|Captain Robert E. Roeder, 88th Infantry Division, earned the Medal of Honor at Mt. Battaglia.|
Robert E. Roeder never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on July 25, 1917 in Pennsylvania. His parents were also both born in Pennsylvania. His father worked as a farmer and later as a painter. Robert had one older brother. He enlisted in the army on June 5, 1936. His older brother enlisted in the army in February 1941 and survived the war.
Robert took a liking to the army life where he was quickly assigned to be a squad leader. He was stationed in Hawaii at the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. With the start of the war, the Army needed experienced leaders like Robert so he became an officer candidate. He rose through the ranks to become a captain and the commanding officer of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division (nicknamed "Fighting Blue Devils").
The 88th Infantry Division joined the fighting in Italy in February 1944. A month later, Captain Roeder's 54 year old father died. Six months of combat brought the Fighting Blue Devils to the Gothic Line.
On September 27, 1944 Captain Roeder was ordered to take and hold Mount Battaglia with his Company G. Many of his men were new reinforcements with no combat experience. After taking the hill, Roeder's men were subject to tremendous and incessant artillery barrages. The Germans were determined to retake the hill -- they launch five separate counter-attacks in fourteen hours including a bayonet charge that killed many of the Company G troops. Despite the danger of the continuous shelling, Captain Roeder moved from foxhole to foxhole, encouraging his men to hold on.
During a sixth attack at daybreak on September 28, Captain Roeder was in an exposed position and was wounded in the shoulder by a shell fragment that also rendered him unconscious. He was taken to the command post located at a castle on the hill. He regained consciousness, and despite much blood loss, refused to be treated. He grabbed the rifle of a dead soldier and dragged himself to a stone wall were he fired point blank on the Germans overrunning the hill. He was killed by a shell that landed near where he was fighting.
Inspired by Captain Roeder's fearless leadership, his men repulsed every German attack and kept possession of the hill. By the time Company G was relieved, all its officers were either killed or wounded and the company was down to 50 men.
His grave is at Arlington National Cemetery.
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