The name, Roosevelt, has often paralleled the term, magic, in American history.
When one thinks of a Roosevelt, the names of Teddy Sr., Franklin D. or Eleanor might bounce into our crowded minds.
What about the name, Teddy Roosevelt Jr. (1887-1944)? Well, he’s worth some lines of copy because this individual definitely made his mark in the history of this nation. Ted’s father was the 26th U.S. President, serving from 1901-1909.
Earlier this month, our nation noted the 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. It was on this date that the United States and its Allies invaded Europe in the Normandy area of France. This invasion led Nazi Germany to accept unconditional surrender terms 11 months later in May, 1945.
Teddy Roosevelt Jr. had a major part in the success of this battle. What do we know about this “Junior Roosevelt”? His friends called him Ted. World War II was the second major war for this individual to take an active part. He was wounded in World War I, suffering wounds to his legs from German machine gun fire.
The younger Teddy was born in New York on September 13, 1887. He was one of six children (four sons and two daughters) born to Teddy and Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt. One of his brothers, Quentin, was killed in World War I. Another brother, Kermit, took his life in World War II, while stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska in 1943. He was in the Army Air Corps.
Ted and his wife, the former Eleanor Alexander Roosevelt (1888-1960), had three children – Theodore III, Quentin II and Cornelius.
Prior to World War II, Ted served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico and later as Governor-General of the Philippines.
As D-Day approached in World War II, it took some “tall talking” from Brigadier General Roosevelt to gain permission to go ashore in Normandy with the first wave of troops. His health was not super, suffering from arthritis and heart problems.
Another problem for Ted was a dispute with Gen. George Patton, who disagreed with Roosevelt’s mode of dress in the field. Patton adhered to a “spit and polish” dress attire – even on the battle field. Roosevelt’s commanding general with the Fourth Infantry Division, finally relented to Roosevelt taking part in the Normandy invasion on June 6. General Roosevelt also made a plea to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a distant cousin, who gave his OK.
Ted used a walking cane to go ashore at Utah beach on June 6. After getting ashore and experiencing more German resistance than expected, General Roosevelt changed the plan of attack. This change was effective and the American troops were able to dislodge the German and begin to push inland.
A month later, General Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor and recommended for promotion to major general. The commendation and promotion came too late.
When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) phoned to give Ted the good news, General Eisenhower was advised Roosevelt had died the previous day, July 12, 1944, from a heart attack. Ted was buried beside his brother, Quentin, in the U.S. Cemetery at Colleville sur-Mer in Normandy.
If you remember the movie, “The Longest Day,” which was centered around events of D-Day, you might recall the late Henry Fonda played the part of Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
My son, Dr. Brad Chilton, gave me the idea for this column.
As the late Paul Harvey used to say on his radio news show – “… and now you know the rest of the story.”
’TIL NEXT TIME – “Every minute I am angry, I lose 60 seconds of happiness.” – Anonymous.
Dr. Stuart Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville.