Biography of David P. Roderick
S/Sgt, Co. H, 22nd Infantry, 4th Inf Div., 1st Army, USA, D-Day, WWII
I am David Roderick a staff sergeant in Co H, 22nd Infantry regiment , 4th Infantry Division. I was an 81mm mortar section sergeant and landed on Utah beach on June 6, 1944 in the third wave.
Utah Beach was located in the south of the Cotentin Peninsula. It is dominated by the Douve River and its principal tributary the Merederet River. They flow south and southeast and then turn toward the sea. The two rivers flow through flat bottomlands and water meadows. A lock and dam was located at la Barquette, just north of Carentan, that was capable of controlling these bottomlands. At high tide, these lands could be effectively flooded into shallow lakes, which isolated the Cotentin from the other beachheads, and restricted all land traffic to established routes.
On the east coast of the Cotentin, a belt of low-lying meadowland extending from the mouth of the Douve River to Quinneville had been flooded. The Germans obstructed several streams between the areas and created an extended flooded area beginning about fifty yards off the beach and inland a distance of about one to two miles. Several elevated causeways about a foot above the water made it easy to block passage by strategic placed fortifications and mines.
There were three critical attack areas at Utah Beach. (1) The Caratan-la Barquette area to stop the Germans from flooding the eastern exit leading inland to Caretan (2) the dry ground between St Lo-de Ourville and St. Sauveur-de-Pierre-Pont, which controlled the western approaches to the peninsula (3) the inundated area between the mouth of the Douve Rives and Quinneville which facilitate the enemy's defense of the area and restricted movement of our troops from landing and moving inland.
Obstacles were placed on the beach at a distance of from 50 to 130 yards seaward. These obstacles consisted of stakes or piles slanted seaward, steel hedgehogs, and Belgian Gates. Utah Beach is a smooth beach with compact gray sand backed by nearly 10,000 yards of a masonry sea wall from 4-8 feet high. Sand dunes 10-20 feet high extended inland behind the beach 150-1000 yards. Beyond the sand dunes were the inundated areas, which made it easier for the enemy to protect with small arms, machine gun, mortars, and the artillery from the inland coastal fortifications.
German defenses immediately behind the seawall consisted of pillboxes, tank turrets mounted on concrete structures, firing trench, and underground shelters. These were protected by wire, mines, and antitank ditches. Concrete infantry strong points providing interlocking fire, and were armed with both fixed and mobile artillery pieces. About two miles inland were several costal and field artillery batteries, the most formidable were those at Crisbecq, Azeville, St Marcouf, and St Martin-de-Varreville.
The German opposition consisted of the 709th Infantry Division, 17th Machine Gun Battalion, 243d Infantry Division, and about ten days before the invasion intelligence discovered that the 91st Division with one battalion of tanks had been moved into the area.
Our American assault strategy provided for one regiment of the 82nd Airborne to be dropped east of the Dove River and two regiments being dropped west of the Douve River. The objective of the 82nd Airborne was to secure the western edge of the bridgehead and the village of Ste. Marie- Eglise.
The 101st Airborne Division was to clear the way for the seaborne assault by seizing the western exits of four roads leading from the beach across the inundated areas. It was to establish a defensive position along the arc of the northern and southern edges of the invasion area.
The 4th Infantry Division was the assault division for Utah Beach. Attachments with special assignments were the 1106th Engineer Combat Group, 801st Tank Destroyer Battalion, and one battery of the 980th Field Artillery Battalion (155mm), plus antiaircraft artillery units and a detachment of the 13th Field Artillery Observation Battalion. The 4th Division was to assault Utah Beach at H Hour, establish a beachhead, and then drive on Cherbourg in conjunction with the 90th Division, which was to land on D plus1. One of the 90th Division regiments (359th) was to be attached to the 4th Division for operations of protecting its northeast flank. The 9th Division was to begin landing on D plus 4 and assemble near Orglandes and prepare for operations to the Northwest.
