George McKee Elsey quietly witnessed and participated in the making of American history as an aide to two presidents. Now 88, he has told his story in An Unplanned Life. Elsey writes about working in war and peace under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Elsey started out as a young U.S. Naval Reserve officer working for Roosevelt in the Map Room — the White House communications and intelligence operation. He handled Roosevelt's cabled exchanges with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek. When Truman took office, Elsey ended up decoding and delivering the report to the president that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan.
Elsey was more than just a go-between. He briefed and advised the men he served. Eventually he became a trusted civilian aide to President Truman.
After his long and eventful career in government was over, Elsey went on to serve as president of the American Red Cross.
As another intstallment of The Long View series of conversations, Steve Inskeep talks with Elsey about the the life he's lived, and the lessons he's learned.