Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
Son of former President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was the oldest soldier and the highest ranking official to fight in the Invasion of Normandy. His seasoned and unfaltering leadership during D-Day inspired and reassured assaulting troops, leading to a successful establishment of the beachhead in France.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born on September 13th, 1887 in Oyster Bay New York. As the first child of former President Theodore Roosevelt, he had some big shoes to fill. Roosevelt went to Groton school, a prestigious college-prep boarding school, and attended his father’s alma mater, Harvard University.
Roosevelt always wanted to join the Army like his father, and finally did so to serve in WWI. During the war he was gassed nearly to blindness and shot in the leg. The gunshot may have been fatal had it not been for the care of Dr. Richard Derby, his brother-in-law. Roosevelt received the Distinguished Service Cross for his service during the war.
After returning home, Roosevelt continued to follow in his father’s footsteps and entered politics. He was a member of the New York Assembly, the Secretary of the Navy, the Governor of Puerto Rico, and the Governor General of the Philippines.
When the US entered WWII, Roosevelt served again. Now a Brigadier General, he served under General Patton in the African Theatre, and was eventually reassigned to the western front.
Leading up to the Invasion of Normandy, Roosevelt wanted to participate in the first wave of the invasion. By this time, he was 56 years old, and walked with a cane due to arthritis caused by past injuries. He also had a serious heart condition which he kept secret from almost everyone. His verbal requests were dismissed, but he submitted an official written request, arguing that his presence as an experienced and high-ranking official would prove comforting to the troops. This written request was finally accepted, and Roosevelt was allowed to fight in the D-Day invasion.
On June 6th, 1944, Roosevelt led the 4th Infantry Division, 8th Infantry Regiment into battle on the shores of Normandy in the first wave of the invasion- the only General to do so. With his cane in hand, Roosevelt repeatedly escorted groups of soldiers from the beach over the seawall and established them inland amidst the chaos of the invasion. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops were able to rapidly move inland with minimum casualties. His complete lack of concern for the danger he faced proved to be inspirational and reassuring to his troops. Roosevelt’s leadership significantly contributed to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.
Roosevelt was the oldest soldier and the highest ranking official to fight in the invasion. His son also landed at Omaha Beach, making them the only father/son pair to do so. They both survived D-Day, but five weeks later on July 12th, 1944, Roosevelt suffered a heart attack in his sleep and passed away.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on September 21st, 1944. Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and Jr. are one of only two father/son pairs to have each received the Medal. His other awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with two oak clusters, the Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our executive producer and mixing engineer, Declan Rohrs is our associate producer, scriptwriter, and recording engineer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.