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.

Alas, the "genderal" police have ruled that Guys and Dolls, arguably one of America's best musicals, is not politically correct, and drama clubs in academia and many community theaters refuse to produce it.

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.

Alas, the "genderal" police have ruled that Guys and Dolls, arguably one of America's best musicals, is not politically correct, and drama clubs in academia and many community theaters refuse to produce it.