Medal of Honor Recipient Theodore Roosevelt III

Instructor: Jason Waguespack

Jason has taught Political Science courses for college. He has a doctorate in Political Science.

This lesson looks at Theodore Roosevelt III, the oldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. You will learn about his U.S. Army service during World Wars I and II, his actions that merited him the Congressional Medal of Honor, and his political career.

Imagine having a highly successful and famous father. Now imagine that he's President of the United States. Finally, let's picture that he's one of the country's biggest folk heroes. That's how life was for Theodore Roosevelt III., the son of the famous Teddy Roosevelt. The younger Roosevelt grew up in the shadow of his father, and often wondered if he was worthy of the Roosevelt name. He would become a distinguished military hero in his own right, serving in two World Wars and earning the most prestigious military decorations.

Theodore Roosevelt III
Image of Theodore Roosevelt III

Early Life

Theodore Roosevelt III was born on September 13, 1887, the eldest son of Teddy and Edith Roosevelt. He was often referred to as 'Ted' Roosevelt. The younger Roosevelt grew up during his father's prime years, during which Teddy served as the Governor of New York, commander of the Rough Riders, and then President of the United States. During his father's presidency he went to Groton School in Massachusetts, where he mostly escaped the eye of the press, although he was swamped by reporters whenever he went home for vacation. He once complained to a friend of his father's that he hoped his father would be done holding office soon.

The younger Roosevelt had wanted to attend West Point and enter the army, but his father urged him to go to Harvard instead. After graduating, Roosevelt became a businessman. He would marry Eleanor Alexander in 1910 and have four children.

Theodore Roosevelt III at Harvard
Theodore Roosevelt III at Harvard

World War I

With World War I raging in Europe, Roosevelt trained with his brothers at a summer camp in Plattsburg, New York for the possibility they would go to war. Once the U.S. Congress declared war, Roosevelt eagerly volunteered to enter the armed forces alongside his brothers. The regular army officers saw Roosevelt and his brothers as amateurs who only got into the army on their father's reputation, but Roosevelt would soon impress the doubters with his performance during training. Later, in May of 1918, in a fierce battle with German forces in Cantigny, France, Roosevelt was hit with a gas attack and inhaled some of the gas. Still, he refused to evacuate and continued to fight. For his bravery, he won the Silver Star medal. Roosevelt would eventually be promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Political Career

Roosevelt had long thought of entering politics to follow in his father's footsteps and did so after the War. In 1921, Roosevelt would be appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Warren Harding. However, the Harding administration was rocked by the Teapot Dome scandal, where a member of Harding's Cabinet had been found accepting bribes from oil companies. Roosevelt was not found guilty in the scandal, but he had been director of Sinclair Oil two years before and had recommended his disabled brother Archie for a job there after he left. This made Roosevelt look suspicious to a lot of people.

Theodore Roosevelt III with President Coolidge
Theodore Roosevelt III with President Calvin Coolidge

In 1924, Ted Roosevelt would resign his position to run for governor of New York. Around the same time, Ted's cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also rising in American politics. The two Roosevelts were at odds because Franklin Roosevelt was a member of the Democratic Party, but Ted was a Republican like his father, and did not share his cousin's political beliefs. Franklin Roosevelt's wife followed Ted's campaign around in a car with a papier-mâché bonnet on top that was shaped like a giant teapot, to remind voters of the Teapot Dome scandal. Ted Roosevelt would lose the election, but he would still find ways to serve in political office when President Herbert Hoover appointed him Governor of Puerto Rico and later Governor-General of the Philippines.

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