Today is Veterans Day, or what used to be called Armistice Day because the day was reserved to remember the end of the fighting on 11 November 1918. One of the major figures in the early memory of the Great War was Ted Roosevelt, the oldest son of 26th president. Roosevelt had been an officer in the 26th Regiment of the FIrst Infantry Division during the war. After, he co-founded the American Legion. Roosevelt also served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. This was the position once held by his father and later by his cousin Franklin. As Assistant Navy Secretary he was part of the Harding and then Coolidge Administrations. Here he is with Silent Cal at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Armistice Day 1923, five years after the guns fell silent.
This was a crucial time in 20th century history. The New York Times reported the day before the photo above was taken that “a sign painter from Austria” with “a gift for demagogic oratory” was causing trouble in Munich. This was Adolf Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. Others noted the fragile nature of the peace. The day the Times reported on Hitler, Woodrow Wilson gave a radio address in which he discussed the fragile peace. The following day 15,000 people showed up at his house on S Street in Washington to see him in person. Wilson’s health was fragile; he died less than three months later. Wilson had cause for concern. It was not just Hitler. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted with concern on 12 November that many of Europe’s “wisest statesman” were calling also calling for dictatorship. Even an American, a graduate of the Harvard class of 1909, had participated in Hitler’s attempted takeover.
No one understood the dangers more that Ted Roosevelt. He resumed his civilian life in the 1920s and 1930s, but returned to military service when the Second World War began. Again a member of the First Infantry he served in North Africa, Italy, and Europe. He was the only American general to land on the beach of Normandy on 6 June 1944. Ted Roosevelt died of a heart attack the following month, the day before he was to be promoted to major general.
(images/top, Library of Congress; bottom, Berlin Document Center)