Rodger W. Young

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Rodger Young, taken while he was still a sergeant

Rodger Wilton Young (April 28, 1918 - July 31, 1943) was a private in the U.S. Army who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat during World War II.

Early life

Rodger Young was born in Tiffin, Ohio[1] to Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Young.[1] He had three brothers and one sister.[1] As a teenager he enjoyed fishing and hunting[1] and also tried to participate in football, basketball, and baseball. Due to his small stature, his participation in these sports was limited. He persevered, and his determination ensured that he was put into a few basketball games. However, he suffered a head injury in a game, resulting in dulled senses. Thereafter, he struggled at high school because of his injury and eventually left school to help support his family instead.[2]

Military career

In 1938 he joined the Ohio National Guard. At the time he joined, he was only 5'2" and weighed 125 pounds. He trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania, where he served as an instructor of a rifle range, and won marksmanship medals. He was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant and was appointed a squad leader, all while hiding the severity of the effects from his high school head injury.

Upon America's entry into World War 2, he was deployed to the Pacific Theater, where he first went to the Fiji and Solomon Islands after their liberation. While on the islands, awaiting deployment to Guadalcanal, Young trained his men to the best of his abilities. He eventually realized his previous injury might cause problems in the chain of command, and possibly result in the death of his men. He decided to voluntarily ask for a demotion to the rank of private. This selfless action was at first thought to be an act of cowardice by his CO, but they later clarified it with each other.

Rodger Young took part in Operation Cartwheel and was among those tasked with capturing and holding the airstrip at Munda, New Georgia, Solomon Islands. During a patrol, Young's platoon, under the command of Sergeant Walter Rigby, was ambushed by a hidden Japanese machine-gun nest. The platoon was pinned down and had no way to either effectively retreat or advance. After several people were wounded, Young crawled toward the machine-gun nest, suffering multiple wounds as he did so, including some immobilizing of one of his arms. Despite his many wounds, he continued his advance and eventually reached within fifteen feet of the enemy fortification. He then armed a grenade, using one arm and his teeth to pull the pin. He stood up, facing the hail of enemy bullets, and threw the grenade, which destroyed the fortification. The enemy shot him a third time, killing him.

Rodger Young managed to save fifteen of the twenty man patrol, at the cost of his own life .

Rodger W. Young is buried at McPherson Cemetery, Clyde, Sandusky County, Ohio.[3]

Medal of Honor

Due to his actions in battle, Rodger Young was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on January 6, 1944.[4]

The President of the United States takes pride in awarding the Medal of Honor posthumously to



for service as set forth in the following


"For distinguishing himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on New Georgia, Solomon Islands. On 31 July 1943, the infantry company, of which Private 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, Private 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 seventy-five yards away. The initial burst wounded Private Young. As the platoon started to obey the order to withdraw, Private Young called out the he could see the enemy emplacement, whereupon he started creeping toward it. Another burst from the machine-gun wounded him the second time. Despite his 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. Private 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."[5]

Additional honors

March 31, 1945 was proclaimed "Rodger W. Young Day" in Ohio in honor of his great deeds and accomplishments.[6]

"The Ballad of Rodger Young" was written by Frank Loesser and first performed in March, 1945. The words were based on his Medal of Honor citation and it went on to become one of the best-known songs of the war.[2]

The author Robert A. Heinlein mentioned Young in his 1949 short story, "The Long Watch", and Heinlein named a troop transport ship the TFCT Rodger Young in his Hugo-winning 1959 novel, Starship Troopers. The name was also used in the 1997 movie adaptation.

External links