General Theodore Roosevelt Jr did not live for long after the Normandy landings of World War II. The memory of his funeral, however, may last forever thanks to the efforts of Private First Class Sidney Gutelewitz, who was in attendance with his camera at the time. Gutelewitz was able to take over two dozen photographs of the funeral of the general on 35mm film, preserving the legacy of the death of Roosevelt Jr on July 13th of 1944.
Gutelewitz was unaware of what he was photographing at the time. He had been interested in the art of photography for some time, and his interest was piqued when he saw a large and solemn gathering of numerous generals. He did not know that Roosevelt Jr was the subject of his pictures when he decided that the gathering would make a good subject. He was especially interested in the presence of the inimitable General George Patton. When all was said and done, he had taken twenty-six pictures of the event at hand, the Los Angeles Times reports.
He processed the film from his Leica camera while still in Europe, and the negatives were neglected for nearly two years thereafter. Even then, he continued for quite some time without knowing what he had. He did not end up knowing that the pictures portrayed Roosevelt Jr until nearly ten years later, when he finally showed prints to people who suggested that he ask the Department of Defense about them. That was how he found out how truly significant his photos were.
That was also how he learned the cause of the general’s death. As it turned out, he had not died from wounds sustained during battle. Rather, having suffered from illness since the First World War, the 56-year-old Roosevelt Jr had suffered a heart attack the day before the funeral. Today, the pictures are housed by the Center for Military History where they are revered for their look at an important moment in history, the death of an American leader’s son.
Roosevelt Jr was buried next to his brother, a WWI pilot named Quentin. The President lost two sons to two consecutive wars, yet neither death is given much notice in traditional American history books. Even if not for their connections to the American presidency, it would seem the death of anyone whose funeral would warrant an appearance by General Patton should be regarded as an historic event. The pictures of Roosevelt Jr provide a chance for such remembrance.