Written by: Larry Cook
Rodger Wilton Young was born April 28, 1918 in Tiffin, Ohio to Mr. & Mrs. Nicholas Young. He had three brothers and one sister. The Young family lived in Green Springs, Ohio, moving to nearby Clyde shortly before the outbreak of World War II. While growing up Rodger spent much time fishing and hunting and acquired the nickname "Fuzz" one day hunting rabbits.
Rodger joined Company B 148th Infantry (the Fremont Company) of the Ohio National Guard in January 1938. At that time Rodger, who was always small, was 5'2" tall and weighed 125 pounds - one of the smallest men in the outfit. In October 1940 the Guard unit was activated as part of the 37th Infantry Division under Major General Robert Beightler. The company trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania. Rodger served as an instructor on the rifle range, won marksmanship medals, and was a sergeant and squad leader when the company left the United States for the South Pacific.
The unit went first to the Fiji Islands and then to New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. Rodger suffered from poor hearing, the result of an incident during a high school basketball game and aggravated by the sound of gunfire at the firing range. Concerned that he would not hear an important order or some significant sound in the jungle during a mission, he asked to be demoted back to the rank of private and have someone else lead the squad.
On July 31, 1943, Young's squad was pinned down by a hidden Japanese machine gun nest protecting the Munda airstrip on New Georgia. Rodger, wounded by the initial burst of fire, spotted the location of the gun. Firing his rifle and attracting the fire of the enemy, he crept forward and was wounded a second time. When he was close enough, he began throwing hand grenades, was hit again and killed. His heroic efforts allowed his squad to withdraw with no additional losses while inflicting several casualties on the Japanese. For this action, Rodger Young was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in January 1944. About a year later this story came to the attention of Pfc. Frank Loesser who, already established as a writer of popular songs, wrote "The Ballad of Rodger Young".
The Governor of Ohio, Frank J. Lausche, proclaimed March 25, 1945 as "Rodger W. Young Day" in Ohio. On that day a celebration was held in Fremont, Ohio honoring Rodger and his gallantry. The day's activities culminated in the dedication of Fremont's Water Works Park as Rodger W. Young Memorial Park.
In 1949 Young's remains were returned to the United States and he is now buried in McPherson Cemetery, Clyde, Ohio.
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center website has more information available in the R. Young manuscript collection.To visit the site, CLICK HERE.
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