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NEW GEORGIA
Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
NEW GEORGIA
Rodger Wilton Young
NEW GEORGIA
Burial on New Georgia, Rodger Young
NEW GEORGIA
Telegram sent to Rodger Young's family with photo of mother wearing MOH.
NEW GEORGIA
Rodger Young returns home, July 1949.

    THIS WEEK, 70 years ago, the New Georgia Campaign began. At approximately 45 miles long, New Georgia is the largest island of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands lie to the east of New Guinea and to the northeast of Australia. Guadalcanal is located among the Solomon Islands. Currently, a little over half-million people reside in the Solomon Islands.
    On June 20, 1943, the 4th Marine Raider Battalion, commanded by Lt. Colonel Michael S. Currin, landed at Segi Point on New Georgia. The landing was unopposed. However, the American assault on Bairoko Harbor, 8 miles west of the Munda Point airfield, the same day, met with failure. Ten days later air field construction began, at Segi Point, and within two weeks, planes were using it. On June 30th the Raiders captured Viru Harbor.
    By July 22, 1943, the 37th Infantry Division had arrived, to assist the 43rd Infantry Division in finally capturing Munda Point. The 43rd was a National Guard division from New England, commanded by Leonard F. Wing, Sr. The 37th was also a National Guard division, from Ohio, known as the "Buckeye" Division and was commanded by Robert Beightler.
    The 10,500 Japanese soldiers defending New Georgia were commanded by Maj.-Gen. Minoru Sasaki.
    The Japanese had captured New Georgia, from the British, in 1942 and built an air base at Munda Point. It was near Munda that Rodger Wilton Young earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously. Two-time Tony Award winner Frank Loesser wrote "The Ballad of Rodger Young," telling RodgerÙs story. It was recorded by, among others, Burl Ives, and included the following lyrics:

    “Oh, they’ve got no time for glory in the Infantry
Oh, theyÙve got not use for praises loudly sung
But in every soldierÙs 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
Stood the man - Rodger Young,
Fought and died for the men he marched among
Like the everlasting courage of the Infantry
Was the last deed of Private Rodger Young.
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, theyÙve got no time for glory in the Infantry,
No, theyÙve got no use for praises loudly sung,
But in every soldierÙs 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.”

    Rodger Young had joined the Ohio National Guard, in 1938, at age 20. He was 5'2" tall, weighed 125 lbs. and wore glasses. By the time The Buckeye Division was deployed to the Pacific, he had been promoted to sergeant. But, due to a childhood injury, his vision and hearing had deteriorated to the point that he became concerned that he could no longer properly fulfill his command responsibilities. Before his unit landed on New Georgia, he asked to be reduced in rank to private. His commander, thinking that he was attempting to avoid the coming engagement, ordered a medical examination. The doctor found that he was almost deaf and recommended he be sent to a hospital. Rodger successfully argued that he be allowed to accompany his unit in the New Georgia landings, as a private.
    On July 31, 1943, he was part of a 20-man patrol that was ambushed, and subsequently pinned down by a 5-man Japanese machine gun crew. Although ordered to withdraw, he smiled, said something about not being able to hear well, and advanced toward the Japanese position. He was hit in the left shoulder, rendering his left arm useless and destroying his rifle. He continued closer, when he was hit in the left side by machine-gun fire. He was able to reach a depression 15 feet in front of the machine-gun emplacement. With his one good hand he grabbed a grenade, pulled the pin with his teeth, stood up, and as the Japanese machine-gun bullets ripped into his small frame, let go with a toss that destroyed the position and killed the enemy. His bravery allowed his 15 surviving mates to safely withdraw.
    The airstrip was finally taken, by the Americans, on August 5, 1943. The surviving Japanese were evacuated from Bairoko Harbor on August 23, 1943, to the nearby island of Kolombangara.
    In addition to Rodger Young, 1194 other Americans died on New Georgia. The Japanese lost 1671 killed.

NEXT WEEK: AMERICAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS

Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own.
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