Hero of D-Day Invasion: Teddy Roosevelt, Jr.

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File:Theodore Roosevelt and family, 1903.jpg

Future US Army’s Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt Jr., eldest son of 26th US president Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, standing behind his father.

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File:Ted Cane France.jpg

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US Army’s Brigadier General  Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. son of American President Theodore Roosevelt, taken in France shortly after his landing at Utah Beach for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor US Gov Photo – Public Domain http://2rct.valka.cz/jednotky/4ID/02.jpg

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World War II Normandy Invasion

 

D-Day

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In February 1944, Roosevelt was assigned to England to help lead the Normandy invasion. He was assigned to the staff of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. After several verbal requests to the division’s commanding officer, Maj. General “Tubby” Barton, were denied, Roosevelt sent a written petition:

The force and skill with which the first elements hit the beach and proceed may determine the ultimate success of the operation…. With troops engaged for the first time, the behavior pattern of all is apt to be set by those first engagements. [It is] considered that accurate information of the existing situation should be available for each succeeding element as it lands. You should have when you get to shore an overall picture in which you can place confidence. I believe I can contribute materially on all of the above by going in with the assault companies. Furthermore I personally know both officers and men of these advance units and believe that it will steady them to know that I am with them.[11]

Barton approved this letter with much misgiving, stating that he did not expect Roosevelt to return alive.

>> Roosevelt would be the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops.

 He was one of the first soldiers, along with Capt. Leonard T. Schroeder Jr., 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.

Roosevelt was soon informed that the landing craft had drifted more than a mile south of their objective, and the first wave was a mile off course. Walking with the aid of a cane and carrying a pistol, he personally made a reconnaissance of the area immediately to the rear of the beach to locate the causeways that were to be used for the advance inland. He then returned to the point of landing and contacted the commanders of the two battalions, Lt. Cols. Conrad C. Simmons and Carlton O. MacNeely, and coordinated the attack on the enemy positions confronting them.

Roosevelt’s famous words in these circumstances were, “We’ll start the war from right here!” These impromptu plans worked with complete success and little confusion. With artillery landing close by, each follow-on regiment was personally welcomed on the beach by a cool, calm, and collected Roosevelt, who inspired all with humor and confidence, reciting poetry and telling anecdotes of his father to steady the nerves of his men. Ted pointed almost every regiment to its changed objective. Sometimes he worked under fire as a self-appointed traffic cop, untangling traffic jams of trucks and tanks all struggling to get inland and off the beach.

When General Barton, the CG of the 4th Division, came ashore, he met Roosevelt not far from the beach. He later wrote that

while I was mentally framing [orders], Ted Roosevelt came up. He had landed with the first wave, had put my troops across the beach, and had a perfect picture (just as Roosevelt had earlier promised if allowed to go ashore with the first wave) of the entire situation. I loved Ted. When I finally agreed to his landing with the first wave, I felt sure he would be killed. When I had bade him goodbye, I never expected to see him alive. You can imagine then the emotion with which I greeted him when he came out to meet me [near La Grande Dune]. He was bursting with information.[12]

With his division’s original plan modified on the beach, the division was able to achieve its mission objectives by simply coming ashore and attacking north behind the beach toward its original objective. Years later, General Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat, and he replied, “Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach.” Originally recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross by General Barton, the award was upgraded at higher headquarters to the Medal of Honor which Roosevelt was posthumously awarded on 28 September 1944.[13]

Roosevelt’s actions on D-Day are portrayed in The Longest Day, a 1962 film in which he was played by actor Henry Fonda. The movie is based on the book of the same name, published in 1959 by Cornelius Ryan.

[edit] Death

Throughout World War II, Roosevelt suffered from health problems. He had arthritis, mostly from old World War I injuries, and walked with a cane. He also had heart trouble. On 12 July 1944, one month after the landing at Utah Beach, he died of a heart attack in France. He was fifty six years of age. He is buried at the American cemetery in Normandy next to his brother, Lt. Quentin Roosevelt. (Quentin had been killed in France during World War I and buried at Chamery, but was exhumed and moved to the Normandy Cemetery.) When Ted Roosevelt died, he had already been selected by General Dwight D. Eisenhower for promotion to Major General and orders had been cut placing him in command of the 90th Infantry Division.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.’s grave marker at the American World War II cemetery in Normandy. He lies buried next to his brother, Quentin, who was killed during World War I.

[edit] Medal of Honor citation

His Medal of Honor citation reads:

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.[14]

Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., are one of only two sets of fathers and sons to have been awarded the Medal of Honor. The other set is Arthur and Douglas MacArthur.

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File:TR San Juan Hill 1898.jpg

Colonel Roosevelt wears glasses and standing in the center.

Colonel Roosevelt (future US president) and the Rough Riders after capturing San Juan Hill, Cuba in the American-Spanish war.

Rough Riders is nickname of the 1st volunteers cavalry regiment of the US Army, of which Colonel Roosevelt was its commander.

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Original title: “Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan Hill.” US Army victors on Kettle Hill about July 3, 1898 after the battle of “San Juan Hill(s).” Left to right is 3rd US Cavalry, 1st Volunteer Cavalry (Col. Theodore Roosevelt center) and 10th US Cavalry. A second similar picture is often shown cropping out all but the 1st Vol Cav and TR. (pictured above to the left)

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