In 1921 Quentin’s brother, Kermit Roosevelt edited and published Quentin Roosevelt: A Sketch with Letters consisting of Quentin’s letters from France as well as tributes to Quentin written after his death. Pages 169–171 describe the circumstances of Quentin’s last flight and death. On that page, is a letter home from one of the other American pilots, Lt Edward Buford, detailing Quentin’s final mission. Buford, like Quentin, was also reported missing in action, but landed safely at the French aerodrome. He had personally witnessed Quentin’s last fight from the air and described it to his family, several months later:
September 5, 1918
FATHER DEAR,: -
You asked me if I knew Quentin Roosevelt. Yes, I knew him very well indeed, and had been associated with him ever since I came to France and he was one of the finest and most courageous boys I ever knew. I was in the fight when he was shot down and saw the whole thing.
Four of us were out on an early patrol and we had just crossed the lines looking for Boche observation machines, when we ran into seven Fokker Chasse planes. They had the altitude and the advantage of the Sun on us. It was very cloudy and there was a strong wind blowing us farther across the lines all the time. The leader of our formation turned and tried to get back out, but they attacked before we reached the lines, and in a few seconds had completely broken up our formation and the fight developed into a general free-for-all. I tried to keep an eye on all our fellows but we were hopelessly separated and out-numbered nearly two to one. About a half a mile away I saw one of our planes with three Boche on him, and he seemed to be having a pretty hard time with them, so I shook the two I was maneuvering with and tried to get over to him, but before I could reach him, his machine turned over on its back and plunged down out of control. I realized it was too late to be of any assistance and as none of our machines were in sight, I made for a bank of clouds to try to gain altitude on the Huns, and when I came back out, they had reformed, but there were only six of them, so I believe we must have gotten one.
I waited around about ten minutes to see if I could pickup any of our fellows, but they had disappeared, so I came on home, dodging from cloud to cloud for fear of running into another Boche formation. Of course, at the time of the fight I did not know who the pilot was I had seen go down, but as Quentin did not come back, it must have been him. His loss was one of the severest blows we have ever had in the Squadron, but he certainly died fighting, for any one of us could have gotten away as soon as the scrap started with the clouds as they were that morning. I have tried several times to write to Col. Roosevelt but it is practically impossible for me to write a letter of condolence, but if I am lucky enough to get back to the States, I expect to go to see him.
(END OF LETTER by Edward Buford)
Kermit continues with the following on page 172–178:
Two days after Quentin fell, the following German communiqué was intercepted by our wireless:
On July fourteenth, seven of our chasing planes were attacked by a superior number of American planes north of Dormans. After a stubborn flight, one of the pilots – Lieutenant Roosevelt,—who had shown conspicuous bravery during the fight by attacking again and again without regard to danger, was shot in the head by his more experienced opponent and fell at Chamery.”
Not long afterward a German official bulletin was found on a prisoner:
Group “Jeporen” (name of the general?)
General Command Headquarters.
Ic.? – The Intelligence officer, in the name of the General.
(German) Army Corps Headquarters
The 24th of July, 1918/
Edition including even the Companies, except those
which are just now on the front lines, and which
will be only mentioned after their relief/
Sheet of Information, No. 10.
From the 21st of July to the 23rd of July, 1918
THE SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
ROOSEVELT, FOUND DEATH ON AN
AERIAL FIGHT ON THE MARNE
At the time of a struggle between a German Pursuit squadron of seven machines and twelve American pursuit aviators above the Marne, a fight took place between the German pursuit pilot a non-commissioned officer Greper and an American pilot. After a long fight, the German flyer succeeded in bringing down his gallant antagonist.
The hostile airman had been killed by two bullets in the head. He was identified by his papers as Lieutenant Roosevelt, of the U.S.A. Flying Corps.
A clipping from the Kölnische Zeitung obtained through the Spanish Embassy gave this account of the fight:
“The aviator of the American Squadron, Quentin
Roosevelt, in trying to break through the airzone over the Marne, met the death of a hero. A formation of seven German airplanes, while crossing the Marne, saw in the neighborhood of Dormans a group of twelve American fighting airplanes and attacked them. A lively air battle began, in which one American (Quentin) in particular persisted in attacking. The principal feature of the battle consisted in an air duel between the American and a German fighting pilot named Sergeant Greper. After a short struggle, Greper succeeded in bringing the brave American just before his gun-sights. After a few shots the plane apparently got out of his control; the American began to fall and struck the ground near the village of Chamery, about ten kilometers north of the Marne. The American flier was killed by two shots through the head. Papers in his pocket showed him to be Quentin Roosevelt, of the United States army. His effects are being taken care of in order to be sent to his relatives. He was buried by German aviators with military honors.”
The German pilot who shot down Quentin Roosevelt told me of counting twenty bullet holes in his machine when he landed after the fight. He survived the war but was killed in an accident while engaged in delivering German airplanes to the American Forces under the terms of the Armistice.
Funeral services held by the Germans were witnessed on July fifteenth by Captain James E. Gee of the 110th Infantry, who had been captured and was being evacuated to the rear. Captain Gee passed through Chamery, the little village near which the plane crashed to earth. He thus describes the scene:
“In a hollow square about the open grave were assembled approximately one thousand German soldiers, standing stiffly in regular lines. They were dressed in field gray uniforms, wore steel helmets, and carried rifles. Near the grave was a smashed plane, and beside it was a small group of officers, one of whom was speaking to the men. “I did not pass close enough to hear what he was saying; we were prisoners and did have the privilege of lingering, even for such an occasion as this. At the time I did not know who was being buried, but the guards informed me later. The funeral certainly was elaborate. I was told afterward by Germans that they paid Lieut. Roosevelt such honor not only because he was a gallant aviator, who died fighting bravely against odds, but because he was the son of Colonel Roosevelt whom they esteemed as one of the greatest Americans.”
On July 18, in a great allied counter-attack, the village where Quentin fell was retaken from the Germans, and his grave was found by some Americans soldiers. At its head was a wooden cross, on which was printed:
Buried by the Germans.
Following the custom that sprang up in the heroic soil of the air-service, the broken propeller-blades and bent and scarred wheels of the plane were marking his resting-place.
Near by lay the shattered remains of the airplane, with the seventy-six “wound stripes” which Quentin had painted on it, still to be seen.