To the everlasting glory of the Infantry,
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!

In his 1959 seminal work of science fiction Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein idolized the military, and especially the Infantrymen who formed the heart of the Army. The main character in Heinlein's book is Juan Rico, and his ship is named the Rodger Young. To Heinlein, Young represented the valiant and selfless Infantryman of story and song. Heinlein himself called this a tribute to the "Poor Bloody Infantry." Here follows the story of Rodger Young.

Rodger Young was born in Tiffin, Ohio on April 28, 1918. His family moved to Green Springs, Ohio shortly after his birth. Rodger was a man small in stature and limited in physical ability, but with a will and determination that far outstripped any of his peers. Standing 5'2" and weighing 125 pounds, the young man nevertheless participated in high school sports with enthusiasm and did everything he could to be like the American image of a fit young man.

In 1939 Rodger Young, with hometown friends, enlisted in the Ohio National Guard. Little did he suspect what was to be his destination in a few short years. After some training, in the year 1942 his division was mobilized and sent to the Pacific Theater. After several other operations, Rodger Young found himself with the 148th Regiment on the island of New Georgia in the Solomons. While on patrol late in the afternoon, Young's patrol of 20 men was surprised by Japanese in a concealed machine-gun pillbox on an overlooking hill. After the death of 4 men in the opening vollies, the rest of the patrol took cover. Rodger Young, inspired and brave, ignored the commands of his childhood friend Sgt. William Rigby and advanced on the pillbox. Wounded twice in his approach, Young nevertheless managed to throw a hand grenade into the emplacement, destroying it even as he was slaughtered by the enemy's fire.

The rest of Young's patrol, thanks to his heroic effort, escaped without further loss. Where he fell a wooden cross now stands, what some thought would be the only memorial of Private Rodger Young. However, Young was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for "bold and gallant action in the face of overwhelming odds." His citation found its way into the hands of Private First Class Frank Loesser, who immortalized the name of Rodger Young in the new anthem of the Infantry, the Ballad of Rodger Young.

May we ever salute our heroes.

No, they've got no time for glory in the Infantry.
No, they've got no use for praises loudly sung,
But in every soldier's heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.

Shines the name--Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
To the everlasting glory of the Infantry
Lives the story of Private Rodger Young.

Caught in ambush lay a company of riflemen--
Just grenades against machine guns in the gloom--
Caught in ambush till this one of twenty riflemen
Volunteered, volunteered to meet his doom.

Volunteered, Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
In the everlasting annals of the Infantry
Glows the last deed of Private Rodger Young.

It was he who drew the fire of the enemy
That a company of men might live to fight;
And before the deadly fire of the enemy
Stood the man, stood the man we hail tonight.

On the island of New Georgia in the Solomons,
Stands a simple wooden cross alone to tell
That beneath the silent coral of the Solomons,
Sleeps a man, sleeps a man remembered well.

Sleeps a man, Rodger Young,
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
In the everlasting spirit of the Infantry
Breathes the spirit of Private Rodger Young.

No, they've got no time for glory in the Infantry,
No, they've got no use for praises loudly sung,
But in every soldier's heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.

Shines the name--Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
To the everlasting glory of the Infantry
Lives the story of Private Rodger Young.

-- Frank Loesser, P.F.C.
In salute to a man who lived the greatest adventure.

Despite being female, I am a fan of Robert Heinlein’s early books. And Heinlein, in at least two of his stories, mentioned Rodger Young. If you will recall, the main character of Starship Troopers was Johnny Rico, and he served aboard the troop ship Rodger Young. When the troopers were due to be picked up, the ship would broadcast music from “The Ballad of Rodger Young”, and the troopers would head for home. And in his short story “The Long Watch” which is in The Green Hills of Earth , as the young protagonist is dying, he remembers others who have gone before him, including Rodger Young.

So anyway, today as I was re-reading “The Long Watch” for the gazillionth time, I was reminded again of Rodger Young, and I wanted to know more about him, and if possible I wanted to hear that song that is mentioned in Starship Troopers . So here, in case you’re interested, is a brief biography of Rodger Young:

He was born in Ohio in 1918. He was very small but very active and determined. In spite of being only 5'2", he managed to get onto his high school basketball team, though, as you can imagine, he seldom actually got to play. However, one unfortunate day, the coach let him into the game and he was fouled. He fell and hit his head so hard that he was unconscious for several hours. In this day and age, they would have done x-rays or MRIs or something of the sort; however, this was the 1930s so they just sent him home. Whether they could have fixed the problem, even today, I don’t know. But from that day forward, his sight and hearing got progressively worse – so bad in fact that he couldn’t see and hear well enough to finish high school. He got a job.

When World War II started, his hearing and sight were so bad that he probably couldn’t have gotten into the Army; however, he got in by the backdoor. He had joined the National Guard back before the war started, and when his unit was called up, he went with them. Despite his diminutive size and physical limitations, he did well enough that he was actually promoted to staff sergeant. However, once they reached the South Pacific and were preparing to be sent to New Georgia in the Solomon Islands, Rodger began to realize that his hearing had deteriorated to the point that he might be a liability to the men under him. He went to his commanding officer and asked to be reduced in rank to private. At first, his commander took this for cowardice, but once his ears were checked, he was offered the chance to go to the rear, which he refused. He maintained that he wanted to stay with his unit, but he was determined that his deafness should not get any of his friends killed. So he was reduced in rank and placed under the command of his best friend. (Remember, this was a National Guard unit, and these men had known one another for years.)

One day his unit was on patrol in the New Georgian jungle, when they were ambushed and pinned down by a nest of Japanese snipers with a machine gun]. Two members of the 20-man unit were killed immediately. Two more were killed when they made an attempt to break out of the ambush. Night was coming on, and chances were that all of them would be dead before morning. So Rodger Young decided to take out the machine gun himself. There was no cover other than tall grass. He began to crawl forward. His best friend and unit commander, saw him move forward and grabbed him by the foot, telling him to come back that what he was doing was suicidal. Rodger kicked his foot free and continued forward. His friend yelled, "Come back Private Young....THAT'S an ORDER!" Young turned and looked back and said, I'm sorry sir." Then he smiled again. "You know sir, I don't hear very well."

Perhaps the Japanese couldn’t see him, but they could see the movement in the grass as he crawled forward. He was shot once in the left shoulder. This shot left his arm useless and broke the stock of his rifle, so he left it behind and continued forward. He was hit again, a glancing strike that ran down his left leg. He continued on. When he was close enough, he armed one of his grenades, stood up, and threw it into the Japanese pillbox. He was hit again and killed even as he threw the grenade, but his friends were all saved.

He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. His family asked that his rank of staff sergeant also be returned to him posthumously, but the army refused, which was just as well as it turned out. Later that year, the army commissioned a song writer to write a song which would honor the ordinary foot soldier. To get ideas, they told him to read the recommendations for Medal of Honor winners, but he was only to consider those of privates. This song was not meant to recognize an NCO or officer. He was inspired by the story of Rodger Young and wrote a ballad in his honor.

If you would like to read a longer biography of Rodger Young, you may find one at:

If you would like to hear The Ballad of Rodger Young, you may hear it sung by West Point students at:

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.