Teddy Roosevelt’s Sons in World War 1

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The following article is an excerpt from H.W Crocker III’s The Yanks Are Coming! A Military History of the United States in World War I. It is available for order now from Amazon.

All four sons of former president Theodore Roosevelt served in the Great War. One, the youngest son, Quentin (1897-1918), was killed in it; two others, Theodore Jr. (1887-1944) and Archie (1894-1979), were badly wounded. They had been raised to be men of action as well as intellect. They certainly passed that test.

The Roosevelt household was famously rambunctious, with hiking, swimming, shooting, and games playing, all involving their father, who was a regular roustabout of creative and athletic energy—and it is not every household where the father has been governor of New York and president of the United States. At least three of his sons could remember when their father had been a rough-riding colonel in the Spanish American War. All knew him as a big-game hunter and as a master spinner of chilling ghost stories. He could converse, energetically, on any subject, and was interested in everything—from military history to poetry, from zoology to politics; but whatever the affairs of state, he was interested most of all in his children. He raised his brood to be joyful Spartans, relishing the natural world, uncomplaining, ready for any duty, any hardship, and following the credo his own father had given him: “Whatever you do, enjoy it.”

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There were six children all told. Roosevelt’s two daughters were Alice, who became a famous Washington hostess and wit, and Ethel, who was actually the first Roosevelt in a war zone in World War One, serving as a nurse in France (her husband was a surgeon).

Theodore Jr., the eldest son, from a young age aspired to be his father, and their careers had modest parallels, with junior serving, as his father had done, in the New York State Assembly and (after the Great War) as undersecretary of the Navy.

Though all the boys were vigorous outdoorsman, none was more so than second son Kermit, who, though sickly as a child, became his father’s aide-de-camp for adventure, accompanying him, as a Harvard undergraduate, on a yearlong safari to Africa and then a few years later on a near-fatal journey into the Amazonian jungle. Literary-minded and facile with foreign languages, Kermit was, unlike his brothers, moody and subdued; his father sometimes worried about Kermit’s depressive spirits.

Archie, like all the Roosevelts, was animal loving, and among his menagerie was an ill-tempered pet badger. Like many animal-loving people, Archie could be reserved with others, and he had, in an exceedingly strong way, the Roosevelt streak of moralism, which in his father was overshadowed by boisterousness, but in the son, as his father conceded, could appear an “excess of virtue . . . but it is a fault on the right side, and I am very proud of him.”

Quentin was the golden boy—the hilarious juvenile terror of the White House, funny, fearless, academically gifted, mechanically brilliant, and personally charming.

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