A Freemason at D-Day: Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to visit museums and/or graveyards. On a recent trip to New Orleans, I visited the National WWII Museum.  Because tomorrow (June 6), celebrates the 80th anniversary of D-Day or Operation Overlord (which was the Allies' airborne and amphibious operation to invade German-Occupied France), I felt the timing was perfect for this article.  

There were four freedoms were outlined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his State of The Union speech on January 6, 1941.  One has to remember that before the Japanese "surprise" attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, there was a very strong isolationist movement that desired to keep the United States from entering the war.  Roosevelt took a stance against this movement and stated that the United States had a responsibility to fight for four universal principles of freedom that all of the world's citizens should be able to enjoy.

FDR stated in this speech that: 

"No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion -- or even good business.  Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors.  'Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.' "

The four freedoms that FDR outlined were:
1. Freedom of Speech and Expression
2. Freedom to Worship God in one's own way
3. Freedom from Want - FDR explained this freedom as encompassing economic stability that would ensure every nation had a "healthy peacetime" when the war ended.
4. Freedom from Fear - FDR explained this freedom would come about due to the reduction of armaments worldwide when the war ended.

Why would these freedoms be important? To understand that, we need to understand the characteristics of Fascism. The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College (https://www.keene.edu/academics/cchgs/resources/presentation-materials/characteristics-and-appeal-of-fascism/download/) lists the below characteristics of Fascism:

1. Powerful, often exclusionary, populist nationalism centered on a cult of a redemptive, “infallible” leader who never admits mistakes.
2. Political power derived from questioning reality, endorsing myth and rage, and promoting lies.
3. Fixation with perceived national decline, humiliation, or victimhood.
4. White Replacement “Theory” is used to show that democratic ideals of freedom and equality are a threat. Oppose any initiatives or institutions that are racially, ethnically, or religiously harmonious.
5. Disdain for human rights while seeking purity and cleansing for those they define as part of the nation.
6. Identification of “enemies”/scapegoats as a unifying cause. Imprison and/or murder opposition and minority group leaders.
7. Supremacy of the military and embrace of paramilitarism in an uneasy, but effective collaboration with traditional elites. Fascists arm people and justify and glorify violence as “redemptive”.
8. Rampant sexism.
9. Control of mass media and undermining “truth”.
10. Obsession with national security, crime and punishment, and fostering a sense of the nation under attack.
11. Religion and government are intertwined.
12. Corporate power is protected and labor power is suppressed.
13. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts not aligned with the fascist narrative.
14. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Loyalty to the leader is paramount and often more important than competence.
15. Fraudulent elections and the creation of a one-party state.
16. Often seeking to expand territory through armed conflict.

FDR's Four Freedoms would become a mission statement as to why the United States had to join the allied powers to defeat Fascism in Europe and Asia, and as a moral compass for the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941.  Many former military officers seeing the writing on the wall had returned to active military service.  One of these was FDR's cousin, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. 

The eldest son of President (and Freemason) Theodore Roosevelt,  Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born on Sept. 13, 1887, at the family estate in Oyster Bay, New York.  He graduated from Havard University in 1908, and became an extremely successful businessman.  He accumulated a large personal fortune, which he would use to advance himself politically.  During this time, he attended along with his three brothers General Leonard Wood's military training camp for business professionals; which would later evolve into the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

When the United States entered WWI, Ted Jr. along with his brothers and their sister would join the military. The brothers all served in combat while Ethel became a combat nurse. Ted Jr. would be commissioned as a Major. As a battalion commander, Ted Jr. took his role very seriously.  It is rumored that he personally purchased a new pair of combat boots for every man in his unit. He eventually would become the commander of the 26th Regiment in the 1st Infantry Division as a Lieutenant Colonel. He fought in several major battles, including America's first victory at the Battle of Cantigny. 

