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To Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
[July, 1920] [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Roosevelt:
I have been absent from Washington most of the spring and early summer and it was only after my return a few days ago that I noticed the order citing you for the Distingushed Service Cross. You have my very heartiest and most sincere congratulations on this award, for I really am delighted to learn of this belated but highly deserved recognition of your services.
With no idea of flattery and with absolute honesty I tell you that my observation of most of the fighting in France led me to consider your record as a fighting man one of the most remarkable in the entire A.E.F. Based on personal knowledge of conditions, I consider your conduct as a battalion commander in Picardy during the last week of May and the first week of June, 1918, as among the finest examples of leadership, courage and fortitude that came to my attention during the war.
I do not think I have been prejudiced in your favor because of your peculiar position in France virtually as the representative of your Father’s intense desire to serve in battle against Germany. As a matter of fact I opposed promoting you to the grade of lieutenant colonel in January 1918, before we had entered into active service. From the possibly narrower view point of a professional soldier I regarded your career in France as outstanding for high spirit, gallantry and proven ability as an infantry leader under the most trying conditions of the war.1
I do not believe I have ever before indulged myself in such frank comments of a pleasant nature to another man as I have in this letter, but I derived so much personal satisfaction as an American from witnessing the manner in which you measured up to the example of your Father, that it is a genuine pleasure to me to express myself so candidly.
Please remember me most cordially to Mrs. Roosevelt, and if either of you are to be in Washington at any time Mrs. Marshall and I hope very much you will give us the pleasure of seeing you.
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: T. Roosevelt Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Typed letter signed.
1. Roosevelt, eldest son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, was seven years younger than Marshall. He had been active with his father and General Leonard Wood in establishing the Citizens’ Military Training camp at Plattsburg, New York, in 1915. In April, 1917, he was commissioned a major in the Twenty-sixth Infantry, First Division. He was wounded at the battles of Cantigny and Soissons. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in September, 1918, he led his regiment in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns.
Recalling the famous race to Sedan incident of the last days of the war, Marshall commented: "Theodore Roosevelt got in front of his old regiment . . . and pushed on as hard as he could. He had to walk with a staff because he had this knee that had been shot up. I had gotten him back for command of the [regiment], and he was held to be absent without leave from his unit he was assigned to in the south of France. But he was going with his old regiment and making a fine job of leadership. All of this got complicated up on the front, and when he went through the French line, they [the French] were lying down and he barged on through to head for Sedan. They rushed up and protested that it was their sector. "Well," he said, "you aren’t advancing." And he went right along. When they discovered he was Theodore Roosevelt, then they all stood up and cheered him, and he went on ahead." (Marshall Interviews, pp. 228-29.)
After the war, Roosevelt helped to organize the American Legion. At the time of this letter, he was a member of the New York state legislature.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 198-199.