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While following our Grandpa Eastman’s footsteps through World War I France, we found ourselves walking along a dirt road through farm fields and horse pastures in the Marne River valley. The hike was maybe 20 minutes or so. We met a family on a bike ride enjoying this beautiful scenery on a lovely spring day.
Quentin Roosevelt Memorial in Chamery France
Our destination revealed itself behind a hedgerow, visible to few and known only to those who knew where they were going.
Out in the middle of field, surrounded by bushes, we found what appeared to be a grave marker. This is where, on July 14, 1918, a plane piloted by Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of President Teddy Roosevelt, was shot down by German forces.
The granite stone marks the crash site. An American flag and French flag share the space.
The former president and his wife Edith, of course, were devastated at the loss of their fourth child. Quentin was said to have been a lot like his father — a gregarious personality and easy smile. He was always up for an adventure. Quentin Roosevelt was 21 years old when he died and engaged to be married.
The German Army first buried Roosevelt at the crash site. Recognizing he was the son of an American president, he was buried with full battlefield honors. The broken propeller blades from Roosevelt’s plane marked the spot.
After World War I, General John Pershing spent years developing American military cemeteries in France and Belgium. Originally, Quentin Roosevelt was buried nearby at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. But with the development of American Cemetery at Normandy following World War II, the Roosevelts had Quentin re-interred at Normandy, next to his brother Ted, who died at Omaha Beach. Yes, the Roosevelts lost a son in both world wars.
Roosevelt Memorial in Aisne France
Following the first World War, Americans of all stature and economic position contributed to the rebuilding of France and Belgium. You’ll find markers and monuments in village after village recognizing these contributions. The Roosevelts wanted to do something to honor their son’s sacrifice, but something that would be of value to French citizens.
Their choice was a public water fountain in the village of Chamery. More decorative today than utilitarian, clean and convenient sources of water were vital for communities to rebuild after the war in the early 20th century
Château-Thierry and the Roosevelt Memorial
In the city of Château-Thierry, there’s a street name for Quentin Roosevelt. You’ll also find Quentin Road in Brooklyn, NY and Quentin Roosevelt Blvd on the Naval Air Station in San Diego. The little town of Quentin Pennsylvania gets its name from this WWI hero.
In Château-Thierry, Americans rebuilt a church, primarily with donations from the Methodist churches in the U.S. A Roosevelt family Bible is one of the gifts here with an inscription of love and appreciation by Quentin’s mother.
But look closely at other aspects of the church, including a wall inscribed with the names of all chaplains who died in the war.
Our Grandpa was 25 years old and had been married to our grandmother just a few days before he left to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces. He was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church.
Our Grandpa survived the Great War. But 116,000 other Americans, like Quentin Roosevelt, did not.