How a Secret Room Got Its Start in WWII

Sixty years ago, F.D.R. began a tradition when he built a private place to plan war

One day 60 years ago, George Elsey, now 84, delicately maneuvered the wheelchair of Franklin Roosevelt around the tight perimeter of a newly outfitted room in the White House. The President studied the fresh battle maps on the walls and easels from the European and Pacific theaters of World War II and was then updated on the task forces that were gathering and would soon head across the Atlantic for the invasion of North Africa.

America was on the move, and the 24-year-old Navy ensign, who only a year earlier had been a Harvard graduate student in American history, was at...

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