will find it difficult to meet the situation that results from the loss of one of the key architects of victory and what is to come after victory. The Allied nations are strong, stronger than any who have dared stand against them. The Allied power comes from many sources, but most of all from the millions who were plunged into mourning late this afternoon.

The pause that has come—the hesitation—is an interval necessary when the mind has been shocked and the breath must be caught. There has not been time to think. The news is known but the brain does not quite grasp it. There is knowledge that, in the days to come, the loss will be felt often at various turns in the road. The mind knows that—for that is the way of death—but the mind does not wish to consider it in all its implications. Not yet. In the future, tomorrow; not tonight.

From strange countries faraway, and from our closer allies, and from the cities and villages of our own United States, the news tonight is the same, though it is written in different words. Everywhere, men at first say, "No, it is not true. I do not believe it. It could not happen now. Not now." That is the thought of men who drive taxicabs and sit in offices and teach in classrooms and farm the earth.

It is the thought, too, of reporters, who are supposed to be toughened against news of disaster and pain. There are many reporters who have been writing and speaking this news for more than five hours now, who have not had the leisure in which to stop and think. When this night's work has been done, to many the notion will come; it has not happened, it cannot be true.

The thoughts and feelings of reporters are not so different from the mental processes of the men who drive the taxicabs and the women who cook in kitchens. The minds of statesmen and generals also react in a similar fashion when confronted with tragedy.

It would be too much, then, to expect the men who are now responsible for the victory and what will come later to think deeply tonight of the meaning of April the twelfth, 1945. And it would be too little to expect anything less than the victorious alliance will roll on—in war and peace—on the battlefields and in the conference rooms at San Francisco. For a great man is dead, but the strength of the millions who mourn is enduring.