In addition to these units, the 79th Division was to begin landing on D plus 8. An added precaution included landing the 188th and 951st Battalions with 155 mm howitzers. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade was charged with organizing and operation all shore installations necessary for debarkation, supply, evacuation, and local security.
At H minus 2 hours a detachment of the 4th Cavalry Group was to land on the island of St. Marcouf that lies off shore from Utah Beach. They were to capture and destroy any installations capable of hindering the landing operation.
The invasion by the V11 Corps division was to be preceded by intensive naval bombardment of enemy positions in the landing zones of the amphibious forces. About midnight, on June 5th, bombers of the RAF were scheduled to range up the entire invasion coast bombing the coastal batteries. Special attention was to be given to the coastal batteries at Crisbecq and St. Martin-de-Varreville. Shortly before H Hour, medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force were to attack batteries at Utah Beach and to the east. The Ninth Air Force also provided protection for the cross-channel movement and over Utah Beach during the assault. After H Hour they were on call as needed.
Naval fire support was given by Task Force 125, organized into a bombardment group and a support craft group. The Bombardment group consisted of 1 battleship, 5 cruisers, 8 destroyers, and 3 subchasers organized unit 5 fire support units. At H minus 40 minutes these warships began bombardment of the enemy shore batteries and defenses, which threatened the ships and crafts in the Utah Beach assault. The support craft group consisted of 33 craft variously equipped with rocker launchers and artillery and delivered close-in support fire from positions near the beach. Rockets were fired when the first waves of assault craft were still 600 to 700 yards from the shore.
My 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment landed on Tare Green Beach about 9:30 am. opposite la Madeliene. The beach was being shelled but we got across without any casualties.
We crossed the beach and proceeded south to Exit #3. We entered the inundated area behind the beach and walked through it for "miles". We passed near St. Martin-de-Varreville and hit the main road that runs from Audoville-la-Hubert to St. Germain-de-Varreville where we took up defensive positions for the night after relieving the 502nd Parachute Regiment.
The most difficult of the division assignment was given to the 22nd Infantry Regiment on the right flank. The 3rd Battalion had proceeded up the beach destroying beach fortifications and stopped for the night at Taret de Ravonoville; the first battalion was at de Dodainville, the 2nd at St. Germain-de Varraville.
On D plus 1 we attacked at 0700 the heavily fortified encasements at Azeville. The 1st Battalion attacked St. Marcouf fortification and the 3rd Battalion continued to attack the beach fortifications. The first Battalion attacked astride the highway on our right and we used the trails to the west. When we approached the high ground between Azeville and de Dodainville, where we received fire from the forts at Crisbecq and Azeville. The 1st Battalion pushed on toward St. Marcouf.
Our two battalions now faced the two most powerful coastal forts. (The Crisbecq guns were 210-mm) and they threatened the beaches as well as the shipping and stood as the last serious barrier for advancing on Cherbourg. Each position consisted of four massive concrete blockhouses in a line; they were supplied with underground ammunition storage dumps, interconnected by communication trenches, and protected by automatic weapons and wire. An arc of concrete sniper pillboxes out-posted the southern approaches to Azeville. Crisbecq mounted the larger guns and occupied a more commanding position in the headland overlooking the beaches.
Our 2nd Battalion fought for several hours with some advancement but was driven back by the German counterattack with considerable losses. I lost my two-squad leaders and several men with wounds (Rappaport and Spokony) and one KIA (Walker). On the 8th, I lost Pvt. Hamm.
It took several days to clear this area of strong fortifications and casualties were extremely high. We attacked the Chateau de Fontenay on June 10th with heavy casualties, captured Azeville and continued on through Montbourg and the Quinnville ridge area. On June 25th, Cherbourg fell. We spent several more days cleaning up pockets of resistance and eventually went into bivouac on June 30th where we had our first bath, change of clothing, mail, and hot food since the invasion. The 22nd Infantry Regiment casualty list included WIA 1560, 373 KIA (Enlisted men); WIA 104 officers, 23 KIA officers = 1970 casualties from normal strength of about 3,000. Seventy percent of infantry casualties occur in the line companies.
