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Medal of Honor Monday: Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

President Theodore Roosevelt's military heroism leading the "Rough Riders" during the Spanish-American War is well-known.

Less renowned, though arguably even more distinguished, is the military service of his son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day.

A black-and-white headshot of a person in a suit.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 240408-D-D0439-101

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. served in World War I and then volunteered for World War II. He was serving as an Army brigadier general, leading troops in the Northern Africa campaign and in the invasion of Sicily, when he was reassigned to help plan the D-Day invasion. He petitioned several times to be on the front lines that day. He was denied many times, possibly because he was 56 years old, but his superior officers finally accepted. 

So on June 6, 1944, Roosevelt became the oldest person and only general to storm the beaches of Normandy with the first wave of troops. He did so with a pistol and a cane, something he needed to help him with the numerous health issues he'd incurred in World War I. He was also the only father to serve with his son on D-Day: His son Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II landed at Omaha Beach.

When he learned that troops landing at Utah Beach had drifted a mile from their intended landing position, Roosevelt used his seasoned leadership to modify the original plans and kick the invasion off from where they stood. He repeatedly led troops from the beach and over the seawall to where they could safely set up inland. He was able to create order from chaos, and that inspired the troops around him. 

Just a month later, Roosevelt died of a heart attack during the Allied push across France. He was buried at the American Cemetery in Normandy, next to his brother, Quentin, who died in World War I. On Sept. 28, 1944, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

His father would also receive the nation's highest award for valor for his actions during the Spanish-American War's battle for the San Juan Heights in Cuba — though the War Department initially denied the elder Roosevelt this honor. The former president did not receive the honor for more than a century, until 2001.

When he did, the Roosevelts became only the second father-son duo to receive the award, the other being 1st Lt. Arthur MacArthur Jr. for actions during the Civil War and Gen. Douglas MacArthur for valor during World War II.

This article is part of a weekly series called "Medal of Honor Monday," in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military's highest medal for valor.