[The following is excerpted from an article by Jeff Cranson in the Sandusky Register, May 27, 1984.]
After more than four decades, Nicholas Young Sr., who at 88 lives in Tiffin, is quietly proud of his son's heroism. "I think Rodger did what any guy with some guts would have done," Young maintains.
The young man's actions came as no surprise to his father, who had a close relationship with his son. "We were a close family," the elder Young recalls. "When Rodger was young, the whole family would play music together and people would stop and listen to us. Roger was a very good musician. He played guitar and mouth organ."
He traced his weak hearing and sight to a basketball injury he suffered when he hit his head on the court as a boy in Green Springs.
Although Young loved sports, most people who knew him admit he was no great athlete. "He loved to play and he always hustled," Nicholas Young concedes.
Young also loved to shoot. "He liked the outdoors. We used to hunt and fish," his father recalls.
The young man overcame his poor eyesight to become an expert marksman.
"We used to go up to Camp Perry and shoot once in a while," said Walter Rigby, Young's boyhood friend. "Rodger would quite often shoot expert."
Rigby was Young's
platoon sergeant. He filed the principal affidavit that led to Young's
receiving the Medal of Honor.
"That was a bad day," Rigby said. "Five area men were killed that day. We walked right into a trap."
"We had been ordered to burn our rations when we were told to withdraw."
"But Rodger was bound and determined to get that Japanese machine gun," Rigby continued. "In his position he had to know he was going to get killed. When I gave the order to retreat, I saw one of the boys beside him poke him with a stick and tell him to draw back but he had his sight on that pillbox and started after it."
Young was a private when he died: he had asked to be demoted from sergeant-the rank he held for 2-1/2 years-because he felt his poor hearing would be a detriment on the battlefield.
"That's just the kind of guy he was,"Rigby said.
Rigby said Young was proud of his rank and his responsibility but he was thinking of his comrades first.
"His hearing wasn't real bad but he didn't want the responsibility of being a sergeant. He was afraid he might not hear an order and he decided he would rather be a private."
Young's father, and most who remember the man who sacrificed his life, say he was an ordinary soldier who rose to the occasion when the chips were down.
Betty Young, perhaps displaying the kind of humility her brother was said to have possessed, cautions against about memorializing Rodger to the neglect of other veterans.
"I am very proud of Rodger and what he did. But I think it's important that we remember the millions of others who also lost their lives," she said.
"I think he did what anyone would have done," Nicholas Young maintains.
But anyone didn't do it. Rodger Young did. And although no one will ever know what went through his mind when he made the decision to attack the Japanese machine gunner, his reasons, by all accounts, were nothing less than noble.
Perhaps his boyhood friend and platoon sergeant, Walter Rigby, sums it up best. "That's just the kind of guy Rodger was."
[The following is excerpted from an article by Shari L. Veleba in the Fremont News-Messenger, July 31, 1993.]
William Ridenour (fellow soldier)
"We didn't know how we were going to get out - we were surrounded by the Japanese. We were all in a semi-circle, and we lit up our ammunition. We had to burn it up. That's one of the lessons you learn, not to leave any ammunition for the enemies to use on you." - William Ridenour, saved by Pvt. Rodger W. Young during World War II in the Solomon Islands, July 31, 1943.
Being shot at by the Japanese, with only his fox hole to curl into, William F. Ridenour, now 72, of Fremont, thought he was a dead man that day in 1943.
And then came Pvt. Rodger W. Young, the man who, despite being injured, continued his drive to save the lives of his comrades. He lost his own life doing just that.
"He was a good guy, a little strong-headed," Ridenour said, reminiscing about that fateful day, 50 years ago today. "A lot of times, he didn't hear."
It was that "hearing problem" that led Young, only six weeks prior to his heroic acts, to ask his captain that he be reduced in rank, from staff sergeant to private, so he would not jeopardize the lives of his comrades.
We were given up as annihilated," Ridenour said about his fellow soldiers, members of the 148th Infantry, 37th Division, company B of the Ohio National Guard. "You had to keep your tail down."
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