Ted's youngest brother, Quentin, was killed in action; while his brother Archie along with himself would be badly wounded.  This led to Ted needing to use a cane for the rest of his life. He was awarded both the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Chevalier Legion d'Hommeur.  Ted was also one of the founders of the American Legion. The below taken, which is taken from the American Legion Post Officers Guide, states:

A group of twenty officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in France in World War I is credited with planning the Legion. A.E.F. Headquarters asked these officers to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale. One officer, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., proposed an organization of veterans. In February 1919, this group formed a temporary committee and selected several hundred officers who had the confidence and respect of the whole army. When the first organization meeting took place in Paris in March 1919, about 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended. The meeting, known as the Paris Caucus, adopted a temporary constitution and the name The American Legion. It also elected an executive committee to complete the organization's work. It considered each soldier of the A.E.F. a member of the Legion. The executive committee named a subcommittee to organize veterans at home in the U.S. The Legion held a second organizing caucus in St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1919. It completed the constitution and made plans for a permanent organization. It set up temporary headquarters in New York City, and began its relief, employment, and Americanism programs. Congress granted the Legion a national charter in September 1919.

After WWI, Ted would follow his father and become active in politics.  In 1924, he ran for governor of New York, but he lost the election due to well-publicized disagreements with his cousin, future president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Ted would serve in the New York Assembly, as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and later as Governor of Puerto Rico and Governor General of the Philippines.  Ted would return to the United States shortly after his cousin, FDR, became president in 1933.  

Ted Jr. would return to active military service in April 1941.  Given the rank of Colonel, he was given command of his old unit, the 26th Regiment in the 1st Infantry Division.  He was promoted to Brigadier General later that year.  While serving in North Africa, Roosevelt gained a reputation of leading from the front. His antics frequently would have him at odds with his commanders; General (and Freemason) Omar Bradley and General George Patton. Due to his not adhering to military protocol, he would be relieved of command and assigned to a staff position. 

During the Italian campaign, Ted Jr. saw combat in Sicily and Sardinia.  He also served as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's liaison to the French Army. He would petition Eisenhower for another combat command, and he would be in June 1944, part of Operation Neptune.  Operation Neptune was the naval component of the D-Day landings which would take place on the beaches of Normandy, France.  He requested three times to lead the first wave of the assault on Utah Beach before he would be granted permission to do so.  On June 6, 1944; in the pre-dawn hours, Ted Jr. would be one of the first men off the landing craft to assault Utah Beach.  Due to the tidal currents being so strong, the first twenty landing craft strayed two miles to the south of the expected objective.  Ted Jr. is said to have declared: "We'll start the war from right here!" upon landing and assessing the situation. 

Under a constant barrage of fire, he proceeded to lead his men across the beach, returning for the ensuing units. He greeted each newly arriving regiment, pointing them toward their changed objective.  It is said that his humor and confidence was encouraging; and that his presence was a calming influence on the troops.   When General Barton, the commanding general of the 4th Division came ashore, Ted Jr. greeted him and gave him a report of the combat situation. 

Barton would write:
"While I was mentally framing [orders], Ted Roosevelt came up. He had landed with the first wave, had put my troops across the beach, and had a perfect picture (just as Roosevelt had earlier promised if allowed to go ashore with the first wave) of the entire situation. I loved Ted. When I finally agreed to his landing with the first wave, I felt sure he would be killed. When I had bade him goodbye, I never expected to see him alive. You can imagine then the emotion with which I greeted him when he came out to meet me [near La Grande Dune]. He was bursting with information."

For his actions at Utah Beach, Roosevelt would be posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His citation reads:

For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After two 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 strongpoints and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France.

After the war, Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat, to which he replied: "Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach".  On July 12, 1944; Theodore Roosevelt Jr. died of a heart attack while serving in France.  Of his death, General Patton wrote: "Teddy R[oosevelt] died in his sleep last night. He had made three landings with the leading wave – such is fate... He was one of the bravest men I ever knew".  Roosevelt was initially buried at Sainte-Mère-Église, but later was moved to the American Cemetary at Normandy.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason at Matinecock Lodge #806, Oyster Bay, NY in 1920.  

Why is it important for us to remember not only Ted; but all those who took part in Operation Overlord?  Because we must remember what they were fighting for, which were those four freedoms that were so eloquently presented by President (and Brother) Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We must never forget the crimes against humanity that occurred under Fascism, and we must never allow Fascism to gain a foothold anywhere in the world, including our own country. As stated above:  Fascists oppose any initiatives or institutions that are racially, ethnically, or religiously harmonious.  One cannot support Fascism and Freemasonry.  The two philosophies are diametrically opposed.       

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. display at the WWII Museum

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. gravesite 


Darin is a husband, father, and Freemason.  He also agrees with Jake and Elwood Blues.

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