Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. in France
In memory of Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Normandy June 6, 1944.
Citation: “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 .”
General Roosevelt was 57 years old. After serving in first world war he had been instrumental in forming the American Legion in 1919. He later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico, Governor General of the Philippines, a Vice-President of Doubleday Books and Chairman of American Express. During the second war he served as a Brigadier General.
No one, but no one expected this 57 year old eldest son of a President, with a cane and a bad heart, to hit the beach on D-Day. He insisted that he accompany his troops. And he insisted in writing. After being turned down twice his request was approved the third time. Major General “Tubby” Barton approved the request with grave misgivings; he did not expect to see T.R. Jr. alive again and bid him farewell. Instead Teddy met General Barton on the beach when he came ashore.
Roosevelt would be the only General on D-Day to land with the first wave. He was the first soldier off his landing craft as he led the U.S. 4th Infantry Division’s 8th Infantry Regiment and 70th Tank Battalion landing at Utah Beach. Omar Bradley later said seeing T. R. Jr. directing men on the beach was the bravest thing he ever saw.
At the same time, his son Quentin Roosevelt II was landing with the First Division on Omaha Beach; the only father and son at Normandy.
His men loved him. General Patton not so much; he didn’t think TR was spit and polish enough.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. died of a heart attack near St. Mere-Eglise on the evening July 12, 1944. He was spending the night in an abandoned German truck with his men.
He is buried with his men at the American Cemetery at Normandy, next to his brother Quentin Roosevelt who died in air combat in the Great War.
Think about a time when the sons and grandsons of Presidents led the way.
We will never see their like again.