Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt Jr. was born in Oyster Bay, N.Y., in 1887. After graduating high school, Roosevelt attended Harvard College and worked as a branch manager at an investment bank.
The Great War
In 1914, Roosevelt began the junior officer summer program in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Roosevelt commissioned into the Army as a major when the United States entered World War I in April 1917.
Roosevelt was one of the first U.S. soldiers deployed to France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces. In Europe, Roosevelt’s regiment fought in several major battles including the Battle of Cantigny and the Battle of Soissons.
For actions, he was awarded several medals and commendations, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Chevalier Légion d’Honneur. After returning to the US, Roosevelt became the governor of Puerto Rico and later governor-general of the Philippines.
World War II
Throughout the interwar years, Roosevelt continued military training each summer. By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he had graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and was eligible for a senior commission.
When the US entered World War II in 1941, Roosevelt returned to active duty to command the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
After promotion to brigadier general, Roosevelt led the 26th Infantry Regiment in the attack on Oran, Algeria. His contempt for personal danger and unorthodox tactics made him popular amongst his troops but often brought him in conflict with high command. General Patton recorded his disdain for Roosevelt’s unorthodox behavior in his personal journal. Nevertheless, Roosevelt proved to be a competent general and was assigned as assistant commander of the 1st Infantry Division during the Allied invasion of Sicily.
In February 1944, he was reassigned to England in preparation for the D-Day invasions of France. Understanding the difficulties many of the young American soldiers would be facing during the landings and hoping to use his rank and seniority to inspire confidence, Roosevelt requested that he be deployed along with the first landing wave. Despite protests from high command, his request was granted.
At 56 years old, Roosevelt was the oldest man deployed in the landings. Commanding the 8th Infantry Regiment and the 70th Tank Battalion, he was one of the first to land on Utah Beach. Armed only with a pistol and his walking cane, he carried out reconnaissance and began directing his forces under heavy enemy fire. After the war, many of the men under his command recalled his calm and humorous demeanor as having inspired them to push forward.
On July 12, 1944, one month after the D-Day Landings, Ted died from a heart attack. In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, four Silver Stars, and the Purple Heart. Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of his actions on D-Day.
We honor his service.
Editor: Michelle Cannon
Fact Checker: Leah Comins
Graphics: Kimber Garland