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Quentin Roosevelt's Sneaky American Tactic

quentin roosevelt

Better Known as Theodore Roosevelt's Son

An American president is supposed to be just one of the American people, and even more so his son. Realistically, though, the son of a president doesn't get to grow up like other people, and even a hundred years ago life in the public view could be tough. Eddie Rickenbacker was impressed with how Quentin Roosevelt handled being a president's son in the middle of "the democratic style of living which is necessary in the intimate life of an aviation camp."

Quentin was killed in combat, which according to Rickenbacker was no big surprise;"His commanding officers had to caution him repeatedly about his lack of caution. His bravery was so notorious that we all knew he would either achieve some great spectacular success or be killed in the attempt."

How to Use German Formations to Shoot Germans

However, what Rickenbacker obviously preferred to remember about him was the air victory he scored shortly before his death. As Theodore Roosevelt's son, Quentin was offered the lead position in his unit, but he had the wisdom to recognize the position should be according to experience, not celebrity status, so he was used to flying in last position.

On this occasion he got separated from the others. Soon he spied what he thought was his group, and joined up, flying in last position for several minutes before he had a chance to see that the insignia on the airplane in front of him was the Iron Cross. So he shot it down, and took off. 

Rickenbacker pictured the German Intelligence Office becoming very frustrated with the new tactic Americans were bringing to aviation, of flying in good German formation with the enemy for fifteen minutes before shooting him down!

American Tactics Changed WWI

The Marines of Belleau Wood (though actually the Army was part of it, but the Marines are happy to take all the credit) are famed for changing the dynamics of the war by refusing to return to the trenches when up against stiff resistance. But the way the Americans fought in the air (even though Quentin's tactics in this case were less than intentional) resulted in, as Rickenbacker said, a compliment from the German Intelligence Office, "saying that 'they fought more like Indians than soldiers,' and that 'they upset all our training by dashing in singlehanded against our formations.'" 

This and many other fascinating firsthand accounts are in Rickenbacker's book Fighting the Flying Circus, which explains a lot about WWI aviation such as what happens when your wing fabric rips off and why balloons don't just pop when you shoot them. (Note to new readers: as good a headline as it would have made, Rickenbacker never fought Richthofen, but the Flying Circus continued after the death of the Red Baron....under Hermann Goering! In fact, when Quentin Roosevelt was killed, it was in a fight with the Flying Circus.)

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