Presidents' Sons at War: 13 Service Records, from the Mediocre to the Ultimate Sacrifice
Being the parent of someone fighting in a war is no picnic, even if you're a president.
In the modern era, several future or incumbent presidents had sons in the military in wartime. Some of those sons did much, some very little, one paid the ultimate price.
Let's look, building up to that ultimate sacrifice, in a list that's heavy with Roosevelts of one sort or another.
13. David Eisenhower Son-in-law to Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, Eisenhower -- grandson of Ike -- served stateside in the Navy Reserves. His service was inspiring only in the sense that a great song came out of it.
Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty said of writing "Fortunate Son": "Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. "
12. George W. Bush Geroge H.W. Bush wasn't a president, but he had enough pull to get his son assigned to the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington. There's plenty of controversy about how much effort the young Bush put into things such as showing up, but the bottom line is clear -- he kept Texas free from any Viet Cong MiGs.
And sometimes he showed up!
11. Beau Biden Vice President Joe Biden's son served a year in Iraq...as an army lawyer. The tour nicely coincided with the campaign, and he was able to get a pass to attend his father's inauguration activities. And yeah, he's not the son of a president....yet. Biden 2016!!!
10. Kermit Roosevelt The second-oldest of Teddy Roosevelt's four sons, Kermit bravely signed up to fight for Britain before the U.S. entered either World War. He fought in what is now Iraq, but by the time America entered WWII he was fighting alcoholism and depression. FDR had him assigned to a desk job at an army base in Alaska, where he committed suicide.
9. John Eisenhower Ike's son graduated from West Point on D-Day and served in both World War II and the Korean War. In both cases, though, the brass was so worried about exposing him to danger -- as the son of the Allied forces' supreme commander and then the son of a presidential candidate -- that his combat time was limited.
8. John Roosevelt FDR's youngest son served as a logistics officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp and received a Bronze Star.
7. FDR Jr. He was a Naval officer in WWII, and was cited for bravery in action. He also famously questioned Hubert Humphrey's war record when he was brought in by JFK for the crucial 1960 primary in West Virginia, where his father was adored.
6. Archie Roosevelt Third-oldest TR son is the only person to be declared totally incapacitated in the two world wars from the same injury. He hurt a knee in the Great War, where France awarded him the Croix de Guerre, and while he was commanding troops in the South Pacific in WWII, a grenade hit the same knee.
5. Chuck Robb LBJ's son-in-law won a Bronze Star during his two Vietnam tours, something conveniently forgotten by Oliver North when he campaigned against him for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. North, who exaggerated his own Nam experience on occasion, said Robb was only an "8th & I Marine," meaning one who served at the Corps' D.C. headquarters. 4. Elliott Roosevelt Franklin Roosevelt's son faced rumors he was drunk at a top-level Allied meeting in Tehran, but also flew 300 combat reconnaissance missions. During one he saw Joseph Kennedy Jr., JFK's brother, die in a plane explosion.
The doomed Quentin Roosevelt
3. James Roosevelt FDR's oldest son could have been exempted from service for his flat feet, but instead wore sneakers during his Marine career. He did intelligence work and then became a leader in the Marine Raiders, earning a Navy Cross and a Silver Star.
2. Teddy Roosevelt Jr. Won the Distinguished Service Cross and France's Chevalier Légion d'Honneur in WWI, where he was gassed at Soissons.
He became the oldest man to hit the beach on D-Day, the only general to do so, at the age of 56. He died six weeks later of a heart attack in his tent, and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
1. Quentin Roosevelt TR's youngest is the only presidential son or son-in-law to die in combat in the modern era. He was a fighter in in WWI who was shot down and buried behind German lines with full honors.
Some weren't surprised, saying Roosevelt -- who showed none of his rich-kid upbringing to his fellow fliers -- never showed any sense of caution.
Eddie Rickenbacker, America's most famous WWI flyer, said of Quentin: "He was reckless to such a degree that his commanding officers had to caution him repeatedly about the senselessness of his lack of caution. His bravery was so notorious that we all knew he would either achieve some great spectacular success or be killed in the attempt."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.