Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: "FDR's Funeral Train" by Robert Klara

I just finished reading this really fascinating book that is about, as the title suggests, the train trip from Warm Springs, GA to Washington, DC to Hyde Park, NY and back to Washington following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945. 

Having come of age in an era when Presidents can be anywhere in the United States, or the world for that matter, in a matter of hours, it fascinated me to read about an event such as the death of a President and its aftermath taking place on a train ride, and a very lengthy ride at that while, oh yeah, a war was going on.  Consider this time table.

The President died at around 3:30 on a Thursday afternoon.  His body was prepared by an Atlanta funeral director, and the train left Warm Springs for Washington on mid-morning Friday.  (Mrs. Roosevelt was flown from Washington to Warm Springs on a special military transport plane and arrived late on Thursday night.)  It took 22 hours for the train to arrive in Washington on Saturday morning.  

After a brief state funeral service in the White House, it was back on the train late at night for the trip to Hyde Park.  The train arrived there at around 10:00 on Sunday morning.  There was a brief burial service at the Roosevelt Estate, whereupon the train, after about a three hour stop, headed back to Washington and arrived late Sunday night.

On board the train from Washington to Hyde Park was the new President, Harry Truman, and much of the trip was spent with Truman being briefed about his new job.  He brought with him, to he chagrin of the Roosevelt loyalists, who slowly began to realize that their days of power would soon be drawing to a close, some of the men who would become HIS key advisers in a new Administration.  Even in the first hours of his Presidency, Harry Truman, much looked down upon by many, proved to be a pretty shrewd guy.

It is also amazing to read of the logistics that had to take place to plan a state funeral at the White House, a burial in Hyde Park, and figure out who would attend and who would ride on the train from Washington to Hyde Park.  In fact, two trains made that trip, the second one being filled with mostly Congressional dignitaries. 

I read a book like this and realize how much I wish my Dad was still with us.  I would have loved to have talked to him about the events described and picked his brains about it.  I know that he would have remembered, if not all the details, but a lot about the personalties of the key players in this real life drama.

Very interesting book about a momentous time in our history and an era that will never return.

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