George Elsey, One of the Last Survivors of World War II White House, Dies at 97, Was Trained as a Historian

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, George Elsey

He went to the White House living quarters to hand President Franklin D. Roosevelt top-secret messages. When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, he decoded the news and took it to President Harry S. Truman.

He wrote policy papers and speeches for Truman, including many delivered on the celebrated “whistle-stop” campaign that led to Truman’s come-from-behind election victory in 1948. He even found time to redesign the presidential flag.

George M. Elsey did all this in his 20s and 30s, and when he published his memoir, “An Unplanned Life,” in 2005, the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. wrote that Mr. Elsey had probably produced the final eyewitness testimony about those tempestuous times.

One of the last survivors of the inner sanctums of the White House during and immediately after World War II, Mr. Elsey died on Dec. 30 in Tustin, Calif. He was 97.

During the war, Mr. Elsey was a naval officer working in the Map Room, the nerve center of communications on the ground floor of Roosevelt’s White House. He sometimes wheeled the disabled Roosevelt around the room. He bumped into Winston Churchill one night in a dark hallway and transmitted secret messages to Joseph Stalin. He took a leave from the White House in 1944 to record the Normandy invasion as a naval historian, and was on Omaha Beach while it was still being shelled. ...

Read entire article at NYT

comments powered by Disqus