‘It was . . . a fascinating place . . . ’

“ . . . one of the last links to the FDR White House . . . ”

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George McKee Elsey

A man who served in uniform and was assigned to the White House during World War II has died. He was “one of the last living links to the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” After the death of FDR, he worked for Harry Truman.

George M. Elsey “was a young naval officer assigned to the top-secret White House intelligence office during World War II. He observed military strategy sessions and attended international conferences with Roosevelt and Truman, and may have been the last person to have been acquainted with the two presidents, British statesman Winston S. Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.”

He personally witnessed key events in history. He was at Omaha Beach on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — the cross channel invasion of Nazi-occupied France, and oddly stood guard in the White House Map Room throughout the planning of D-Day which began the year before. And he was with Truman when he decided to go nuclear on Japan.

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A photo of the White House Map Room during the war

“Elsey was 24 when he went to work in the White House Map Room in 1942. Security was so tight that Roosevelt’s Secret Service agents were not allowed inside. Not even the vice president could enter the room, which held records of presidential communications with other heads of state and the country’s most sensitive military plans.”

The walls were covered with maps and charts. Pins marked the locations of ships at sea. Troop movements were recorded in erasable grease pencil.

“Churchill . . . visited the White House several times during the war. He sometimes came into the Map Room late at night, smoking his cigar, when Mr. Elsey was one of the few officers on duty.”

He witnessed history.

ajh

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