The smoking mustache
July 23rd, 1917
Letter from Edith Roosevelt to “Rodney Forsythe” a.k.a. Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore you quit this nonsense at once! I had to accept a wreath from President Wilson today! It was shameful! The children’s hearts will break. Come to your senses. You’ve now had your chance to shoot at an enemy soldier while on horseback. It’s time to return to your duties. Do it for me.
July 24th, 1917
Infamous “Smoking Mustache” Report Concerning the Death of Theodore Roosevelt, Completed by Hercule Perrot, Special Military Attaché sent to High Command
My investigation is complete. I have examined the body identified as “Theodore Roosevelt” and noted several peculiarities, which I shall now draw your attention to. First, Monsieur Roosevelt was weighed just one week before his death in a standard army physical fitness examination was found to weigh 215 lbs. The body I conducted the post-mortem examination on weighed 185 lbs.—a difference of almost 30 lbs. It would be almost impossible to lose that amount of weight in one week unless one were starving, mon ami, and Monsieur Roosevelt was seen eating large meals on numerous occasions in the days leading up to his death (I checked). Secondly, the spectacles found on “his” person were not the frames or the magnification used by Monsieur Roosevelt, but that used by another officer by the name of Captain Forsythe.
Captain Forsythe, at his last army physical examination, weighed 185 lbs. The third detail, which I will here note as you call it “the smoking gun” (or in this case the “smoking mustache”) was the fact that the mustache on the face of the body I examined was not grown by its wearer—BUT PLACED THERE BY SOMEONE ELSE! Upon close examination with a magnifying lens, I noticed flecks of Duffy’s Tip Top Pipe Powder (the finest pipe powder that ever peeped from a pipe) and chewing gum. Further, the mustache was a different color than the rest of the head hair—most odd indeed. With a gentle tug I was able to remove it entirely. Comparing it to photographs, I concluded that the mustache was the same type grown and worn by Monsieur Roosevelt, yes.
So, Messieurs, it was clear as day that the body did not belong to Roosevelt, but to another man. His description matched that of Captain Forsythe—who, by the way has been believed to be alive and well, and has been seen and even given his report of the attack that killed the other officers. Yet the body was that of Forsythe and the mustache belonged to Monsieur Roosevelt. Obviously, someone shaved off Roosevelt’s mustache, and placed it on the face of the deceased Captain Forsythe to not just fake Roosevelt’s death, but to give the impression that Forsythe was alive and well, thereby switching the identities of the two men! Who would concoct such an elaborate ruse? And why? Was it the Germans? Did they capture Monsieur Roosevelt and secretly hold him prisoner? Unlikely. If the Germans had him, he would be a prize to be displayed to all. The only reasonable conclusion is that Roosevelt himself did it, in order to escape the doldrums of the duties of an intelligence officer and run to the front lines.
The only way to know for sure was to find “Captain Forsythe” and confront him. This was easy to do. He was the most aged man at the front, parading up and down the trenches on a swayback horse, giving commands in Napoleonic style with a raised, antiquated sword. I came up behind him and shouted, “Monsieur Roosevelt!” He immediately turned his head, then nodded sadly. He dismounted his horse and shook my hand. After telling him how I found him, he shook my hand and said, “Well done, mon ami.” We then walked together to the closest military police headquarters so he could turn himself him, discussing French literature and Flemish painters all the way there. “You are a Flem?” he asked. “No,” I said. “I am a Walloon.”