Brigadier General James Roosevelt



Brigadier General James Roosevelt, eldest son of the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt died 13 August 1991 at his home in Newport Beach, California. He had served on continuous active duty with the United States Marine Corps from 1940 through 1945. He later continued his affiliation with the Marine Corps Reserve and, on 1 October 1959, was advanced to the grade of brigadier general upon retirement, having been specially commended for heroism in combat.

Holder of the Navy Cross and the Silver Star Medal, James Roosevelt was born in New York City on 23 December 1907. He completed Groton Prep School in 1926, then entered Harvard University where he was a member of the Naval ROTC unit from 1926 to 1928. He graduated in 1930.

He entered the Marine Corps on 13 November 1936 as a lieutenant colonel in the Reserve, and completed various period of active duty – with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Indianapolis; with Fleet Landing Exercise #4 (FLEX-4) in the San Juan-Culebra-Virgin Islands area on reconnaissance patrols and experiments with raiding and patrolling parties; and at Parris Island, South Carolina, in connection with testing of anti-aircraft batteries.

On 3 October 1939, he requested and was granted permission to resign his commission as a lieutenant colonel. Shortly thereafter, at his own request, he was re-commissioned in the Marine Corps Reserve, in the grade of captain, on 24 November 1939. Subsequently, he performed temporary periods of active duty with the Reserve prior to being assigned to extended active duty upon mobilization of his Reserve unit, 7 November 1940. Reporting to Camp Elliott, San Diego, California, he served as a battery commander with the 2d Battalion, 10th Marines, 2d Marine Division, until January 1941, when he was ordered overseas.

During the early months of 1941, he was assigned as an Assistant Naval Attache, American Embassy, London, England, attached to British Army Headquarters, Middle East, in Cairo, Egypt. During this period, he made various trips throughout the zone of operations of the British Middle Eastern Forces. He was on the Island of Crete until its invasion by German forces, and was with the British troops as they moved into Iraq.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he requested duty with a combat unit, and was re-assigned to Camp Elliott in January 1942, upon activation of the first Marine Raider units. Lieutenant Colonels Merritt A. Edson and Evans F. Carlson were designated to organize, train, and command the first two Raider Battalions, with Major Samuel B. Griffith, II, as Executive Officer of Edson’s 1st Marine Raider Battalion, and Captain Roosevelt as Executive Officer of Carlson’s 2d Marine Raider Battalion.

After further training in the Hawaiian area, he was promoted to major in May 1942, and with his unit moved to the Gilbert Islands in August 1942. He earned the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism during the battalion’s successful raid on Japanese-held Makin Island, August 17-18, 1942. His citation states in part:

“…Risking his life, over and beyond the ordinary call of duty, Major Roosevelt continually exposed himself to intense machine-gun and sniper fire to insure effective control of operations from the command post. As a result of his successful maintenance of communications with his supporting vessels, two enemy surface ships were destroyed by gunfire. Later, during evacuation, he displayed exemplary courage in personally rescuing three men from drowning in the heavy surf. His gallant conduct and his inspiring devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Returning to the United States in October 1942, he became Commanding Officer of the newly-organized 4th Raider Battalion, and a week later was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He sailed with the battalion for Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, in February 1943. While training for the New Georgia Operation, he was hospitalized in the New Hebrides and later evacuated to the U.S.

In August 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt was assigned as an intelligence officer on the Staff of the Commander, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, and took part in the occupation of Kiska in the Aleutians. From October 1943 until December 1944, he was assigned as Intelligence and War Plans Officer, Amphibious Training Command, Pacific Fleet, and during this period was attached to units of the Army’s 27th Infantry Division which effected the landing on Makin Atoll. For gallantry in action at Makin Atoll, 20-23 November 1943, he was awarded the Army Silver Star Medal. His citation states in part:

“….(He) voluntarily sought out the scene of the heaviest fighting. Throughout the three-day period, he continually accompanied the landing elements of the assault, exposing himself to constant danger. His calmness under fire and presence among the foremost elements of the attacking force was a source of inspiration to all ranks.”

He was promoted to colonel in April 1944. Later, as G-2 of Amphibious Group 13, U.S. Pacific Fleet, he helped ready assault groups which were to strike Okinawa. After taking part in the invasion of Okinawa in the Spring of 1945, he was transferred to the Philippines during the Consolidation of the Southern Philippines. For service on the Staff of the Commander, Amphibious Group 13, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in the Leyte area, he was authorized the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one bronze star.

Colonel Roosevelt returned to the United States in July 1945, and was transferred to the inactive duty list, 28 October 1945, following five years of active service.

He completed annual periods of active duty with the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement, 1 October 1959, at which time he was advanced to brigadier general by reason of his combat citation. He was elected to the 84th Congress of the United States in November 1954, and served continuously from the 84th through the 89th Congresses as a Congressman from California.

Marine Corps University