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Rare Film Shows FDR In A Wheelchair

9:38 AM, Jul 10, 2013   |    comments
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This image from an eight-second film clip provided by the National Archives shows President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, third from right, being pushed in a wheelchair aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore in Pearl Harbor in July 1944.(Photo: Associated Press)

(USA TODAY) -- A new discovery amounts to only eight seconds of old film, but it reflects a unique image: President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a wheelchair.

FDR and aides went out of their way to hide evidence of his paralysis, but the brief film found by an Indiana journalism professor shows him being pushed in a wheelchair during a visit to a ship at Pearl Harbor in July of 1944.

The wheelchair is not seen because it is screened by a line of sailors (perhaps intentionally). But FDR's hat-covered head is at a much lower level than those of others at the scene, and the president is seen gliding past his honor guard.

From the Associated Press:

"Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College south of Indianapolis, said Tuesday he found the eight-second clip while doing unrelated research in the National Archives in College Park, Md. The National Archives and the FDR Presidential Museum and Library couldn't say for certain if other such footage exists, but both said it is at least rare.

"Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921 at age 39 and was unable to walk without leg braces or assistance. During his four terms as president, Roosevelt often used a wheelchair in private, but not for public appearances. News photographers cooperated in concealing Roosevelt's disability, and those who did not found their camera views blocked by Secret Service agents, according to the FDR Presidential Museum and Library's website.

"'This raw film clip may be the first motion picture images of the president in his wheelchair, and it was never meant to be shown to the world,' Begovich said."

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