why didn't theodore roosevelt jr (tr's son) ever do anything important like his father?
Ted Roosevelt was never elected President, but it’s not even close to fair to say that he never did anything important. He served in various political positions – New York State Assemblyman, Governor of Puerto Rico, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy (like his father and his cousin, FDR) in the Harding Administration.
More impressively, he was a war hero – in BOTH World Wars. He died during World War II as a Brigadier General. He didn’t die in battle, but he was so ill that he had to beg for permission to take part in the D-Day landings and died of his heart condition in France shortly after D-Day. He was the oldest soldier who landed in the first wave of the invasion on D-Day. He was the only General who landed in the first wave of the invasion on D-Day. Not only that, but he actually needed to use a cane just to get around – and STILL landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day. It wasn’t an honorary award; he deserved it. It’s ridiculous to say that Ted Roosevelt didn’t do anything important.
And that’s just the end of his life. Literally! He died a month after the invasion. He also probably deserved a Medal of Honor for his service during World War I. Ted was a brilliant commander and beloved by his soldiers. At one point, he bought new boots for all of the troops in his battalion. He was wounded in action and suffered a gas attack with his battalion. During his military career – in both World Wars – he ended up earning the Medal of Honor, a Silver Star, the Distinguished Service Cross, a Purple Heart, and, from France, the Legion of Honour and Croix de Guerre. After WWI, he even helped found the American Legion.
Ted Roosevelt’s political life wasn’t as impressive as his father’s or his cousin’s, but he was a remarkable man.
In February 1944, Roosevelt was assigned to England to help lead the Normandy invasion. He was assigned to the staff of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. After several verbal requests to the division’s commanding officer, Maj. General "Tubby" Barton, were denied, Roosevelt sent a written petition.
Barton approved this letter with much misgiving, stating that he did not expect Roosevelt to return alive.
Roosevelt would be the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. At 56, he would be the oldest man in the invasion, and the only man to serve with his son on D-Day at Normandy (Captain Quentin Roosevelt II was among the first wave of soldiers to land at Omaha beach while his father commanded at Utah beach).
Ted Roosevelt 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!”. These impromptu plans worked with complete success and little confusion. With artillery landing close by, each follow-on regiment was personally welcomed on the beach by a cool, calm, and collected Roosevelt, who inspired all with humor and confidence, reciting poetry and telling anecdotes of his father to steady the nerves of his men. Ted pointed almost every regiment to its changed objective. Sometimes he worked under fire as a self-appointed traffic cop, untangling traffic jams of trucks and tanks all struggling to get inland and off the beach.
When General Barton, the CG of the 4th Division, came ashore, he met Roosevelt not far from the beach. He later wrote that
while I was mentally framing [orders], Ted Roosevelt came up. He had landed with the first wave, had put my troops across the beach, and had a perfect picture (just as Roosevelt had earlier promised if allowed to go ashore with the first wave) of the entire situation. I loved Ted. When I finally agreed to his landing with the first wave, I felt sure he would be killed. When I had bade him goodbye, I never expected to see him alive. You can imagine then the emotion with which I greeted him when he came out to meet me [near La Grande Dune]. He was bursting with information.
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.
He died in France just over a month later of a heart attack.