Many lives were lost during the world wars. Many servicemen came from working-class backgrounds, but an elite few gave up their lives for the victories of their battles. But did you know that President Theodore Roosevelt’s sons also served in the war?
Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of President Roosevelt. He served as a pilot in World War I. He was killed in action on Bastille Day over France. He was the only child of a US president to be killed in combat.
Who was Quentin Roosevelt?
On November 19, 1897, Quentin Roosevelt was born in Washington, DC. He was the youngest son of former president Theodore Roosevelt to his second wife, Edith. Quentin was four years old when his father was sworn in as a president, allowing him to grow up in the White House.
Roosevelt was very playful in his youth, forming friendships with the sons of future president William Howard Taft and White House steward Henry Pinckney. They were known as the White House Gang to the staff and employees.
The gang was known for their mischievousness in the White House. They once carved a baseball diamond on the White House lawn without permission. They made fun of the official presidential paintings with spitballs and even threw snowballs to unsuspecting Secret Service agents from the roof. Roosevelt even snuck his pony, Algonquin, up the White House elevator to cheer up his sick brother, Archie Roosevelt.
Roosevelt was an intelligent kid, excelling in Force Elementary School in Washington, then at Groton School in Massachusetts. He was admitted to Harvard University in 1915, where he met his fiance, Flora Payne Whitney. The couple got engaged but never got the chance to get married before Roosevelt left for the war. (Source: NPS)
Roosevelt left Harvard to volunteer for World War I after being inspired by his father and older brothers. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Service, where he became a pursuit pilot in the 1st Aero Company of the New York National Guard.
Many pilots and servicemen who knew Roosevelt had nothing but wonderful words for the boy. Captain Eddy Rickenbacker, the top American ace of World War I, recounts that everyone who met Roosevelt expected him to act like a spoiled brat. But they were met with the exact opposite. The young pilot was gay, hearty, and square with everything he said and did.
Quentin Roosevelt is the only son of a US president that has perished in a war. He died on July 14, 1918, in Chamery, France. (Source: National Guard)
Quentin Roosevelt in the First World War
In the early years of World War I, former President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to join the allied forces in the frontline. However, due to his advanced age and the official order of president Wilson, Roosevelt did not push through with his plans.
Instead, Roosevelt’s children took his place and served in the war however they could. Ted Roosevelt took command of the First Battalion of the 26th Infantry with Archie under his command. Quentin Roosevelt joined the Air Force a month later.
It was known that all of Roosevelt’s sons served with distinction, but only Quentin did not make it home. On July 14, 1918, the youngest of the Roosevelt brothers was shot down while in aerial combat over enemy lines in France. The German airmen who found out who he was, buried Roosevelt with full military honors. They used the propeller and wheels of his plane to mark his grave.
Former President Roosevelt took the news hard, as Quentin was his favorite son. Whitney was also profoundly pained with the death of her fiance. (Source: NPS)