|Medal of Honor hero Pvt. Rodger Young served in the 37th Infantry Division in New Georgia.|
Rodger Wilton Young never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on April 28, 1918 in Ohio. His parents Nicolas and Ester were also both born in Ohio. His father worked as a mail carrier and later sold appliances. Rodger had two older brothers, one younger brother and one younger sister. By 1940 Rodger had completed two years of high school and was still living at home, working as a welder, and participated in the Ohio National Guard.
He enlisted in the army on October 15, 1940. He held a rank of sergeant in Company B, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division (nicknamed "Buckeye Division"). He was concerned that being only 5'2" with damaged hearing and needing glasses, it would be hard to serve effectively as a squad leader sergeant so he requested a reduction in rank to private. His regimental commander agreed to the unconventional request when he learned that Young was almost deaf. Pvt. Young insisted that he be allowed to stay in the unit despite his handicap.
The 37 ID's first offensive assignment was the New Georgia Campaign to capture the Japanese airbase at Munda in July 1943. The campaign did not go smoothly and the Japanese were still holding out after a month of combat.
On July 31, 1943 Pvt. Young was part of a 20 man patrol on a recon mission that was ambushed and pinned by a concealed Japanese machine gun pit. Pvt. Young distracted the enemy and sacrificed his life, allowing the other men to withdraw to safety. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
His citation reads as follows:
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.
His grave is at McPherson Cemetery in Clyde Ohio.
The renowned Broadway songwriter Frank Loesser, best know for Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, wrote The Ballad of Rodger Young in 1945 and it was popular in its day. The most well known version was recorded by Burl Ives.
Robert A Heinlein's classic sci-fi novel Starship Troopers has a prominently featured troop transport named TFCT Rodger Young and also makes mention of Loesser's ballad about Young.
Last year on this date I profiled James Hagler, 2nd Infantry Division. You can read about James here.
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