Valor Friday

| December 13, 2019

Roger Young

Poetrooper sends us today’s Valor Friday article, which details the heroic actions of Private Rodger Young, USA, on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.

Rodger Young, soldier

In public school in the Bronx, after World War II, we gathered in the schoolyard, recited the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and made way to the auditorium before classes.  There we sang the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.  Among them was one, “The Ballad of  Rodger Young,” whose melody I found myself humming last week after so many decades.

Who was Rodger Young, and who wrote the stirring music and lyrics?

Young was born on April 28, 1918 in Ohio.  Of small and thin stature, only 5 feet, 2 inches, he was athletic and competitive.  During his first year in high school, in a trial game for the football team, he sustained an injury that left him unconscious and led to significant deafness and damage to his vision.  His disabilities forced him to leave high school during his second year.

In 1938, at the age of 20, Young joined the Ohio National Guard, hoping to earn some money, convinced that his disabilities would foreclose the regular army.  He was posted to Company “B” of the 148th Infantry Regiment with the 37th Infantry Division.  He was a disciplined soldier with small arms skill, and when his unit was activated for federal service in 1940, he was promoted to sergeant and squad leader.

In 1942, after America entered the war, his regiment was deployed to Fiji and then to the Solomon Islands in preparation for combat on New Georgia.  He requested a reduction in rank, fearing that his eye and ear deficits would create a risk for his squad.

On July 31, 1943, near Munda on New Georgia, Young was part of a 20-man patrol that was sent out to track Japanese ordnance in enemy-occupied territory.  Returning from this task, his group was ambushed and pinned down by heavy fire from Japanese machine guns.  Four soldiers were killed, and Young was wounded.  The commanding officer ordered withdrawal, but Young crawled toward the Japanese position, and, despite being wounded again, he attracted enemy fire.  He threw hand grenades at the Japanese and was killed by return fire.  His valor and determination enabled his platoon to withdraw with no further casualties.

Young posthumously received the highest military commendation: the Medal of Honor.

Rodger Young represents thousands of other soldiers whose heroism is unsung.  There were no safe spaces in the barracks or foxholes, and trigger warnings meant lethal danger.  They are of grateful memory.

How did “The Ballad of Rodger Young” come to be?

In March 1945, a young private in the Army’s unit that produced recruiting songs was tasked with providing army songs.  He had been expelled from high school and then from City College, having failed every subject except for English and gym, but he could write music and lyrics.  In 1942, he wrote the rousing “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”

He wrote the words and lyrics to “The Ballad of Rodger Young.”

That was the brilliant and witty composer and lyricist of the musical Guys and Dolls — Frank Loesser, who also wrote the hits “How to Succeed in Business,” “The Most Happy Fella,” and “Where’s Charley?”

These are the first stanzas:

On July 31st 1943 a bloody round in the battle for the Solomon Islands
Was being fought in the tangled jungle of the island of New Georgia
This is the story of one of the young men who fought and died there
This song is respectfully dedicated to those heroic infantrymen
Who like Rodger Young have sacrificed their lives
That their nation might remain forever free

Oh, they’ve got no time for glory in the infantry
Oh, they’ve got no time for praises loudly sung
But in every soldier’s heart in all the infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young

You can hear the whole song here.

 

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 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.

Category: Army, The Warrior Code, Valor

Comments (24)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Toxic Deplorable Racist B Woodman says:

    “Shines the name, shines the name of Roger Young”
    Those closing lyrics were used by RAH in “Starship Troopers”.

    • Old tanker says:

      I had the name stick in my memory as well from multiple readings of the book. Never heard the song until today. Thank God that men like that lived.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      Read it in 11th Grade. Took a while for me to get some of the more important themes. Still a classic.

      There’s a youtuber known as Sargon of Akkad who has a very good video analyzing both the book and the (godawful) movie. He rather brilliantly picks rebuts the false claim that “Starship Troopers” promotes fascism, and demonstrates that even the movie, with all its intentional “space nazis” imagery (the director admitted he never read the book but wanted to insult Heinlein), still doesn’t have any actual fascism (just a lot of stupidity).

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    BZ and Shine on Rodger Young! A classic example of the dynamite in a small package. Or the “not the size of the dog on the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

    “…no greater love…”

    Guns Salute…Fire by the piece from right to left…Commence Firing.

    Thanks Poetrooper and AW1Ed for the post. I missed having a Valor Friday Post last week.

  3. JacktheJarhead says:

    In Starship Troopers by Heinlein the ship that the protagonist, Johhny Rico, was stationed on was the Roger Young. Thank you for this update. I knew Roger Young won the MOH, but did not know the details.

  4. The Stranger says:

    I seem to recall that the paperback of “ Starship Troopers” included a copy of PFC Young’s MOH citation. What strikes about this young man was his desire to serve and his consistent placing of the needs of others ahead of his own. Requesting a voluntary reduction in rank due to concerns that his physical limitations would have a negative impact on his squad mates? Virtually unheard of and the EXACT opposite of the frauds, fakers, and embellishers that are so often featured here. I’ve worked in the vicinity of Tiffin, Ohio so next time I’m in the area, I will visit this town and see if there is any type of memorial to this fine example of a Soldier.

  5. Comm Center Rat says:

    “In public school in the Bronx, after World War II, we gathered in the schoolyard, recited the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and made way to the auditorium before classes. There we sang the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.” ~ Poetrooper

    Now 70 years later such patriotic displays are grounds for suspension or expulsion. God and Country are relegated to the history books. The American flag is burned in protest. The Cross of Christ is defiled with excrement in contemporary art. Military uniforms are worn as fashion statements. And Jesus weeps…

  6. docduracoat says:

    We sang patriotic songs in my English prep school in Brooklyn in 1975.
    Mostly from the American Civil and Revolutionary wars.
    I remember “The Caissons go rolling along”
    Goober Peas,When Johnny comes Marching Home, Yankee Doodle, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.
    I liked the line where the artillery men say “was it high, was it low, where the heck did that one go?”

    • The Stranger says:

      Gee thanks…now KOB is going to pick up what you just put down and run with it.😂🤣

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        That one was on target and we fired for effect to blow hell out of that rickety structure that Pappy’s boys cobbled together with baling wire and 100 mph tape.

        😆 😆 😆 :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

        😉 😉 😉 “…as the caissons go rolling along.”

        Oh…and by the way…GO ARMY…BEAT NAVY

        • The Stranger says:

          Jokes on you, that was a hooch we built for you Arty guys!🤣
          To make matters worse, we had a 10 KW generator there for a keg of Yuengling.🍺

          • 5th/77th FA says:

            Naw, we scarfed all that up before the Fire Mission. Drained the keg and using the generator to watch “training films.”

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    5’2″ tall? Good things do come in small packages.

    He certainly carried more than his share of the load.

    • Mason says:

      In my VF researches, a good number of MoH recipients are of shorter stature. For example, Audie Murphy and our recently featured Murl Conner (5’5″ and 5’6″ respectively and both of slight build).

      I think we get this mental image of all these badasses were towering John Wayne figures. Desmond Doss was a perfectly average 5’8″ or so (can’t find a specific number at the moment, but he’s about the same height as Truman when getting his MoH). And he literally carried 75 men off Hacksaw Ridge.

  8. Wilted Willy says:

    Does anyone have a doubt that they were indeed,
    The Greatest Generation!
    BZ to them All!!

  9. AW1Ed says:

    One of my favorites from long ago.

  10. OldSoldier54 says:

    “… Shines the name, shines the name of Roger Young.”

    I’ll take it to my grave.