Theodore D. "Teddy" Roosevelt, Jr. (September 13, 1887 – July 12, 1944), was an American political and business leader, a Medal of Honor recipient who fought in both of the 20th century's world wars. He was the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt from his second wife Edith Roosevelt. Roosevelt was instrumental in the forming of the American Legion in 1919. He later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–32), Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–33), Chairman of the Board of American Express Company, and Vice-President at Doubleday Books, and as a Brigadier General in the United States Army.
"Teddy" (as he was, in childhood, universally known) was the son of President Theodore Roosevelt. He was born at the family estate in Oyster Bay Cove, New York, when his father was just starting his political career. His siblings were brothers Kermit, Archibald (nicknamed "Archie"), and Quentin; sister Ethel; and half-sister Alice.
Like all the Roosevelt children, Ted was tremendously influenced by his father. In later life, Ted would record some of these childhood recollections in a series of newspaper articles written around the time of World War I.
Unlike his little brother Quentin, who, like his father, was naturally gifted intellectually and sailed through Harvard, studies did not come easy for Ted. He persisted however and graduated from Harvard University in 1909 after attending Groton School where he became, like his father, a member of the Porcellian Club. After graduating from college, he entered the business world. He took positions in the steel business and carpet business before becoming the branch manager of an investment bank. He had a flair for business and amassed a considerable fortune in the years leading up to World War I and on into the 1920s. The income generated by his investments positioned him well for a career in politics after the War. Before he went to college, he thought about going to military school.
All the Roosevelt sons except Kermit had had some military training prior to World War I. With the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914, there had been a heightened concern about the nation's readiness for military engagement. Only the month before, Congress had belatedly recognized the significance of military aviation by authorizing the creation of an Aviation Section in the Signal Corps. In 1915, Major General Leonard Wood, President Roosevelt's former commanding officer during the Spanish–American War, organized a summer camp at Plattsburgh, New York, to provide military training for business and professional men at their own expense. It would be this summer training program that would provide the basis of a greatly expanded junior officers' corps when the country entered World War I. During that fateful summer of 1915, many well-heeled young men from some of the finest east coast schools, including all three Roosevelt sons, would attend the camp. When the United States entered the war, commissions were offered to the graduates of these schools based on their performance. The National Defense Act of 1916 continued the student military training and the businessmen's summer camps and placed them on a firmer legal basis by authorizing an Officers' Reserve Corps and a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). After the declaration of war, when the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was organizing, the Roosevelt boys' father, Theodore, wired Major General "Black Jack" Pershing asking if his sons could accompany him to Europe as privates. Pershing accepted, but, based on their training at Plattsburgh, Archie was offered a commission with rank of second lieutenant, while Ted, Jr., was offered a commission and the rank of major. Quentin had already been accepted into the Army Air Service. Kermit would volunteer with the British in the area that would eventually become modern-day Iraq.
In 1921, when Warren G. Harding was elected president, Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Here he oversaw the transferring of oil leases from the Navy to private corporations. The Navy's petroleum reserves consisted of three fields (which had been established by President Taft); Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3, Teapot Dome Field, Natrona County, Wyoming; and Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 1 at Elk Hills Oil Field and Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2 Buena Vista Oil Field both in Kern County, California. In 1922, Albert B. Fall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, leased, without competitive bidding, the Teapot Dome Field to Harry F. Sinclair of Sinclair Consolidated Oil Company, and the field at Elk Hills, California, to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum & Transport Company. During the transfers, while he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, his brother Archibald B. Roosevelt, Sr., was vice president of the Union Petroleum Company, the export auxiliary subsidiary of the Sinclair Consolidated Oil. All of this came to be known as the Teapot Dome scandal. The connection between the Roosevelt brothers could not be ignored. After Sinclair sailed for Europe to avoid testifying, G. D. Wahlberg, Sinclair's private secretary, advised Archibald Roosevelt to resign to save his reputation. Although both Archibald and Ted Roosevelt were cleared of all charges, their images were tarnished.
Ted, having a reserve commission in the army (as did two of his brothers, Quentin and Archibald) was called up shortly after World War I broke out. When the United States declared war on Germany, Ted volunteered to be one of the first soldiers to go to France. There, Ted distinguished himself as the best battalion commander in his division, according to the division commander himself. He braved hostile fire and gas and led his battalion in combat. So concerned was he for his men's welfare that he even purchased combat boots for the entire battalion with his own money. He eventually commanded the 26th Regiment in the First Division as lieutenant colonel. He fought in several major battles. He was gassed and wounded at Soissons during the summer of 1918. In July of that year his brother Quentin was killed in combat. Teddy received the Distinguished Service Cross for his action during the war. France conferred upon him the Chevalier Légion d'Honneur on March 16, 1919. Before the troops even came home from France, Ted was one of the originators and founders of the soldiers' organization that would become the American Legion. The American Legion's Post Officers Guide recounts Ted's part in the organization's founding.
