Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., on D-Day: "We'll start the war from right here."

Jun 8, 2005 (Updated Jun 9, 2007)
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Pros:The story of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., a president's son who received the Medal of Honor.


The Bottom Line: Fascinating, inspiring story of the life of General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who won the Medal of Honor on D-Day and who was the son of a U.S. president.

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was 57-years-old on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he landed in Normandy with the 4th U. S. Infantry Division. He suffered from arthritis, walked with the aide of a cane, had a fibrillating heart and suffered from poor eyesight.

His troops were coming ashore before their tanks landed on Utah Beach, the opposite of the "tanks first, then troops" plan. They were a mile up the beach from where they were supposed to have landed. The men were under fire and taking cover. The advance was stalled.

Along came the man walking upright with a cane. The one-star general armed only with a pistol, waving the cane in the air to encourage his troops as bullets whistled past his head.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., came upon his officers in a foxhole where they were trying to decide on whether to withdraw and land where they had been intended to land a mile down the beach, or to stay put and await orders from the Allied high command. They asked Roosevelt what they should do.

Without a second thought, Roosevelt stood there with bullets flying past and told his men to advance. "We'll start the war from right here," he told them, and he moved forward.

Like something out of a Hollywood screenplay, the sight of Roosevelt walking with his cane up the beach inspired weak hearts and his command rose from cover to follow him. The moment was later recreated in a Hollywood movie, "The Longest Day," with actor Henry Fonda portraying Roosevelt.

The 4th Infantry Division broke through the German lines while other Allied forces became bogged down. For his actions that day, Roosevelt would receive the Medal Of Honor posthumously, for he had died of a heart attack on July 12, 1944, after his men had liberated the French port of Cherbourg.

Asked what had made D-Day a success for the Allies, General Omar Bradley said, "Ted Roosevelt - Utah Beach." General George Patton seconded the thought, calling Roosevelt "the bravest soldier I ever knew."

Author H. Paul Jeffers tells the story of an inspiring man's life intelligently in his well-researched "Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.: The Life Of A War Hero," amazingly the first biography ever written about the general.

Roosevelt also led a fascinating life before World War II, as detailed by Jeffers.

The subject:

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was one of Republican President "Teddy" Roosevelt's four sons, all of whom fought in World War I in France (one son Quentin, a pilot, was killed during that war). Their cousin was Franklin Roosevelt, who later became a U. S. president himself.

Following in President Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.'s footsteps couldn't have been easy, but "Jr.," who preferred to be called Ted or Teddy, led a fascinating life as detailed here by author Jeffers.

The younger Roosevelt graduated from Harvard with a bachelor of arts degree and, shunning the family's money and influence, decided to make his fortune on his own. Roosevelt's first job after graduation was working in a carpet factory 55 hours a week for $7 a week in pay.

Eventually Roosevelt's resume would include the following: a highly successful investment banker, the youngest regimental commander in World War I (who survived being gassed and shot by the Germans), a New York assemblyman, governor of Puerto Rico, governor general of the Philippines and vice-president of Doubleday publishing. He somehow found time to author eight books and numerous articles as well.

He married a woman named Eleanor (not to be confused with Franklin Roosevelt's wife of the same name) in 1910 and had four children with her. One of his children, Quentin II, served with the 1st Infantry Division and also landed in Normandy on D-Day (making them the only American father and son to land on the beaches that day).

Eight months before the U. S. entered World War II, he petitioned the Pentagon for a return to active duty and they honored his request. When the war broke out, Roosevelt became a brigadier general who led his forces to victory in Africa and Italy before his actions on D-Day.

How is such a man made? What makes him tick? Who the hell was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.? I was only vaguely aware of him prior to reading this book.

H. Paul Jeffers answers those questions and more in "Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.: The Life Of A war Hero." He does so with an exciting narrative style that brings this complicated man, and his family, to life.

Jeffers book includes an in-depth look at the Roosevelt family tree (Ted's relatives included Pilgrims on the Mayflower and a member of the First Continental Congress), both before the birth of the general and after his death to create a complete portrait of the family that helped mold more than one American hero.

The book:

"Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.: The Life Of A War Hero" is an easy to read, insightful 282-plus paged hardcover. It was published in 2002 by The Presidio Press ( and includes 14 pages of photos.

The book contains an index but no footnotes. Jeffers decided against using footnotes because President Teddy Roosevelt once wrote one his biographers to tell them he hated footnotes because they "distract from the narrative."

The author:

H. Paul Jeffers, a former broadcast journalist, has more than 50 books to his credit, including "Ace Of Aces: The Life Of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker," "Colonel Roosevelt: Theodore Roosevelt Goes To War, 1897-1898" and "An Honest President: The Life And Presidencies Of Grover Cleveland."


"Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.: The Life Of A War Hero" by H. Paul Jeffers is a colorful, exciting read. Jeffers presents an overview of a man's life that many biographers would fail to present.

The book is worth adding to the library of any history buff. It's a tale of courage, of family and of love of life that is appropriate for all ages (no gory details of battle, for instance).

Roosevelt's men may have landed on the wrong beach on D-Day, but Roosevelt was the right man in the right place at the right time. His story is an inspiration and this book, amazingly the first biography written about Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., is highly recommended as a truly inspiring tale of a great man.

Trivia note: President Theodore Roosevelt Sr.'s great-great-grandson, Kermit Roosevelt, is a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and recently published his first novel, "In The Shadow Of The Law."

On the web:

A page devoted to Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., from the Almanac Of TR website: (note the photo of the general standing in his jeep with its "Rough Rider" sign and a bullet hole in the window)

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.'s home, Old Orchard, is a part of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site:

A bio of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., in the online Dictionary of Military Figures:,_Jr..html

An online study "Medal of Honor Recipients on Film" includes a page for Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (played by Henry Fonda in "The Longest Day"):

Photos of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.'s gravesite at Normandy:

A bio of President Roosevelt from the official White House website:

The National D-Day Memorial in Lynchburg, Virginia:

The National D-Day Museum in New Orleans:

Books about others awarded the Medal of Honor:

Baa Baa Black Sheep by Greg Boyington, the story of the legendary leader of "The Black Sheep Squadron" of World War II and TV series fame, a Sioux Indian who was awarded the Medal of Honor:

Tom Custer: Ride To Glory by Carl F. Day, the story of a U. S. Army officer, the brother of the more famous General George Armstrong Custer, who was awarded the Medal of Honor twice during the Civil War:

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