Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Selfless Service: D-Day

 

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was the first American general to wade ashore at Normandy, cane in one hand, pistol in the other. The eldest son of President Teddy Roosevelt, he was 56 in 1944. He had crippling arthritis and heart disease. But, he used all his political pull to get back in uniform, after Pearl Harbor, and back to the front lines. So it was that he landed on the beaches of Normandy.

He was in the first wave, saw they were a mile off course, and started marching up and down the beach barking useful orders. Men got moving inland off the beach and the Navy and Army brass were informed of the glitch, so they could adjust execution of the plan. For this action, Brigadier General Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor—posthumously. He died of heart disease a few weeks and a number of miles after the beaches. Consider that he had already “done his duty” in World War I, and that his son was also on the beach, a son named after another Roosevelt brother who had died as an aviator over France in the Great War. With all that in mind, consider this:

For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.

There are 16 comments.

  1. Brian Wolf Coolidge

    Wow!

    • #1
    • June 6, 2018, at 8:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. tigerlily Member

    Thanks for the post. Here’s a pic of General Roosevelt in his “Rough Rider” jeep.

     

    • #2
    • June 6, 2018, at 9:03 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. MarciN Member

    What a great man. Thank you for telling this story.

    The Roosevelts are an interesting family. I watched a Ken Burns documentary series on the family starting with Teddy Roosevelt. I grew up in a staunch Republican New England family, so I was prepared to not like FDR. But I ended up finding much to like. Especially seeing original footage of the physical therapy hospital compound he built, the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, for polio patients. He would get in the pool with the patients and encourage them and laugh with them. The patients responded to his big smile.

    He did some things that weren’t great, but I think he was a good-hearted person. His desire to help people, as misguided as it often was, was sincere. At least it seemed so to me.

    I know also from the documentary how torn up Teddy Roosevelt was about the loss of his son. It was a terrible time for him.

    • #3
    • June 6, 2018, at 9:06 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. EJHill Podcaster

    While Roosevelt was landing at Utah his son Quentin Roosevelt II was landing at Omaha. Quentin was named after Ted’s youngest brother who was one of the nation’s first fighter pilots.

    Quentin I was killed in action on Bastille Day in 1918. Impressed that the son of a former President would fight the Germans buried him with full military honors. (The cross which marked his grave was fashioned out of wood and is now in the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH) His body would be exhumed twice and reburied, first at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer and then next to his older brother Ted, Jr in Normandy.

    Quentin II survived the war and went on to serve as the Director of the China National Aviation Corporation. His C-54 crashed into a mountain on Basalt Island in December of 1948. None of the 35 aboard survived or were their bodies recovered. The younger Roosevelt was only 29.

    • #4
    • June 6, 2018, at 9:17 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. Henry Castaigne Member

    As George Washington said, where do we find such men?

    • #5
    • June 6, 2018, at 10:00 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Ontheleftcoast Inactive

    His older half sister Alice was something between a force of nature and a piece of work.

    What a family.

    • #6
    • June 6, 2018, at 10:47 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    His older half sister Alice was something between a force of nature and a piece of work.

    What a family.

    Roosevelt’s six children took up the cause and served where and how they could. Ted and Archie left for France on June 20, 1917, where Ted took command of the First Battalion of the 26th Infantry, 1st Division, with his younger brother under his command. The next month, Quentin, the youngest sibling, went over with the 95th aero squadron. Ethel and her husband Dick Derby went to Europe with the Red Cross, the organization to which they devoted their entire lives. Alice, wife to Nick Longworth, remained in Washington, DC to bear her considerable influence on politics at home and pass information to her father. Of Kermit, posted with the British Army in the Middle East, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “the boy shall have the chance to serve, and if necessary be killed in the serving.” The same sentiment could apply for the rest of the family as well, for these qualities of valor and honor appealed to the Roosevelts, and had been driven into the children their entire lives.

    • #7
    • June 7, 2018, at 1:55 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. Ontheleftcoast Inactive

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    His older half sister Alice was something between a force of nature and a piece of work.

    What a family.

    Roosevelt’s six children took up the cause and served where and how they could. Ted and Archie left for France on June 20, 1917, where Ted took command of the First Battalion of the 26th Infantry, 1st Division, with his younger brother under his command. The next month, Quentin, the youngest sibling, went over with the 95th aero squadron. Ethel and her husband Dick Derby went to Europe with the Red Cross, the organization to which they devoted their entire lives. Alice, wife to Nick Longworth, remained in Washington, DC to bear her considerable influence on politics at home and pass information to her father. Of Kermit, posted with the British Army in the Middle East, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “the boy shall have the chance to serve, and if necessary be killed in the serving.” The same sentiment could apply for the rest of the family as well, for these qualities of valor and honor appealed to the Roosevelts, and had been driven into the children their entire lives.

    With her willingness to take risks, her [expletive] your eyes attitude and what looks like a lot like a killer instinct, Alice would probably have made as good a fighter pilot as Quentin, though she probably wasn’t strong enough physically. In WWII, FDR’s son James showed that he was also from that mold.

     

    • #8
    • June 7, 2018, at 6:03 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    He wasn’t the only famous named American general officer to die during the World War II years.

    Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest III died June 13, 1943. (Great-grandson of the Confederate lieutenant general)

    Major General Stonewall Jackson died October 13, 1943. (No known relation)

    General Simon Bolivar Buckner II died June 18, 1945. (Son of the Confederate lieutenant general)

    Admiral John Sidney McCain I died September 6, 1945.

    Lieutenant General Frank Maxwell Andrews died May 3, 1943. (name for Andrews Air Force Base)

    Major General Robert Olds died April 28, 1943. (His son was a brigadier general and ace fighter pilot)

    Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was the first American general to wade ashore at Normandy

    However, Brigadier General Don Forrester Pratt, assistant division commander of the 101st Airborne Division, was the first killed on D-Day after his glider took on enemy fire and crashed.

    • #9
    • June 7, 2018, at 6:35 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. danok1 Member

    Teddy Sr. received the Medal of Honor in 2001 for actions at the San Juan Hill. Wonder if any other father and son have received the Medal of Honor?

    • #10
    • June 7, 2018, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Hang On Member

    danok1 (View Comment):
    Teddy Sr. received the Medal of Honor in 2001 for actions at the San Juan Hill. Wonder if any other father and son have received the Medal of Honor?

    Arthur MacArthur Jr. and Douglas MacArthur. Googled it.

    • #11
    • June 7, 2018, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Petty Boozswha Member

    Not to be a pendant, but the Rough Rider, Teddy the President was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., His son was the III and as a young man I worked with Theodore Roosevelt IV at Lehman Brothers.

    • #12
    • June 7, 2018, at 1:46 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. Pugshot Member

    At the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, as everyone probably knows from photographs, all of the crosses marking the graves are in line with each other. You can change your position to look at them from a different angle, and fanning out in every direction they’re still in line–with one exception. Quentin Roosevelt’s cross is next to his brother Ted’s, but it is slightly, but noticeably, out of line with all the other crosses. This is because he was killed in WWI, not in WWII at Normandy like all the others buried there. I was there in 1990; it’s quite moving when you know the story.

    • #13
    • June 7, 2018, at 3:55 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Mountie Member

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    His older half sister Alice was something between a force of nature and a piece of work.

    What a family.

    When asked by a Ku Klux Klansman in full regalia to take his word for something, Alice refused, saying, “I never trust a man under sheets.”

    • #14
    • June 8, 2018, at 5:08 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Mountie Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Teddy Sr. received the Medal of Honor in 2001 for actions at the San Juan Hill. Wonder if any other father and son have received the Medal of Honor?

    General Douglas McArther and his father General Arther McArther

     

    • #15
    • June 8, 2018, at 5:11 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Mountie (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    His older half sister Alice was something between a force of nature and a piece of work.

    What a family.

    When asked by a Ku Klux Klansman in full regalia to take his word for something, Alice refused, saying, “I never trust a man under sheets.”

    <Snorts whiskey out nose>

    • #16
    • June 8, 2018, at 5:51 PM PDT
    • 1 like