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"We'll start the war from right here!"

By
BGen T. Roosevelt, Jr. in France, 1944
BGen T. Roosevelt, Jr. in France, 1944
Utah Beach Landings
Utah Beach Landings
As part of the first wave of Allied troops to go ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day, and upon being informed that--because the landing craft had drifted off course, the 8th Infantry Regiment and 70th Tank Battalion were more than a mile from where they were supposed to be--General Ted Roosevelt personally surveyed the unexpected circumstances into which misfortune had thrust him.  He did so while walking with the assistance of a cane and armed only with a pistol.

Having determined that the topography of the area was suitable for the landing of those waiting to follow the initial assault, he returned to the troops waiting where they had come ashore and declared:  "We'll start the war from right here!"

His stirring invitation to courage is truly inspiring, but it is his example that provides valuable insight in any attempt to do likewise when confronted with a problem.

First, it seems doubtful that with the rest of the invasion waiting at his back the General really had much of a choice to do otherwise than he did; at least, not without potentially costly consequences to his men and to the invasion as a whole.

I do not say this to disparage the magnificence of his words and actions; indeed, my point is just the opposite:  To the degree that General Roosevelt may have felt compelled to do what he did in the face of such circumstances, his heroism is the greater. To do what he did is courage indeed when circumstances seem unpropitious, when no real alternative presents itself, and when those in your charge are counting on you to lead them to victory.

Allied Troops on Utah Beach
Allied Troops on Utah Beach
Second, Roosevelt showed up to the conflict with only his personal resources:  Integrity, wits, experience, preparation, and other qualities of character.  He also showed up with all of his personal limitations and vulnerabilities.  When it comes down to it, that's all any of us really have with which to face the moments of our lives.  And whatever resources we may think we have beyond those that are strictly personal (resources analogous to regiments and tank battalions), even assets can constitute not only strengths, but weaknesses or vulnerabilities that must be factored into our conduct.

Third, the General did not lose his head.  He did not engage in an emotional response to circumstances demanding reason.

Fourth, Roosevelt studied his situation, and when he announced to his men that they would start the conflict from where they were, it was not bravado.  It was, instead, the simple and informed declaration of the only thing they could do -- and succeed.

Leadership is the use of one's character for the good of others.
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 1921 when he was an Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN)
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 1921 when he was an Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN)

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