Today in History, January 16: 2001 – Colonel Theodore Roosevelt is awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously. I know I write a lot about TR, but this post is more about parallels and over-lapping history, a subject that makes me enjoy history the most.
After Theodore Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War, his friend and comrade Gen. Leonard Wood nominated him for the MoH. Due to politics, his request was denied. In 1996 legislation was enacted to allow retroactive awards due to the mistreatment of black combat veterans in WWII. As a result, requests were made to award TR with his MoH; the Army demurred, but Congress insisted in the end. On this date in 2001, President Bill Clinton presented the MoH to TR’s grandson, Tweed. Today in is displayed in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, along with TR’s Nobel Peace Prize, earned for negotiating peace between Russia and Japan in 1905.
While reading about this, I also read there are two sets of father and son recipients of the Medal of Honor. Both sets happen to be from US Army service…2nd Lt. Arthur MacArthur and his son General of the Army Douglas MacArthur; and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his son Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
I began to see the parallels from history books I’ve read and listened to over the years. It is fascinating.
During the Civil War Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (TR’s father) was already a wealthy New Yorker. His wife Mittie, struggled through the war; she was a Southerner and her brothers fought for the Confederacy. Thee was a loyal Unionist, but due to his wife’s struggle and his own mother’s pleas, he took advantage of the practice of the day…being wealthy he hired two men to serve in his place in the army. He also served by aiding the men of the military, torn by guilt; a guilt shared by his son. TR Jr adored his father, but his concerns about his father’s actions drove him to abandon his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1898 to volunteer for the Spanish-American War.
While TR Sr was working behind the scenes during the Civil War, 2nd Lt. Arthur MacArthur was charging up Missionary Ridge in Tennessee, carrying his Brigade’s colors with him, for which he was presented the Medal of Honor. His wife’s brothers also fought for the Confederacy. Brother against brother, as the story goes.
Arthur MacArthur’s son, Douglas, would grow up in military posts of the west where Arthur served. As TR was charging up San Juan Hill in Cuba, Douglas was making his third attempt to enter the US Military Academy at West Point. When he graduated in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States.
In 1918, as Douglas MacArthur was making a name for himself as a brilliant staff officer in France, former President Roosevelt was desperately mourning the loss of his son Quentin, who had been shot down over France as a pioneering American fighter pilot. TR would be dead by the next year, heartbroken.
In 1942 Douglas MacArthur would be awarded the MoH for his actions in defending the Philippines from Japanese invasion…ordered home on a PT boat by Franklin Delano Roosevelt…cousin of TR, whose wife Eleanor was TR’s much favored niece.
On June 6, 1944, TR’s son and namesake, was the only general officer to land in the first wave in Normandy on Utah Beach. He would be awarded the MoH for his actions…and like his father, the designation was posthumous; he would die within two weeks of D-Day of a heart attack in France.
History is not so complex. You just have to look.