Rodger Young

Something for the weekend.  The Ballad of Roger Young.  Born on April 28, 1918 in Tiffin, Ohio, Rodger Young had a happy childhood until in a basketball game in high school he received a head injury which affected his hearing and his eyesight.  He dropped out of high school in his sophomore year because he could not hear the teachers and could not see the blackboards.

A small man physically, along with his hearing and eyesight problems, Young would have seemed to have been totally unsuited to be a soldier.  Nevertheless, Young joined the National Guard in Ohio in 1938.  He made a good soldier and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was assigned to Company B of the 148th Infantry Regiment.  With the coming of World War II his regiment was assigned to fight on New Georgia.

Shortly before his unit arrived in New Georgia Young took a voluntary demotion to private.  He was by now almost completely deaf and his eyesight was worse and he didn’t think under these conditions he could perform the duties of a squad leader.  With these disabilities his commanding officer wanted to send Young to the hospital.  Young pleaded his case to remain with his unit with such passion, that he was allowed to stay with Company B.

A week after his unit landed in New Georgia, Young was part of a 20 man patrol near Munda that ran into a Japanese ambush.  What he did next earned Young the Medal of Honor and cost him his life.  Here is the text of his Medal of Honor citation:

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division. Place and date: On New Georgia, Solomon Islands, 31 July 1943. Entered service at: Clyde, Ohio. Birth: Tiffin, Ohio. G.O. No.: 3, 6 January 1944. Citation: On 31 July 1943, the infantry company of which Pvt. Young was a member, was ordered to make a limited withdrawal from the battle line in order to adjust the battalion’s position for the night. At this time, Pvt. Young’s platoon was engaged with the enemy in a dense jungle where observation was very limited. The platoon suddenly was pinned down by intense fire from a Japanese machine gun concealed on higher ground only 75 yards away. The initial burst wounded Pvt. Young. As the platoon started to obey the order to withdraw, Pvt. Young called out that he could see the enemy emplacement, whereupon he started creeping toward it. Another burst from the machine gun wounded him the second time. Despite the wounds, he continued his heroic advance, attracting enemy fire and answering with rifle fire. When he was close enough to his objective, he began throwing hand grenades, and while doing so was hit again and killed. Pvt. Young’s bold action in closing with this Japanese pillbox and thus diverting its fire, permitted his platoon to disengage itself, without loss, and was responsible for several enemy casualties.

Subsequent to his death, composer Frank Loesser, who would go on to write the music and lyrics to such broadway hits as Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, wrote The Ballad of Rodger Young in 1945 celebrating Young’s courage.  Loesser was asked by the Army to compose a song honoring the common infantryman and given a list of privates who had been awarded the Medal of Honor .  Loesser chose Young because of the “all-American” quality of his name.  I think the choice was a good one, due to the extreme handicaps that fate had handed Young which did not defeat his desire to fight for his country.  It is easy to be brave when one is fit and strong.  Based upon his hearing and eyesight problems Young should have been designated as 4-F, spending the War in safety.  Instead, he chose to risk his life for his country, ultimately dying for it, in spite of his handicaps.  That type of courage is rare and deserves to be remembered.

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  1. One wonders with such a legacy of American heroes and heroines, why they receive no popularization. We hear and see all about Reality TV stars and TV actors and actresses, but there is almost complete silence on our real heroes and heroines except for a few isolated cases such as TAC.

  2. “One wonders with such a legacy of American heroes and heroines, why they receive no popularization.”

    They used to. Back in 63-64 on CBS there was a series called The Great Adventure. One episode was about Rodger Young:

    Another epsidode concerned Sister Blandina and Billy the Kid:

    I watched the series as a small boy, although my memories of it are hazy. I wish the series would be released on DVD!

  3. PWP: That was then. This is now.

    In 1944, the whole country was at war, whether in arms, brothers/husbands/sons in arms, rationing, war industries, etc.

    Hollywood was releasing movies like “The Fighting Sullivans” wherein all the brothers were KIA in a Naval battle. The people (and most specifically our gallant troops) knew it was not about heroics (like Obama, Rambo, SEAL teams, etc.). It was about millions’ courage, devotion, and sacrifice.

    The average American in 1944 would be stunned if you told her/him that a dull and illogical appeaser/apologizer would be president in 2012. They would have given better odds on Martians running Washington.

  4. Here’s what our elite, genius rulers are doing today.

    Since Obama took over, Afghan assassins infiltrated in the ANA/ANP murdered more than 100 US troops. Washington’s reaction: crickets. MSM reaction: zzzz.

    In contrast, two US sailors are arrested for allegedly raping a Japanese woman in Okinawa. Washington’s reaction: mandatory curfew (2300 – 0500) for 50,000 US military personnel in Japan, including the commanding general.

    Here a report from the “front.” “Two sailors down in Okinawa were accused of raping a local national and the American ambassador (in all his wisdom) pushed out a blanket punishment to all US Forces Japan. So now, no one is going to get raped anymore because military personnel cannot be outside of an installation or their quarters between 2300 and 0500.”

    Here is my suggestion for that ambassador’s next assignment: Benghazi, Libya.

  5. Could todays lack of duty, honor and courage be due to the lack of Gods grace?
    A sharing in Gods life. Could be.
    Pvt. Youngs story is one of selflessness. A rarity in the age of entitlements.
    Thank you for introducing me to another one of my families benefactors that until tonight was unknown to us.
    God be with our veterans.

  6. I first heard of Rodger Young forty years ago (yikes!) from Robert Heinlein’s “juvenile” Starship Troopers (remade into the horrible movie).
    The young hero serves in the Mobile Infantry and is assigned to a ship named Roger D. Young, the ballad is his regiment’s battle call.

    In in so-called juveniles RAH managed to reflection on the role of gov’t, the meaning of citizenship, &c.

  7. Heinlein also mentions Rodger Young in the short story The Long Watch where the protagonist who has stopped an attempted military coup is dying alone of radiation poisoning and heroes of history gather silently around him.

  8. I was privledged to serve in B Co, 1 Bn, 148th Inf. I joined just out of High School. The 148th had returned to the Ohio National Guard. I had read Starship Troopers in high school. Imagine my surprise when the Friend who had introduced me to Heinlein, showed me the bulletin board at our Armory. Their was Rodger Young’s photo and 6 more photos. Five of those were from WWII, and One from the Korean War. This was the Legacy that I tried to live up to during my entire Military Career. Peace.

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