Theodore Roosevelt spoke from the pulpit of the Oyster Bay Reformed Church at Brookville on Sunday 24 June 1917 on behalf of the Red Cross. Raising funds and awareness for that relief organization was not his only reason to take to the podium however; with sons Archibald and Theodore now crossing the Atlantic aboard the Chicago to join Pershing’s nascent forces, he could announce that the boys had indeed left American soil. By June it apparent that the Wilson Administration, wisely, was not going to let Roosevelt command a division in France. The Colonel was committed, quite publicly, to sending his sons, so much so that he pulled all the strings he could get his sons to Europe as quickly as possible.
That became a reality when the Chicago left New York for Bordeaux on Wednesday 20 June. The late spring of 1917 had entailed a great deal of back and forth for Archive and Ted. They had spent the past several weeks getting in some final training in Plattsburg before traveling ceaselessly between New York City, Washington, and Oyster Bay as their fate was being decided. Eventually the War Department sent secret orders directing them to report to General J. Franklin Bell on Governors Island. It was there at the Department of the East that they received their final instructions. They had a few more days to pass before the passage of the Chicago and so went back to Long Island to say their final goodbyes to their families. Then it was back to New York. The waiting to go overseas was finally over.
Theodore Roosevelt had been an advocate for American involvement in the Great War since 1914. When he spoke at the Oyster Bay reformed Church one hundred years ago today, he had a personal stake in the conflict that was not there even one week prior.
(image/New York Times)