Profile - Teddy’s Offspring at War
No President ever sent more children into uniform than Theodore Roosevelt -- five of his six children served in wartime, three of whom died while in military service, and the tradition continued among his later descendants.
The president’s eldest son, Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt (1887-1944), was a “Plattsburgh Plan” volunteer on the eve of World War I, and served in the war as commander of the 26th Infantry Regiment. He led the first American trench raid, and was later wounded in action. Returning to civilian life after the war, Ted remained in the Army Reserve. Between the wars he became very active in politics, and attempted a run for president in the mid-1920s. He served for a time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and was governor of Puerto Rico and later of the Philippines. Activated for World War II, he for a time again commanded the 26th Infantry, but was soon appointed deputy commander of the 1st Infantry Division. Ted Roosevelt served with the division in the North African and Sicilian Campaigns in 1942-1943. The division commander, Maj. Gen. Terry de la Mesa Allen, and Roosevelt, by then a brigadier general, were well-matched. Both were aggressive, fearless, unconventional, and intensely devoted to their troops. And both loved combat, being often at the front in the midst of the fighting, during which Roosevelt was again wounded. Although the division was enormously effective in combat, both Allen and Roosevelt neglected administrative duties in order to go off and fight. As a result, both generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley requested they be relieved. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in overall command, approved the relief, but insisted it be without prejudice, so that both men later returned to combat. On leaving the division, Roosevelt wrote a farewell message to his troops,
I do not have to tell you what I think of you, for you know. You will always be in my heart. I have been ordered away. It is a great grief to me, and my hope is that sometime I may return, for it is with you that I feel I belong. . . . May luck go with your battle-worn colors as glory always has.
Ted was soon assigned as liaison officer with the French Expeditionary Corps in Italy, and was then sent to serve as deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Division, in England preparing for the liberation of northwestern Europe. Although ill and overage for combat, Roosevelt took part in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944; he was the oldest man to land on the beaches that day. His performance on Utah Beach was outstanding. When told that his men were landing on the wrong part of the beach, he signaled the troop ships to land the follow-up waves anyway, saying, "We will start the war from here." Thereafter he led his troops inland, cane in hand, and personally conducted reconaissances, sometimes engaging the enemy. Roosevelt died of exhaustion and heart failure about two weeks later. At the time of his death he was unaware that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his performance on D-Day, and had been nominated for promotion to major general and command of the 90th Infantry Division. During his military career Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., earned every American decoration for ground combat, and was twice awarded the Croix de guerre. Gen. George S. Patton said of him, “He was one of the bravest men that I ever knew.” He is buried at the Colleville-sur-Mer cemetery in Normandy.
Ted’s wife, Eleanor Alexander (1888-1960), served with a volunteer ambulance corps in France during World War I. After the war, she was a co-founder of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Club in New York (now the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Airmen’s, and Coastguardsmen’s Club). During World War II, she ran a canteen for American soldiers in London. Their son Quentin (1919–1948) served in World War II as an artillery officer with the 1st Infantry Division in North Africa, where he was wounded, on D-Day, and in the campaign across northwestern Europe. Two other sons, Cornelius (1915-1991) and Theodore Roosevelt III (1914-2001),, served in naval aviation during World War II. T.R. III’s son, T.R. IV (b. 1942), served as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War.
The president’s second son, Kermit (1889-1943), joined the British Army in 1915, serving in the Middle East. In 1917 he transferred to the U.S. Army, rising to major before being discharged in 1919. Between the wars Kermit was involved in various business ventures. In the mid-1930s he was part of an unofficial international intelligence network established by his distant cousin President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When World War II broke out in Europe in 1939, Kermit again joined the British Army, serving in Norway, where he earned the Military Cross, and in North Africa. He transferred to the U.S. Army after Pearl Harbor. Given an administrative assignments, he committed suicide in Alaska in 1943. Both of Kermit’s sons served in World War II; Kermit, Jr. (1916-2000), was with the Office of Strategic Services, which conducted espionage and sabotage missions behind enemy lines, and later became an important official in the C.I.A., and Joseph (1918-2008), was a naval officer; and later a noted pianist and composer.
The president’s younger daughter Ethel (1891-977) served as an army nurse in France for a time during World War I, in which her husband, Lt. Col. Richard Derby, served as surgeon in the 2nd Division.
The president’s third son, Archibald (1894-1979), was wounded while serving as a captain in the army during World War I, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre by France. He was recalled to duty for WW II. Reportedly the oldest American infantry battalion commander to see combat in the war, Archibald earned a Silver Star in New Guinea. On Biak in 1944 he was again wounded, in the same leg and arm that had been hit in World War I. These wounds proved so disabling that he had to be discharged. Archibald’s son, Archibald Bullock (1918-1990), served as an Army intelligence officer in North Africa during World War II, and was later with the C.I.A..
Quentin (1897-1918) , the president’s youngest son, was killed in air combat over France at the age of 18 on July 14, 1918. His grave quickly became a shrine for young Doughboys. He is today buried to the right of his elder brother Ted in the American Military Cemetery overlooking the Normandy beaches.