"The King replied, 'It was caused by your good fate and my bad fate. It was the fault of the Greek gods, who with their arrogance, encouraged me to march onto your lands. Nobody is mad enough to choose war whilst there is peace. During times of peace, the sons bury their fathers, but in war it is the fathers who send their sons to the grave.’”— Herodotus (484 B.C.-425 B.C.), The Histories, translated by A. D. Godley (1931)
I could have used a visual representation of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus with this quote, but I can think of few images more illustrative of the thousands of individual tragedies remembered on this day—than this photo of Theodore Roosevelt and his youngest son Quentin.
Several years out of the White House, TR had pressed hard for “preparedness” in the event that America intervened in World War I on the side of Britain and France. With his hated victor in the 1912 Presidential election, Woodrow Wilson, firmly barring the door to his own leadership of a unit to fight overseas, Roosevelt looked to his sons to vindicate the family honor.
All of them distinguished themselves in the conflict, but the youngest, Quentin, only 18, was the one
that TR privately believed might be “soft.” Perhaps to overcome that perception, Quentin, who could easily have gotten out of serving because of inadequate vision, memorized the eyechart in preparation for his physical exam. He then entered an entirely new arm of the military—the Army Air Corps—and became a daredevil pilot.
On Bastille Day 1918, Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, in a dogfight in which he saved the lives of the other men in his unit, was shot down in France by a German squadron led by Hermann Goering (later, the head of Germany's Luftwaffe in WWII). In the months after his son’s death, TR took long woods in the woods near his home, only to emerge puffy-eyed from weeping. Most observers agreed that some spark went out of the old political and military warrior after Quentin’s death. His own passing came no more than six months later.
I related more details about the tale of this terrible price exacted by war on this particular prominent American family in this prior post.