Total casualties for the 4th Infantry Division for period June 6-July 1 was 5, 452 (844 KIA, 3,814 WIA, 788 Missing, 6 captured).
Others: (Infantry Division strength is about 14,000)
82nd Airborne Division (4,480) 457 KIA 1,440 WIA 2,571 Missing, 12 Captured
101st Airborne Division (4,670) 546 KIA 2,217 WIA 1,907 Missing
90th Infantry Division (2,399) 386 KIA 1,979 WIA 34 Missing
9th Infantry Division (2,438) 301 KIA 2,061 WIA 76 Missing
79th Infantry Division (2,376) 240 KIA 1,896 WIA 240 Missing
V11 Corps Troops 304 KIA 37 WIA 49 Missing 61 Captured
Total V11 Corps Casualties: (22,119 WIA 13,564 -KIA 5,665- MIA -79 Captured
The European Theater contained 68 combat divisions. The most casualties ( 5,558 KIA - 18,766 WIA) suffered were by the 3rd Infantry Division that fought in Africa, Sicily and Italy. The 4th Division was second with (4,854 KIA - 17, 371 WIA) Total casualties. The total does not count the non-combat injuries.
Periers - The Hedgerow Corridor of Death
On July 7th, we prepared for the attack on the town of Periers. We assembled the morning of July 8th at Amfreville. This was in the dreaded hedgerow-fighting sector. The mission of my 2nd Battalion was the breaching of the enemy line south of Culot with La Maugerie as the objective. Neuville was the objective of the 1st Battalion. One of my best friends, Whitney Verett, was wounded during the movement to the line.
Our second Battalion objective was to pass through the lines of the 83rd Division and advance on the strong enemy positions south of Culot. La Maugerie was the main objective. Neuville was the objective of the First Battalion.
It was during the bloody La Maugerie battle that the tremendous mortar barrage fell during Company F attack. Lt. Jim Beam lost both legs from mortars. The Third Battalion attacked on July 11th the high ground in the vicinity of Raids. The Second Battalion was employed to their left, and Company C mopped up La Maugerie to the southeast.
The attack on the 12th of July cost many casualties. Captain Jim Burnside was wounded. My good friend, George Boschini, was killed on the 12th of July. His government notification listed George's death notice to Martha DOW at La Haye du Puits and buried in the American cemetery at Blosville, France. My Bronze Star for action that day gives nearest location as Sainteny, France
The fierce battle ended on July 13th. The battle costs almost as many casualties as the beachhead and push to Cherbourg; Enlisted men 1044 WIA, 263 KIA; officers 56 WIA, 16 KIA for a total of 1379 in less than one week of fighting. The 22nd Infantry Regiment went into reserve to receive casualty replacements to rebuild our fighting strength and train with the 2nd Armored Division for the breakthrough at St. Lo. The rest of the Fourth remained in the line to await the breakout after the planned B-17 Bomber attack Our casualty rate for the Normandy Campaign now equaled 7,231 (KIA 1,123; WIA 6,437; Missing 788; Captured 6) Note: no additional figure for missing and captured available for the hedgerow assault.
Breakthrough at St. LO
Combat Command A team was formed for the special service of fighting with tanks and make the breakthrough at St. Lo. It was formed by July 19th and moved east to the vicinity of La Mine. The special force was under the command of Brigadier General Maurice Rose. We were to prepare the way for the breakout of the Third Army under General Patton that was poised behind us.
We were sitting behind the 30th Division, 1st Division, and the other regiments of the 4th Division. We left our training and rest area in the vicinity of La Mine shortly after midnight on the 26th of July. We moved to a forward assembly area two miles north of Pont Herbert and attacked to the south at 0930 hours. The B-17 bombing of the front lines were reasonably successful and we drove through the lines while receiving fierce artillery fire but little small arms fire. We fought all day and into the night, and by dawn St. Gilles and Canisy had been taken and we were on our objective, the high ground in the vicinity of Le Mesnil Herman. We had gained 10 1/2 miles and captured over 300 prisoners.I captured 22 during the night with my mortar section.
