Seniors Count

Seniors Count

We Were There

Senior citizens were there on that ‘Longest Day’ in the Battle at Normandy. Where more than one hundred thousand men swarmed the beaches of Normandy, France one outstanding senior citizen is listed high among them. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr, fifty-seven years of age was the only general in the Allied forces to make the landing on the first wave that rainy morning June 6, 1944.

As assistant Division Commander of the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Army, the Big Red One, General Roosevelt led his men to the Utah Beach landing riding in a Higgins Boat as thousands of other American troops.

Because of a navigational error the landing took place in the wrong inlet, Roosevelt realizing this and understanding that his officers and men were confused and their maps unusable took charge of the invasion, ordering the remanding troops to be landed in the same inlet and led his men over the sea wall, clearing the beachhead, outflanked the Germans and was able to link up with the airborne division that had landed inland in the early morning hours of the battle. The Army not only recognizes him as the highest ranking officer to make the first wave but also the oldest American on the beach for the landing.

General Roosevelt, son of the late president of the United States had served in the First World War along with two of his brothers. His brother Quentin Roosevelt was killed in France in an air battle in that war.

Before making the landing at Normandy, Brigadier General Roosevelt had served in North African, Sicily, and Italy, receiving the Silver Star and other commendations for his service in those battles.

Roosevelt was not only the oldest, highest ranking officer, he was also the only father of a son making the same landing.  His son Quentin II, name for his fallen brother, was also in the D-Day invasion.

Those who are fans of the movie, ‘Longest Day’ will remember that it was Henry Fonda who portrayed the general in that movie. He walked with a cane due to athirst but in spite of all his drawbacks this senior citizen did himself, his deceased father, his nation, and all of us old guys a great service by rising above and beyond the call of duty and being awarded the  Medal of Honor for his bravery at Normandy.

General Omar Bradley, Commander of the First Army, said of his bravery, “It was the single bravest act I witness in the entire war.’  Had it not been for his bravery and leadership most if not all of his division would have been killed in the confusion of the early moments of the battle.

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. died in France on July 12, 1944 from a heart attack two days before receiving the message from Headquarters of his promotion to Major General and being given Command of his own division.

He is buried in the American Cemetery at Normandy next to his brother Quentin whose body was moved from it World War One burial ground to be next to his brother. I stood before those graves in France and thanked our Lord for brave men and women who gave their all for our country.

Part of the orders for the Medal of Honor – After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt’s written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. 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. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.

Someone might be interested to know that the two Theodore Roosevelt’s’ are one of only two sets of Father and Sons to be awarded the nations highest honor the other father son team being the Macarthur’s.

 

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Published in: on April 19, 2016 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

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