Season 1 Overview
In the midst of history’s greatest war, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and died just 11 weeks into his fourth term. "To the Best of My Ability" is a nine-part podcast series that examines what happens in the wake of his death, pulling directly from the newly sworn-in President Harry S. Truman’s diaries, oral histories from the men and women who lived through it, and more. Join The National WWII Museum as we explore the tragedies, triumphs, and difficult choices made by one of history’s most unexpected leaders.
"To the Best of My Ability" is available on all major platforms.
Episode 1 – It’s All Over
Truman’s first few weeks in office were some of the most tumultuous in Presidential history.
Episode 2 – Death Stand
The war in Europe was over, but fighting raged in the Pacific.
Episode 3 – Supreme Authority
With the war in Europe over, the Allied powers had to turn to the difficult business of governing Germany and the other occupied territories.
Episode 4 – Charter into Deeds
World War II had been so horrible that the victorious powers decided that nothing like it must ever happen again. President Roosevelt’s dream had been to establish a “United Nations” (UN) organization, in which the peace-loving nations of the world would settle disputes and intervene to punish aggression, but it was Truman who saw it through.
Episode 5 – Urgent Summons
In July 1945, representatives of the victorious Allies met in the heart of Germany, in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam.
Episode 6 – 883 Killed
In July 1945, after the success of the Trinity Test, President Truman ordered that the new atomic bombs be ready for assembly and potential use as quickly as possible.
Episode 7 – A City Vanished
In the hours after Truman drops the bomb on Hiroshima, news reports begin to surface of “a city vanished.”
Episode 8 – Sign Surrender
With Japan’s defeat, World War II finally came to an end. The formal end of World War II took place in suitably dramatic fashion, with a surrender ceremony on board the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.
Episode 9 – The Pool of Armed Might
Allied victory had rescued humanity from a dark future, but for President Truman and his administration, the celebrations were short lived.
Kristen Burton, PhD
Kristen Burton, PhD is the Teacher Programs and Curriculum Specialist at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA. She received her PhD in Transatlantic History from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2015 and taught history courses at universities in Texas and Louisiana, as well as online. Burton currently authors curricular resources featuring the Museum’s extensive collection from the era of World War II. She also works with teachers across the United States through professional development workshops designed to support them in expanding their knowledge and pedagogical approaches to the history of World War II.
Gemma R. Birnbaum
Gemma Birnbaum holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in the History of Modern War and Genocide from New York University, and a Master’s Degree in the History of Twentieth Century Labor & Industrialization from Tulane University. Birnbaum has been with the Museum since 2010, and as the current Associate Vice President of the WWII Media and Education Center, she oversees media production, distance learning, K-16 and community engagement programs, and interpretation. She also serves as administrator of the Museum’s online Master’s Degree in World War II Studies with Arizona State University. Prior to The National WWII Museum, Birnbaum held education positions at Heifer International and the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, where she first got her start in museums.
Rob Citino, PhD
Robert Citino, PhD, is Executive Director of The National WWII Museum’s Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and the institution’s Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian. Citino is an award-winning military historian and scholar who has published 10 books including The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943, Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942, and The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years’ War to the Third Reich and numerous articles covering World War II and 20th century military history. He speaks widely and contributes regularly to general readership magazines such as World War II. Citino enjoys close ties with the US military, and taught one year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and two years at the U.S. Army War College. He currently teachers for the Museum’s online master’s degree program with Arizona State University.
Ed Lengel, PhD
Edward G. Lengel is the former Senior Director of Programs for The National WWII Museum’s Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and currently serves as Chief Historian of the National Medal of Honor Museum. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia, where he was a full professor and directed the Washington Papers Project for many years. He then served as Chief Historian of the White House Historical Association, and wrote the new history of Colonial Williamsburg as a “Revolutionary in Residence.” Also a professional author, speaker and battlefield tour guide, Lengel has written 14 books on American history, including To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 and Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion. Lengel is a co-recipient of the National Humanities Medal and has won two writing awards from the Army Historical Foundation. He has made frequent television and radio appearances on The History Channel, Fox News, SiriusXM, National Public Radio, and the World War I Centennial Commission’s weekly podcast.
Marcus Cox, PhD
Dr. Marcus Cox serves as Associate Dean, Graduate Programs and Summer School and Director of the Center for Continuing Studies and Distance Education in the College of Arts & Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. He earned an undergraduate degree in marketing and a master’s degree in history from Southern University and a master’s degree in business administration from The Citadel School of Business Administration. Dr. Cox received his doctorate degree in African American history from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Throughout his professional career, he has held leadership positions as Founding Director of the African American Studies, Assistant Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Associate Dean of The Citadel Graduate College with leadership responsibility of Evening Undergraduate Studies. He holds the distinction of being the first African American faculty member appointed to the position of Dean in the 172-year history of The Citadel Military College of South Carolina. Dr. Cox specializes in African American civil-military history, the Modern Civil Rights Movement, African American history, and U.S. history post-1945. He is the author of over a dozen articles and reviews on the history of African American military personnel, black higher education and military training programs at black colleges and universities. He is also the author of Segregated Soldiers: Military Training at Historically Black Colleges in the Jim Crow South.
Richard B. Frank
Richard B. Frank is an internationally renowned expert on the Pacific war. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he was commissioned in the US Army, in which he served for nearly four years, including a tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an aero rifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division. Frank completed studies at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. Soon afterwards he began research on his first book, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle, which was published in 1990 and won the US Marine Corps’ General Wallace M. Greene Award.
Seth Paridon served as a staff historian at The National WWII Museum since 2005, and digital content manager in the WWII Media and Education Center from 2017 until 2020. He began his career conducting oral histories and research for HBO’s miniseries The Pacific and holds the distinction of being the first historian hired by the Museum’s Research Department. In the 12 years he was Manager of Research Services, Paridon and his team increased the oral history collection from 25 to nearly 5,000 oral histories. He also served as the host of Service on Celluloid, the Museum's podcast dedicated to screen depictions of World War II, from 2018-2020. He is currently deputy director of the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby.
"To the Best of My Ability" is part of an ongoing series commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II made possible by The Nierenberg Family and Bank of America.