Sons' Involvement in World War II

 

Theodore Roosevelt’s four sons inherited their father’s burning desire to serve in uniform when duty called.  Given their father’s heroics during his own crowded hour, it would have been nearly impossible for TR’s sons not to test themselves in the crucible of battle. 

Quentin, the youngest son, was killed during aerial combat near Chaméry, France, on July 14, 1918.  Had he survived the first world war, Quentin would have surely followed his three older brothers’ example of volunteering for military service in both world wars. 

Ted, the oldest son, petitioned General George Marshall to post him to active duty in early 1941. At age 54, Colonel Ted Roosevelt was given command of his old unit, the 26th Infantry of the First Division. By early 1942 he had been promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Eleanor, who had accompanied her husband to France during the previous war, assisted with Red Cross efforts in Great Britain during the conflict.

After participating in combat operations in North Africa, Ted participated in the Allied landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944. General Roosevelt, whose leadership played a key role in the successful Allied landing at Utah Beach, earned the Medal of Honor (an honor his father would later receive posthumously). Ted’s son, Quentin II, also participated in the Allied landing at Normandy, making Ted and Quentin II the only father and son team to participate in the assault. At 57, Ted was the oldest soldier to land at Normandy. Ted, who also played a key role in the siege of Cherbourg, suffered a fatal heart attack a few weeks later on July 11, 1944. He was buried in the American cemetery in Sainte-Laurent-sur-Mer, near Normandy. Quentin's remains were reinterred next to his older brother the following year.

In 1942, Archie, the youngest of the surviving brothers, asked FDR for a military commission. During World War II Lieutenant Colonel Archie Roosevelt commanded a battalion of the 162nd Infantry, 41st Division in New Guinea through 1943 and into early 1944. Archie, a highly decorated war hero for the second time, received the Silver Star with Bronze Oak Leaf Custer. 

Before American forces joined the fight, Kermit, a decorated World War I veteran, informed FDR of his intentions to assist British forces during their time of need. With the help of an old family friend, Winston Churchill, Kermit secured a commission as a Major in the Middlesex Regiment. After assisting Finnish refugees and participating in an ill-fated 1940 Norwegian expedition, Kermit was deployed to Egypt where he remained until his excessive drinking and failing health led to his military discharge in the spring of 1941. 

Following Kermit’s return to the United States, Archie encouraged his troubled brother to seek treatment. Both Archie and Belle, Kermit’s wife, hoping that military service would aid in Kermit’s recovery, lobbied FDR to find a place for Kermit. After refusing a stateside post as an information officer, Major Kermit Roosevelt accepted an assignment to Fort Richardson, Alaska, where he helped organize a territorial militia to fight Japanese forces in the Aleutian Islands. Kermit, whose health continued to fail, returned to the United States on medical leave in early 1943. After discovering that Kermit was traveling the country with his mistress, Belle requested that he be returned to active duty at once. Physically unfit for duty and unable to control his drinking, a despondent Kermit committed suicide on June 4, 1943. Following family tradition, he was buried “where he fell,” at Fort Richardson.

All of Theodore Roosevelt’s four sons answered the call to military service. Sadly, three of them – Ted, Quentin, and Kermit – died as a result of their service. The only surviving son, Archie, a highly decorated combat veteran, sustained serious injuries in both world wars. Interestingly, Archie Roosevelt was the only United States soldier to receive 100 percent disability as a result of wounds sustained in each of the world wars.