Thursday, June 6, 2013

D-Day 2013 and Teddy Roosevelt, Jr.




I last posted my respects to the men - and women, as Bob Welch reminded us in American Nightingale - of D-Day 1944 on June 6, 2010, calling it Back Page News.  This year, not do much as a single mention anywhere in our local rag, the Eugene Register-Guard, not even on the back page.  What a comment on our national conscience.  What a disgrace. 

To us in America, raised on US-centric WW II history, this was the critical event of WW II in Europe.  The beginning of the end, and maybe it was.  But that gives short shrift to the Soviet Union's sacrifices.  We don't much like them any more but back in the day they killed 9 out of 10 German soldiers lost in the war.  Russia and its contemporaries remember them and honor them.  Us, not so much.

There is talk of another major celebration in Normandy next year.  That's great, as far as it goes, but what about saying thank you today?  Today, the living and dead veterans get not so much as a nod.

Here is Nancy Reagan placing flowers on the grave of Gen. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., in 1994 while President Reagan looks on. 



File:Teds grave.jpg

TRJr deserves a special mention.  Gassed and wounded at Soissons in 1918, he had to overcome strenuous resistance to being in the invasion at all.   His commanding officer reluctantly OK'd it but thought he was sending him to his death.  Oldest man in the invasion, second man off the lead boat in the first wave (give that some thought), only general to land with the first wave, only man to serve with his son on D-Day.  

Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day, one of only two sets of fathers and sons to win the Medal of Honor, along with Arthur and Douglas MacArthur.  As successive waves came ashore, he walked around under fire encouraging them to move inland and he personally led assaults against German positions, just as he did when he first came ashore.  He was admirably portrayed by Henry Fonda in the movie The Longest Day.  Maybe that's where you remember him from.  He is a man well worth remembering.

Here's his Medal of Honor citation:
For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt's written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.
Only three other men won the Medal of Honor on D-Day, and one on June 7.  Four of the five were awarded posthumously, including TRJr who died of a heart attack on July 12, 1944, the same day he was promoted to major general.

TRJr is seldom remembered any more, just like the rest of the D-Day and WW II veterans.  But today is a good day to remember and thank him and them.
"If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."
-- Rudyard Kipling
Achievements, not deaths, are the legacy of Normandy but it is death that dominates our thoughts today.  For each recorded act of heroism and sacrifice and death there were hundreds more that went unobserved or are forgotten.  They died to keep us free.  It is to our shame that they appear to our children only as roles in a video game instead of in a story of heroism and sacrifice that we have taught them.  

Gentlemen and ladies of D-Day, thank you for giving my family and me our freedom and our future.




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"We’ll start the war from right here!"
Teddy Roosevelt, Jr, upon learning that his unit had landed a mile from their designated beach on D-Day.