On July 28th, fierce fighting occurred with the first Battalion attacking south in the direction of Moyen, Second Battalion on the left attacking toward Tessy Sur Vire, the Third Battalion attacking along the Le Mesnil Herman-Percy Road. By evening we were on target with the Second Battalion 1 1/2 miles south of Le Mesnil Herman.. Our fighting continued to August 14th. Our Second Battalion fighting occurred at Bessinerie, Villebaudon,, St Pois. We stopped at the La Varenne River in a defensive position extending from Passasias to La Bourdonierre.
The twenty-day period, July 26th to August 14th, total casualties for this period added to our casualty list 6 officers and 109 enlisted men KIA; 30 officers and 561 enlisted men WIA; 43 enlisted men missing( total of 749.
The German army was in retreat and our next move was to be Paris!!
Our regimental assembly area was near Ablis. The 3rd battalion moved on to the Seine River 1500 yards north of Corbeil. The 2nd battalion bridged a gap in the German defenses with the capture of 25 Germans. The whole battalion was across in three hours. The 1st battalion moved across the Seine River and took positions between the 2nd and 3rd battalions. This action secured the placement for the Treadway Bridge at Orangis. The German defenses were eliminated and we were alerted to move in columns to the eastern part of Paris. Shortly thereafter, I was a part of the combat reconnaissance patrol that moved out to the northeast to make contact with the departing Germans. We cleared the area at St Germain and moved on to Le Mesnil Amelot and Nanteuil Le Haudouin-Ormoy Villers to secure a bridgehead across the Ainse River.
Route of Regiment from Paris to Eastern Ardennes (Siegfried Line)
September 1, 1944 Combat Team Taylor (22nd Inf Reg plus attachments): The task Force was to by-pass resistance and reach the Corps objective east of Valenciennes, Belgium as quickly as possible. We were to reach the objective by dark on 3rd of September.
We crossed the IP by 0800 0n the 1st following the route north to Soissons, reaching there at about 1100. At that point, we crossed the highway bridge and then turned left on a dirt trail along the north bank of the river to Pommiers, then turned north to Epagny.
At 1615 enemy resistance was met just north of Folembray. After some routing through rural areas to la Fere. The 747th Tank Battalion led with the 2nd Bat, 22nd Inf in close support. We reached the bank of the Oise River at la fere by 1900.
At la Fere, the bridge was out so the Task Force had to wait for a bridge to be constructed. The northern Task Force joined us at Crecy at dawn on the 2nd of September.
By about 0830, the bridge had been constructed and the Task Force continued movement to the north. At the Sambre River, there was a brief halt at Foucoxy while a German Mark V tank was knocked out, and several German vehicles destroyed at le Herie.A wagon column was destroyed a mile north of Guise. We split again into two Task Forces at the Iron River, and the 1st Battallion turned west on road to le Cateau. We had a skirmish at Hannepes and secured the Sambre Canal bridge before it could be demoloished. . Other small forces were contacted at Wassigny and Ribeauville.
My 2nd Battalion with the east column continued to Landrecies.. The main bridge was destroyed over the Sambre River but the engineers within 30 minutes had the old railrad trestle passable. We surprised an enemy column and inflicted heavy losses. The Task Force moved to an assembly area on the morning of the 3rd of September at Pommereuil
The rest of the 4th Division had advanced into Belgium. On the morning of 7th September, orders were received to move to near Graids, Belgium, some eighty-five miles.
On the morning of the 10th of September, the 2nd Battalion moved by truck to the rear of the 3rd Battalion at Saile. The 3rd Battalion pushed on through Gives and Compgne and on to Houffalize. The people of Houffalize were very helpful in rebuilding a bridge and removeal of fallen trees across the roads.. The 1st and 2nd Battalion moved into the area south of Houffalize. We pushed on in the morning accomplishing our objectives at Beho. by dark.
