Teddy Roosevelt’s WWI Letters Reveal His Grief Over Son’s Death

April 4, 2017 5:00 am
1914-Lloyd's Neck, Long Island-ORIGINAL CAPTION READS: Members of the T.Roosevelt family on a picnic at Lloyd's Neck, L.I., 1914.
Quentin Roosevelt sits by father Theodore Roosevelt at a picnic at Lloyd’s Neck, L.I., 1914. (Getty Images)


On July 14, 1918, Quentin Roosevelt died in a plane crash behind enemy lines. This would have been tragic but not particularly notable (there were over 100,000 American deaths during World War I), except for the identity of his father.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt, who had run for office again just six years earlier with the Bull Moose Party, was known as an unstoppable  and unflappable force of nature. He was, after all, once shot by an assassin and insisted on finishing his speech before seeking medical care.

Yet his son’s death crushed him, as he revealed in personal letters.

For instance, when General John J. Pershing wrote to console him, Roosevelt both acknowledged his suffering and honored a tragedy Pershing suffered years earlier, when his wife and three daughters died in a fire:

“My dear fellow, you have suffered far more bitter sorrow than has befallen me,” the senior Roosevelt wrote. “You bore it with splendid courage and I should be ashamed of myself if I did not try in a lesser way to emulate that courage.”

To read more about Quentin Roosevelt and his death in Smithsonian Magazine, click here. To get Andrew Carroll’s book My Fellow Soldiers: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great Warclick here.


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