I visited the Normandy beaches in April and took this photo:
Theodore Roosevelt Jnr………”Roosevelt was instrumental in the forming of the American Legion in 1919. He later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–32), Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–33), Chairman of the Board of American Express Company, and Vice-President at Doubleday Books, and as a Brigadier General in the United States Army……To land on D-Day on he wrote to his division’s commanding General….
“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.“……(General) Barton approved this letter with much misgiving, stating that he did not expect Roosevelt to return alive.
Roosevelt was the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. At 56, he would be the oldest man in the invasion, and the only man to serve with his son on D-Day at Normandy (Captain Quentin Roosevelt II was among the first wave of soldiers to land at Omaha beach while his father commanded at Utah beach). He rode aboard on one of twenty Higgins boats in the first wave. His boat was the first to land. Roosevelt was one of the first soldiers, along with Captain Leonard T. Schroeder Jr. (the very first soldier ashore on D-Day), 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……When General Barton, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, came ashore later that day, he met Roosevelt not far from the beach. He later wrote that “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.”…..One GI later reported that seeing the general walking around, apparently unaffected by the enemy fire, even when clods of earth fell down on him, gave him the courage to get on with the job, saying if the general is like that it can’t be that bad…..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…….
The MoH citation (awarded posthumously)…..”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.“……
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 July 12, 1944, a little over one month after the landing at Utah Beach, he died suddenly of a heart attack near Sainte-Mère-Église in Normandy, France. He had spent part of the day in a long conversation with his son, Captain Quentin Roosevelt II, who had participated with him in the Normandy landing. He was stricken at about 10 pm and died, attended by medical help, at about midnight. He was fifty-six years old. On the day of his death he had been selected by General Omar Bradley for promotion to major general and orders had been cut placing him in command of the 90th Infantry Division. These recommendations were sent to General Dwight D. Eisenhower for approval, but when Eisenhower called the next morning to approve them, he was told that Roosevelt had died during the night.
When asked what the bravest act he had ever seen was, Omar Bradley responded with, “Ted Roosevelt on UTAH Beach.” –
If you’ve ever seen The Longest Day, TR Jnr’s played by Henry Fonda.
He is buried next to his brother who had died in WWI and is the only WWI casualty in the American cemetery at Normandy.