The Story of Private Rodger Young

historyrodgeryoungThe July 22, 1949 issue of the Bellevue Gazette provided a lengthy story about the bravery of a former Bellevuean,Rodger Young. Rodger was the first serviceman from Ohio to win the nation’s highest honor, “The Congressional Medal of Honor.” The Bellevue Gazette story and additional sources from Heroes from WWII by Edward Murphy,Heroes from Ohio by Rich Sowash, Life Magazine, The Fremont News Messenger and Stanley A. Frankel, the platoon leader of Roger’s company.

Rodger’s parents resided in Bellevue in the early 1930s. While in Bellevue his close friends were William Lerch and a neighbor Basil Frank.

“Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Young struggled bravely to contain their fears as they looked down at the unmoving body of their young son. For more than two hours the boy had laid motionless, the only sign of life and the one reason for hope, the fact that his chest rose and fell with his shallow breathing. Beyond this, there has been no signs of life since he had been carried from the floor of the high schoolbasketball game.

‘Why,’ perhaps they wondered, ‘did their son have to try so hard.’ They skinny little guy was not an athlete, yet his passion for sports consumed him. By some twist of fate, his heart had been born too hard for his body — or perhaps it was the other way around. The little guy just had too much heart to realize there were some things his body COULDN’T do.

Rodger was one of the Young’s five children, four boys and daughter Betty. The middle-class family made their home in Green Springs, Ohio only a few miles away from the slightly larger town of Tiffin where their son has been born fifteen years earlier on April 28, 1918. Rodger had always loved music, and years later his father recalled, ‘When Rodger was young, the whole family would play music together and people would stop and listen to us. Rodger was a very good musician. He played guitar and mouth organ.’ In fact, Rodger put together a family combo that became quite popular for neighborhood gatherings.

Rodger also loved the outdoors, despite a physique that would not have quickly identified him as the rugged outdoor type. With Lake Erie only a short distance from his hometown, Rodger spend much of his free time fishing. He was also an excellent marksman and avid hunter. One day, while hunting rabbits, he had acquired the nickname Fuzz.

With so many things going for him, there was no logical reason for Fuzz to be so persistent in his determination to be an athlete. Baseball…well, he did reasonably well there and was known to have a strong throwing arm for such a little guy. When football season began during his freshman year of high school. Rodger had been quickly eliminated from any competition as too small to compete. So he eagerly awaited the start of basketball season, determined somehow to make the team. He did…usually playing for practice scrimmages. But Rodger’s spirit and determination also garnered the coach’s respect, and occasionally he put the little guy into a real game.

Mr. and Mrs. Young looked back at the prostrate body of their little boy on his hospital bed, remembering how he had played every game as if he were the tallest guy on the court. The mere fact of his presence seemed to add a spark that ignited his less enthusiastic teammates. And then, only hours earlier, the little guy had been going up for a long shot when an opposing player fouled him, cutting his legs out from under him.

Rodger had landed on the floor with a sickening thud, his head striking the hard surface creating an unearthly sound that had rendered the spectators silent. In the silence, all could see that Rodger Young was no longer moving…for him, the lights had finally gone out.