That night, a patrol from the 4th Division from the I and R platoon crossed into Germany near Hermmeres, Germany at 2130 hours on the 11th of September. On the 12th of September,Tte German villages of Steffhausen, Auel and Elcherath were captured.. On the 13th, the 3rd Battalion was just east of Urb and the 2nd Battalion was at Groslangenfeld. An hour and a half later both battalions were on their objectives in the vicinity of Bleialf. L Company occupied Buchet. Winterscheid, Achweiler and Schweiler were also captured on the 13th. We had arrived at the Siegfried Line!
Siegfried Line in Brandsheid area
On September 16th , we attacked to seize the high ground west of Sellerich. the 3rd battalion was in Brandscheid but had to readjust their lines near Meisert. An attack was made on fortifications on the hillsides northeast of Hontheim and south of Herscheid. Maintained positions in the area from the 18th of September to 3rd of October. On the 4th of October, we were ordered to a new area near Bullingen. We moved to assembly area near Honsfield.. On the 17th, the 1st and 2nd battalions moved 1700 yards beyond the MLD. Line remained static through October 12 to 22nd October. We had baths and hot food at Murringen. I saw my first Red Cross facility! We stayed there through November 5th and moved north to Zweifall facing the Hurtgen Forest.
We went on and fought the bloody battle in the Hurtgen forest, stopped the southern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge.
The following article was written about me in the Herald and Review in 2003.
A Day at the Beach
Staff Sgt. David P. Roderick, 20 years old on D-Day, was thinking about the 16 men he would soon lead into battle as he descended on a rope ladder from a landing craft to a smaller plywood Higgins boat, which was bobbing like a cork in the turbulent English Channel.
There were ships and boats as far as Roderick could see in every direction.
"The battleships were firing rockets," Roderick, who grew up in Decatur, recalled in a phone interview from his home in Southern California. "The B-26s flew in very low and bombed and machine-gunned the beach."
After the Allied bombing stopped, Roderick and his two mortar squads trudged the final 100 yards to Utah Beach in waist-deep water, each man carrying a .45 sidearm, full 30-pound pack, gas mask, canteen and ammunition belt.
It was 7 a.m. on D-Day, the first day of the final clash between the Allied and Axis forces. The stakes were high: The Nazis were fighting to defend their empire, which included most of Western Europe. The Allies were fighting to defeat the Nazis and liberate the nations they had conquered.
"My memory is that I never was scared," Roderick said. His company was in the third wave to land on the beach.
On that cold morning, with the sky overhead full of dark clouds, German artillery shells from inland emplacements rained onto Utah Beach.
"When we got to the beach, there was a 4-foot-tall concrete sea wall, which gave us some protection," recalled Roderick, 79, a retired high school teacher and coach. "There were mines, but none of my men hit any. Some people did hit them.
"You worried more about artillery, because you heard that coming in. On the beach. You learned to distinguish between yours and theirs. You called it incoming mail and outgoing mail."
About 3,700 Allied soldiers were killed June 6, 1944, on the Normandy beaches, but members of Roderick's squads were unharmed.
They were not so fortunate the following days.
"I lost several men the second day," recalled Roderick. "I lost my two squad leaders. The two were from Brooklyn. They were hit by German rockets. We called them screaming meemies, they made such a weird sound. They got your attention right away." A runner was also killed by a sniper that day.
Fifty-nine years after the invasion of Nazi-occupied France began, ceremonies will be held today in Normandy, France, and elsewhere to mark the anniversary of the largest invasion in world history. Roderick said he does not have any special plans this year, but he hopes to return to Normandy for the 60th anniversary next year.
Roderick, who had dropped out of Decatur High School to join the Army at age 16, was with the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Army Division, 1st Army.
A native of Decatur, David Roderick spent several years growing up on a Piatt County farm near Argenta before his father lost it during the Depression. Roderick's parents, Leonard and Etta Jane, died when he was a teen.
