Allied Leaders of World War II: Franklin D. Roosevelt (Part 1)

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11202

One of the defining events in a leader's tenure is conflict. Presidents are often rated by their effectiveness in time of war. Watch vintage footage and analyze (and present!) FDR's role during WWII!


United States, World

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Wartime presidents are remembered throughout history for the way they chose to guide the nation through tumultuous times.

Some are remembered for how well they led throughout the conflict, while others become a black mark in American history for how poorly they led the country during hardship.

  • What makes a president a good wartime leader?

In this lesson, investigate what made Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency a memorable part of history!

  • Who were the Allied powers during World War II (WWII)?

During WWII, the world was divided between the Allied and Axis powers. Look at the November 1942 map below.

  • Which countries were part of the Allied side? (Shown in blue and red.)
  • Which countries were part of the Axis side? (Shown in black.)
  • What is a neutral territory? (Shown in gray.)

WWII Allied and Axis Map November 1942

Each side of the conflict consisted of several countries. Each side was led by the three major powers on their side.

The major powers on the Allied side were Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union (present-day Russia).

The major powers on the Axis side were Germany, Italy, and Japan.

In this lesson, you will study the role of the American Allied leader, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR).

Most historians regard FDR as one of the top five best U.S. presidents. Not only did he save the U.S. economy during the Great Depression, he was the only president to serve three terms in office.

While his accomplishments were many, this lesson will primarily examine his role as a wartime president.

Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill on the veranda of the Soviet Legation in Teheran during the first Big Three Conference, November 1943.

War broke out in Europe in 1939, and the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, attempted to persuade the Americans to join their cause several times. Despite Churchill's efforts, President Roosevelt actively sought to keep the United States out of the war.

He was well aware that war would cost the United States millions of dollars and thousands of lives. The U.S. had just resumed life after the Great Depression, and FDR did not wish to place another burden on the country.

Another reason President Roosevelt desired to keep the U.S. out of the war was because the U.S. did not have a direct interest in the war in Europe.

He acknowledged the threat of Hitler and the Nazi party, but the Nazis had little impact on the American way of life. There was, however, a different Axis power that was giving the U.S. grief.

The Japanese sought to expand their power and influence worldwide by overtaking smaller Asian nations and moving into China. Japanese expansion directly affected U.S. trade, and the U.S. government tried to prevent Japanese expansion through a series of embargos.

This upset the Japanese and caused them to launch a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack killed thousands of Americans and destroyed crucial military equipment.

President Roosevelt encouraged Congress to declare war, propelling the United States into WWII.

You will learn about Roosevelt's shortcomings as a wartime leader in the Related Lesson in the right-hand sidebar; however, most historians agree he was a remarkable wartime leader.

He hired some of the best military leaders the U.S. has ever known, such as General George Patton, General Douglas MacArthur, and future U.S. President General Dwight Eisenhower.

President Roosevelt actively made military decisions and worked well with the other Allied leaders, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. During one of the conventions, where the Allied leaders met to discuss strategy and outcomes, FDR worked with other representatives to create the United Nations.

Unfortunately, President Roosevelt did not see the fruits of his labor.

Very few people knew that President Roosevelt carried a secret throughout the entire war. He was suffering from several health problems, including complications from polio that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Despite being in a wheelchair, he refused to allow the world to see him as weak during wartime and would stand during speeches. Only those closest to him knew of his condition.

On April 12, 1945, FDR died from a stroke. His death shocked the world. The Americans had lost their fearless leader when they needed him most.

FDR's vice president, Harry Truman, saw the United States through the war's final months and to an official victory on September 2, 1945.

Even though President Roosevelt did not make it to the war's end, he is regarded as a great wartime leader.

Reviewing the resources below, list everything President Roosevelt did that made him a good wartime leader.

FDR and World War II

  Image - Video
  • What is most interesting about FDR's leadership during WWII?

Move to the Got It? section to review what you learned about President Roosevelt during WWII.

Image - Button Next