On 25 June 1918 Quentin Roosevelt had proudly written to his mother: “I’m on the front—cheers, oh cheers—and I’m very happy.”
On 11 July, he sent her a more detailed letter describing his experiences.
I got my first real excitement on the front for I think I got a Boche.
I was out on high patrol with the rest of my squadron when we got broken up, due to a mistake in formation. I dropped into a turn of a vrille [i.e., a dive]—these planes have so little surface that at five thousand you can’t do much with them. When I got straightened out I couldn’t spot my crowd any where, so, as I had only been up an hour, I decided to fool around a little before going home, as I was just over the lines. I turned and circled for five minutes or so, and then suddenly,—the way planes do come into focus in the air, I saw three planes in formation. At first I thought they were Boche, but as they paid no attention to me, I finally decided to chase them, thinking they were part of my crowd, so I started after them full speed. . . .
They had been going absolutely straight and I was nearly in formation when the leader did a turn, and I saw to my horror that they had white tails with black crosses on them. Still I was so near by them that I thought I might pull up a little and take a crack at them. I had altitude on them, and what was more they hadn’t seen me, so I pulled up, put my sights on the end man, and let go. I saw my tracers going all around him, but for some reason he never even turned, until all of a sudden his tail came up and he went down in a vrille. I wanted to follow him but the other two had started around after me, so I had to cut and run. However, I could half watch him looking back, and he was still spinning when he hit the clouds three thousand meters below. . .
At the moment every one is very much pleased in our Squadron for we are getting new planes. We have been using Nieuports, which have the disadvantage of not being particularly reliable and being inclined to catch fire.
Three days later, Quentin was surrounded by German fighters and, unable to shake them, was shot twice in the head. His plane spun out of control and crashed behind enemy lines. News of Quentin’s death was reported worldwide. Even the Germans admired that the son of a president would forgo a life of privilege for the dangers of war, and they gave him a full military burial with honors.
Read our article on Quentin Roosevelt's war service and death HERE
Source: Smithsonian, 3 April 2017