Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. drives through France in his “Rough Rider” jeep sometime after the Normandy invasion.
Roosevelt was the son of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had gained acclaim as the commander of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry — the Rough Riders — who fought in the Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.
Roosevelt Jr. continued his father’s military tradition when he fought and was wounded in World War I. In the Second World War he saw action in North Africa and Italy. At 56, Roosevelt Jr. was the oldest man to go ashore on June 6, 1944 — D-Day — after requesting that he accompany the first wave because it would boost the men’s morale if they knew a general was hitting the beach with them.
“They’ll figure that if a general is going in, it can’t be that rough,” said this rough rider. He was in the first boat to reach Utah Beach. Once ashore, he realized he was about a mile south of where he was supposed to be and, according to legend, he proclaimed, “We’ll start the war from right here.”
Roosevelt was using a cane in Normandy and was also suffering from the heart condition that would kill him just over a month later, on July 12. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for this actions on D-Day. His citation read, in part, “He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall, and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice…. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.”
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