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First Name: Rodger

Last Name: Young

Birthplace: Tiffin, OH, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Wilton

Date of Birth: 28 April 1918

Date of Death: 31 July 1943

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1938 - 1943
Rodger Wilton Young

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Rodger Wilton Young

Sergeant, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Sergeant Rodger Wilton Young was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II. Young is remembered in a song, "The Ballad of Rodger Young" by Frank Loesser, most famously recorded by Burl Ives, which extolled his courage and willingness to die to protect his comrades in arms.

Rodger Wilton Young was born in Tiffin, OH, on 28 April 1918, to Nicholas Young and his wife. As a boy he lived at Green Springs before moving to the town of Clyde, OH. During his formative years he liked to go hunting, and he developed his skills at shooting and marksmanship during that time. Although he was a small boy, he was also a keen athlete and in his freshman year at high school he tried out for the football team. He was not selected initially, but during practice his enthusiasm convinced the coach to let him play occasionally. He also played basketball and it was during a game that he received an injury that was to stay with him for life. After being fouled by an opponent, Young fell over on the court, hit his head, and was knocked unconscious. Although he regained consciousness, the incident gradually led to hearing loss and damaged his eyesight. As a result, Young did not complete his schooling, dropping out in his sophomore year when he found it difficult to hear the lessons and see the blackboard.

In 1938, at the age of 20, Young joined the Ohio National Guard. Seeking an opportunity to gain some extra income and believing that because of his medical issues he would not pass a medical for the Regular Army, he decided to join the National Guard instead. He was accepted and posted to Company "B" of the 148th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 37th Infantry Division. At only 5 feet 2 inches tall, Young was one of the shortest men in his company. Despite this, and the fact that he wore glasses, he was considered a good soldier.

In October 1940 Young's unit was activated for Federal service as part of the U.S. government's preparations for future involvement in the war that was then raging in Europe. A Corporal at the time, he undertook the role of a small arms instructor training recruits, and following his promotion to Sergeant served as a squad leader. Later, in 1942 following Japan's entry into the war, the 148th was deployed to Fiji and then to the Solomon Islands, where they undertook training prior to being deployed to New Georgia. But Young's hearing and eyesight had gotten worse and, shortly before the 148th landed on New Georgia, concerned that this might affect his ability to command his squad in combat and put them at risk, Young requested that his rank be reduced to Private.

Initially his request, made to none other than the 148th's regimental commander, was met with some skepticism. Indeed it was believed that Young was attempting to find a way to remove himself from combat; however, following an examination by a medical officer it was found that Young was almost deaf and the doctor recommended that he be sent to a field hospital. This would mean that he would miss the landing that the regiment was scheduled to undertake, but Young wanted to stay with his fellow soldiers and after pleading his case, he was allowed to remain in the unit.

A week later, on 31 July 1943, near Munda on New Georgia, Young performed the deeds that led to his being posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Late in the afternoon, Young was part of a 20-man patrol that was sent out under the command of a lieutenant to reconnoiter Japanese-held territory. By 4:00 p.m. the patrol had begun to move back to U.S. lines along a trail when they were ambushed. Pinned down by intense fire from five Japanese soldiers in a machine gun pit that was concealed on higher ground 75 yards away, two soldiers were killed in the initial burst. As the patrol attempted a flanking attack two more Americans were killed, and so the patrol commander gave the order to withdraw. Young had been wounded in the initial burst, but claiming that he had not heard the order and believing that the machine gun had to be destroyed so that the patrol could escape, he ignored the lieutenant's order and began creeping towards the Japanese position. Another burst from the machine gun wounded him a second time. Despite his wounds, he continued his advance, attracting enemy fire and answering with rifle fire. When he was close enough to the machine gun emplacement, he began throwing hand grenades, and while doing so, he was hit again and was killed. By diverting the fire of the machine gun he was responsible for several enemy casualties and enabled his platoon to withdraw without further loss.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Army, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division.

Place and date: On New Georgia, Solomon Islands, 31 July 1943.

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 machinegun 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 machinegun 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 handgrenades, 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.


In 1945, future two-time Tony winner Frank Loesser wrote the song "The Ballad of Rodger Young" while a Private in the Army's Radio Production Unit. Life reproduced the song's sheet music and lyrics in a story about Rodger Young on 5 March 1945. This, and the return of Young's remains in 1949, added to the song's popularity, with several best-selling recordings being made, by Burl Ives and Nelson Eddy among others, by the end of the decade.

There is a short mention of Young in Robert A. Heinlein's 1949 short story "The Long Watch." In Heinlein's Hugo-winning 1959 novel Starship Troopers, the troop transport TFCT Rodger Young is named for him and the Loesser ballad is featured prominently throughout the book. At the end of the book after the novel is a "Historical Note" with Heinlein's retelling of Young's citation for gallantry. The starship name "No. 176 Rodger Young" is also used in Paul Verhoeven's 1997 film version of Starship Troopers.

Young was also the subject of an episode of the historical TV anthology The Great Adventure. He was portrayed by James MacArthur.

The following site-names honor Young:

The Night Infiltration Course at Fort Benning, GA, is named for him. A requirement for graduation from the U.S. Army Infantry School, soldiers must crawl over 100 meters through sand, mud, and water while live rounds from M60 or M240B machine guns are fired overhead.

The Recreation Center across from Foxtrot 2-19 in Fort Benning has a plaque citing his bravery.

A small arms firing range at Ohio National Guard Training Site, Camp Perry, OH, is named in honor of Pvt. Young. Camp Perry is the home of the National Rifle & Pistol Championships.

Rodger Young Park in Fremont, OH, is named for him.

From 1946 until the mid-1950s, there was a veterans' housing project in Los Angeles, CA, known as the Rodger Young Village.

Death and Burial

Private Rodger Wilton Young was killed in action on 31 July 1943. In 1949, Young's remains were returned to the United States and buried at McPherson Cemetery in Clyde, OH,

Honoree ID: 1726   Created by: MHOH




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