Rodger 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.  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 infantry and given a list of men 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.

3 Comments

  1. Like that poor Pakistani girl we are thinking of today. It’s easy to be brave when your country is on your side, but she and her family stood for the right when surrounded by enemies and traitors. Courage is the best thing in the world, because, as CS Lewis said, it is not just a virtue, but the form that every virtue takes when it comes to the point – everything that makes a man greater than a mere mass of muscle and bone. All virtues either become courage or are not virtues at all, just posture and mendacity.

  2. (Don’s wife Cathy here:) I remember that the ship Private Rico was assigned to in Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was the “Rodger Young” – and the tune they used as a recall beacon for the Mobile Infantry troops assigned to her was “The Ballad of Rodger Young.” I’d never actually heard the tune before, though (one detail they omitted from the movie version 😦 ).

  3. “Courage is the best thing in the world, because, as CS Lewis said, it is not just a virtue, but the form that every virtue takes when it comes to the point – everything that makes a man greater than a mere mass of muscle and bone. All virtues either become courage or are not virtues at all, just posture and mendacity.”

    Well said Fabio. I hope that gutsy Pakastani girl and her family receive permanent sanctuary in a Western nation. I would be proud to hail her as a new American!


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