Captain Robert E. Roeder, USA (September 27-28, 1944)

Robert E. Roeder was born on July 25, 1917 in Summit Station, Pennsylvania. He lived his entire childhood there, graduating from Schuylkill Haven High School in 1935, prior to his enlistment in the United States Army in 1936. Roeder was stationed in Hawaii and was present when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The rapid growth of the Army following the United States’ entry into World War II meant that most experienced soldiers who had demonstrated leadership abilities were thrust into those roles. Roeder was one such man, was sent to Officer Candidates’ School, and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry Branch in June of 1942.

88th Infantry Division shoulder patch (Wikimedia Commons)

Roeder was assigned to the 88th Infantry Division. The 88th was the first Army division stood up for the war that did not have a cadre of regular Army or National Guard forces as its base. The “Fighting Blue Devils” (also the “Cloverleaf Division”), as they became known, was formed almost entirely of draftees, with men such as Roeder to lead them. The 88th Infantry Division fought in Italy, first entering combat there in January 1944.

By September 27, 1944, Roeder had been promoted to Captain and was the commander of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 350th Infantry Regiment. His company was positioned for the defense of Monte Battaglia, and came under immediate and intense counter attack by the Germans.

Wartime photo of Monte Battaglia (Storia e Memoria di Bologna)

Captain Roeder fearlessly led his men in the mountain top’s defense, insisting on remaining with his soldiers even after being wounded and regaining consciousness after being knocked out. Company G held, and it was largely because of the incredible courage of its commanding officer, who was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*ROEDER, ROBERT E.

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company G, 350th Infantry, 88th Infantry Division. Place and date: Mt. Battaglia, Italy, 27-28 September 1944. Entered service at: Summit Station, Pa. G.O. No.: 31, 17 April 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Roeder commanded his company in defense of the strategic Mount Battaglia. Shortly after the company had occupied the hill, the Germans launched the first of a series of determined counterattacks to regain this dominating height. Completely exposed to ceaseless enemy artillery and small-arms fire, Capt. Roeder constantly circulated among his men, encouraging them and directing their defense against the persistent enemy. During the sixth counterattack, the enemy, by using flamethrowers and taking advantage of the fog, succeeded in overrunning the position. Capt. Roeder led his men in a fierce battle at close quarters, to repulse the attack with heavy losses to the Germans. The following morning, while the company was engaged in repulsing an enemy counterattack in force, Capt. Roeder was seriously wounded and rendered unconscious by shell fragments. He was carried to the company command post, where he regained consciousness. Refusing medical treatment, he insisted on rejoining his men. Although in a weakened condition, Capt. Roeder dragged himself to the door of the command post and, picking up a rifle, braced himself in a sitting position. He began firing his weapon, shouted words of encouragement, and issued orders to his men. He personally killed 2 Germans before he himself was killed instantly by an exploding shell. Through Capt. Roeder’s able and intrepid leadership his men held Mount Battaglia against the aggressive and fanatical enemy attempts to retake this important and strategic height. His valorous performance is exemplary of the fighting spirit of the U.S. Army.

Captain Roeder’s remains were repatriated to the United States and laid to their rest in Arlington National Cemetery. Both the 350th Infantry Regiment and the 88th Infantry Division have been inactive since the end of World War II.

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