Kermit Roosevelt accepted an offer from the British Army one hundred years ago today to fight in the British Army in Mesopotamia. He was in Plattsburg, New York when he received the news and left immediately for Oyster Bay to make arrangements to sail for London later that very week. Kermit was the third Roosevelt son to head off for the Great War, Ted and Archie having left for France the previous month. Roosevelt would serve in Iraq under the command of British lieutenant general Sir Frederick Stanley Maude. It is interesting that most of the Roosevelt spouses ended up going to Europe during the war a well. Ted’s wife Anna spent a good portion of the war working for the Red Cross in London and Paris, for instance. Kermit’s better half Belle, with their son, sailed with him to London, where they would stay with her father Joseph Edward Willard, who happened to be Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to Spain. Ambassador Willard had fought in the Spanish-American War under Fitzhugh Lee. He was a Willard of the “Willard Hotel” family. Joseph E. Willard was a wealthy Virginian and it is interesting that Kermit married into a Southern Democratic family.
The family arrived in London on July 26. There was a curious minor imbroglio involving the Associated Press. On the morning of June 28 the Committee on Public Information asked the AP not to run a longer story about the ship carrying Kermit and a large contingent of American troops. The article July 28 article had left out which troops specifically were on the transport and where it had docked, mentioning only the it was “A European Port.” A series of articles over the previous few weeks however did mention that Kermit was sailing for London. The article had already passed with the CPI censors in Europe and been approved for publication, and so the AP went with it. The CPI presumably became concerned because the story mentioned Kermit Roosevelt and careful followers could piece together where the ship had landed had they followed the newspaper trail over the course of July. That is my guess. Kermit Roosevelt was appointed an honorary captain in the BEF that September.
(image/Brooklyn Daily Eagle)