Monday, December 3, 2007
Where Do We Get Such Men Part 1
While watching TV the other day and one of my favorite movies was playing the phrase "Where do we get such men?" was said, a very lamentable phrase it is actually the closing line in the movie, The Bridges of Toko-ri made from the novel of the same name by James Michener. A senior naval officer says it in wonder at the self-sacrificial heroism of several naval aviators, killed fighting in rice paddies of Korea after their aircraft went down. I think on this phrase alot of times when I read about the heroism of the men and women from Schuylkill County who have sacrificed so much. Below find the stories of two of our Medal of Honor holders who served in World War ll. Capt. Robert Roeder and Corporal Anthony Damato
During World War ll, Mt. Battaglia in Italy located near the Po Valley was a very strategic point. From the 27th of September to the 3rd of October 1944, the 2nd Battalion of the 350th Infantry Regiment 88th Division was assigned the duty of holding this strong point. The Germans also knowing the value of such a strategic point also wanted this peak. For seven days the Germans made numerous deadly counter attacks. The attacks would start with heavy artillery and mortar barrages, followed by squad level infantry attacks using small arms to include hand to hand and grenade attacks. Each and every attack on this peak was beaten back by the men of the 2/350th. The weather during these attacks was terrible low hanging clouds made the visibility nearly zero, the terrain was rough and rocky. Pack mules were needed to bring the supplies to the battalion. At times the ammunition was so low the men resorted to throwing rocks at the advancing Germans. The evacuation of the wounded proved to be a serious matter because of the weather and the terrain and the incessant artillery bombardment by the Germans. For their outstanding fighting and courage displayed by the men of the 2/350th the regiment was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.
Fighting with G Company of the 350th was a Schuylkill County native born in Summit Station, on July 25, 1917. Captain Robert Roeder. According to information published in the Pottsville Journal Captain Roeder was once rejected for service in the U.S. Navy because of a punctured eardrum. This was back in 1936, a week before he enlisted in the Army. He served two enlistments in the Regular Army and was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1942. Upon graduation, he was assigned to a rifle platoon in Company G, 350th Regiment, subsequently becoming executive officer and company commander. Prior to the fighting on Mt. Battaglia Roeder was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for fearless and aggressive leadership in leading an assault on hill 316 in southern Italy on the morning of the 12th of May, 1944 , on Hill 316 the hill was taken, at 1320 hours thus completing the action by the 350th.
Captain Rober Roeder is a true hero of Schuylkill County, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions on top of Mt. Battaglia in September of 1944. Captain Roeder was with company G 350th who’s assignment on this day was to hold the summit of Mt. Battaglia. The first enemy attack came 35 minutes after the company was in position, but was repulsed along with five others in the ensuing 34 hours on the mountain. After the seventh attack made by the Germans using artillery and flame throwers, Captain Roeder gallantly lead his company in a hand to hand fight. An exploding shell rendered him unconscious and he was carried by his me to the command post. Following his Captain Roeder’s Citation for Bravery and being awarded the MOH.
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. Birth: Summit Station, Pa. G.O. No.: 31, 17 April 1945.
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 is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Section 12