At 56 years old, he was the oldest soldier in the entire D-Day Invasion. He walked with a cane because of a bum knee, the result of both arthritis and a World War I wound, his first brush with German forces. When told to direct his troops’ assault on Utah Beach from the boats behind them, he demanded that he be allowed to lead them ashore instead—and so Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., became the only U.S. general to land by sea with the first wave of D-Day troops.
The landing, though it went smoothly, did not go according to plan. A combination of tides, smoke from covering naval fire, and weather conditions caused Roosevelt and his men to land about a mile south of their objective. As intense German fire began landing around them, Gen. Roosevelt calmed his confused men and, armed only with a pistol, conducted his own reconnaissance of the area. Changing plans on the fly, he directed an inland push after issuing the battle cry he’ll always be remembered for: “We’ll start the war from here!”
He greeted and encouraged each regiment as it landed, seemingly oblivious to his own safety as the beach continued to take intense fire, and pointed incoming troops toward their new objectives. The result was a successful advance, allowing his troops to attack north behind the beach. After the war, General Omar Bradley was asked about the most heroic action he saw in combat. “Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach,” he replied.
(This medal is no longer available.)