1944. Photograph. This signed Second World War image captures President Franklin D. Roosevelt at approximately 4:15 PM on 26 July 1944 aboard the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Baltimore at Honolulu, Hawaii. With a gun turret clearly visible in the upper background, FDR is seated in a chair on the deck, with Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur seated to FDR’s left and right. Standing behind FDR is a coterie of his senior military, medical, and civilian advisors. FDR signed this photograph horizontally at the top right “Franklin D. Roosevelt”. There are five additional signatures, each oriented vertically and above the signer’s image. Immediately to the left of FDR’s signature are the signatures of the following: White House Counsel and presidential speechwriter Samuel Rosenman as “Samuel I. Rosenman”; Senior Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy as “William D. Leahy”; FDR’s senior military aide General Edwin M. Watson as “Pa Watson”; White House naval aide Vice Admiral Wilson Brown as “Wilson Brown”; Vice Admiral and Surgeon General of the Navy Ross T. McIntire as “Ross T. McIntire”.
The gelatin silver print measures 9.875 x 8 inches (25.08 x 20.32 cm). Condition of the image is excellent – crisp and clean with only a hint of wear and soiling to the margins. Roosevelt’s signature is clearly visible against the gray background at the upper right of the image. Three of the five additional signatures traverse darker parts of the background, three of them trailing into the narrow white upper margin of the print. The photograph is mounted on heavy cream card stock with a fold-over mat hand-titled in two lines “HONOLULU | JULY – 1944”. The mat front is detached from the backing with faint moisture stains along the bottom edge and mild age-toning. The overall matted size measures 12.5 x 11 inches (31.75 x 27.94 cm).
This photograph belonged to Navy Lt. Commander Howard Gerald Bruenn (1905-1995), who became President Roosevelt’s attending physician during the last year of FDR’s life. Bruenn is present in the photograph in the back row, second from the right, just to the left of and behind Sam Rosenman.
Having carried FDR “2285 miles” from San Diego, at 2:25 in the afternoon of 26 July 1944, the U.S.S. Baltimore “stopped momentarily while off the entrance to Pearl Harbor, HI” to take aboard an official party headed by “Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, USN, Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas”. Ships in the harbor “manned the rail in white uniforms. The President’s flag was hoisted at the main of the USS Baltimore” which by 3:00 PM “moored at pier 22-B, Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, just astern of the renowned aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.” At 3:45 PM “Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area called on FDR, having just arrived in Hawaii by air from New Guinea.” At 4:15 PM “The group posed on deck for pictures by the newsreel and stll [sic] photographers.” (transcription of Roosevelt’s daily calendar from the FDR Presidential Library)
It was a remarkably different moment than Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt had experienced 962 days before when the Japanese attacked, prompting America’s formal entry into the Second World War. Despite the relative optimism of the hour, grim events to come are presaged in FDR’s visibly weary countenance. Seven months later, in February 1945 one of the signers of this photograph, General Edwin M. “Pa” Watson, died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at sea, returning from the Yalta Conference, which he had attended with FDR. Eight and a half months after this photograph was signed and less than two months after General Watson, it was FDR’s turn.
The man for whom this photograph was signed, “Dr. Bruenn was present when President Roosevelt suffered the massive brain hemorrhage that killed him on April 12, 1945, in Warm Springs, Ga. The doctor reported the President's last words: "I have a terrific headache." (New York Times obituary, 2 August 1995). Item #006244