A group of twenty officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in France in World War I is credited with planning the Legion. A.E.F. Headquarters asked these officers to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale. One officer, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., proposed an organization of veterans. In February 1919, this group formed a temporary committee and selected several hundred officers who had the confidence and respect of the whole army. When the first organization meeting took place in Paris in March 1919, about 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended. The meeting, known as the Paris Caucus, adopted a temporary constitution and the name The American Legion. It also elected an executive committee to complete the organization’s work. It considered each soldier of the A.E.F. a member of the Legion. The executive committee named a subcommittee to organize veterans at home in the U.S. The Legion held a second organizing caucus in St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1919. It completed the constitution and made plans for a permanent organization. It set up temporary headquarters in New York City, and began its relief, employment, and Americanism programs. Congress granted the Legion a national charter in September 1919.
In 1940, he attended a military refresher course offered to many businessmen as an advanced student, and was promoted to colonel in the Army of the United States. He returned to active duty in April 1941 and was given command of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, the same group he fought with in World War I. Late in 1941, he was promoted to brigadier general.
Roosevelt led his regiment in an attack on Oran, Africa, on November 8, 1942. During 1943, he was the second-in-command of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division that fought in the North African Campaign under Major General Terry Allen. He was cited for the Croix de Guerre by the military commander of French Africa, General Alphonse Juin. Roosevelt's collaboration and friendship with his commander, the hard-fighting, hard-drinking Allen, and their unorthodox approach to warfare, did not escape the attention of General George S. Patton. Patton disapproved of officers like Roosevelt and Allen, who "dressed down" and were seldom seen in regulation field uniforms, and who placed little value in Patton's spit-shined ways in the field. Patton thought them both un-soldierly for it and wasted no opportunity to send derogatory reports on Allen to the Supreme Allied Commander. Roosevelt was also treated by Patton as "guilty by association" for his friendship and collaboration with the highly unorthodox Allen.
Roosevelt would be the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. He was one of the first soldiers, along with Capt. Leonard T. Schroeder Jr., off his landing craft as he led the U.S. 4th Infantry Division's 8th Infantry Regiment and 70th Tank Battalion landing at Utah Beach. Roosevelt was soon informed that the landing craft had drifted more than a mile south of their objective, and the first wave was a mile off course. Walking with the aid of a cane and carrying a pistol, he personally made a reconnaissance of the area immediately to the rear of the beach to locate the causeways that were to be used for the advance inland. He then returned to the point of landing and contacted the commanders of the two battalions, Lt. Cols. Conrad C. Simmons and Carlton O. MacNeely, and coordinated the attack on the enemy positions confronting them. Roosevelt's famous words in these circumstances were, "We’ll start the war from right here!".
With his division's original plan modified on the beach, the division was able to achieve its mission objectives by simply coming ashore and attacking north behind the beach toward its original objective. Years later, General Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat, and he replied, "Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach." Originally recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross by General Barton, the award was upgraded at higher headquarters to the Medal of Honor which Roosevelt was posthumously awarded on 28 September 1944. Roosevelt's actions on D-Day are portrayed in The Longest Day, a 1962 film in which he was played by actor Henry Fonda. The movie is based on the book of the same name, published in 1959 by Cornelius Ryan.
Throughout World War II, Roosevelt suffered from health problems. He had arthritis, mostly from old World War I injuries, and walked with a cane. He also had heart trouble. On 12 July 1944, one month after the landing at Utah Beach, he died of a heart attack in France. He was fifty-six years of age. He is buried at the American cemetery in Normandy next to his brother, Lt. Quentin Roosevelt. (Quentin had been killed in France during World War I and buried at Chamery, but was exhumed and moved to the Normandy Cemetery.) When Ted Roosevelt died, he had already been selected by General Dwight D. Eisenhower for promotion to Major General and orders had been cut placing him in command of the 90th Infantry Division.
Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., are one of only two sets of fathers and sons to have been nominated for the Medal of Honor. The other set is Arthur and Douglas MacArthur.