David joined the Army June 18, 1940, six weeks after his mother died. His oldest brother, Leonard Jr.-- who was married with a baby, and also caring for their 10- and 13-year-old brothers -- reluctantly signed David's enlistment papers.
The division Roderick joined would later be renowned as the "Famous Fourth" for its numerous exploits as it charged toward and into Germany. Two of the most prominent writers covering the war, Ernest Hemingway and Ernie Pyle, traveled with the 4th Division.
"We had the most casualties (35,455) of any division in Europe," Roderick said. "I saw a lot of young men come and go." The 22nd Regiment had the highest casualty rate of the division's three regiments.
Of the 500 men who served in Roderick's heavy weapons company, H Company, he believes just five, including himself, escaped serious injury or death during the war.
Roderick said he couldn't count the times he narrowly escaped death.
While he was serving as a forward observer among the well-defended hedgerows in Normandy, a mortar shell landed 5 feet from him, blowing off his helmet and drilling small pieces of shrapnel into his arms and chest.
"It killed two or three men ten yards away," he recalled. "It's amazing what that shrapnel does."
Roderick said he did not mention his own injury to his superiors because he did not want to be evacuated.
"You were with your buddies. That was the important thing. I turned down a battlefield commission (to become a 2nd lieutenant) for the same reason, because they would have transferred me to a different unit."
Months later, in the Ardennes forest in Germany, Roderick and his men were caught in an artillery barrage before they had a chance to dig in. Among them was an 18-year-old recent replacement, Pvt. Bernard Smith, a 6-foot 5-inch former all-New York City basketball star.
"I dove under a Jeep," Roderick recalled. "He started to dig a foxhole. He was half in the foxhole. He was killed by the concussion of the shell.
"He had a real future ahead of him. I often think of that young man."
A major force
The 4th Infantry was credited with spearheading many of the major thrusts of the western front -- the crucial breakout from the beach area at St. Lo, the liberation of Paris, and the smashing of the Siegfried Line to enter Germany.
Roderick, called the best mortar sergeant in the U.S. Army by one of his commanding officers, served a stretch of 199 days of continuous battle with the Nazis. It was a string broken only by a short hospital stay in Belgium after Roderick was knocked out by the concussion from a large caliber shell.
"In World War II in Europe, when your outfit went on the line you stayed there," Roderick said. "It was just a matter of time before you were seriously wounded or killed."
William S. Boice, an army chaplain who served the 22nd Regiment, recalled in a phone interview from his home in Phoenix that Roderick and his radio operator were in a forward position when they were hit by a mortar barrage.
"His radio operator was killed," Boice recalled, adding that Roderick picked up the damaged radio and began walking with it, when he blacked out.
After Roderick was sent to the hospital to recuperate, Boice urged his commanding officer to return him to the front lines, rather than send him to the rear or to England.
"The War Department strategy was to keep the trained people experienced in battle," recalled Boice, who had baptized Roderick into the Christian faith shortly before his injury. "I took him back to the front lines."
Boice explained that he felt Roderick, a dependable leader with a remarkable ability to get along with all kinds of people, would be better off continuing in battle with his friends.
"He was very glad to get back to his unit," Boice recalled.
A hero's honor
On Nov. 18, Roderick's 21st birthday, he was in the Hurtgen Forest, at the western edge of Germany. Roderick noticed that mortar shells were falling in a pattern -- over and below his emplacement, as they zeroed in on his position.
"I knew we were in trouble," Roderick wrote in his self-published book, "Deeds Not Words: A narrative of the 22nd Infantry Regiment during World War II.'' "I crawled from my hole next to the mortar placement into a ravine that ran in front of my guns."
As shells exploded around him, he scrambled along a ravine to reach his platoon leader, to request to move his men into safer foxholes. A tremendous mortar barrage continued.
When he later visited the evacuated position, he saw that two foxholes had been demolished, including his own.
"Seven lives had been saved from serious injury or death," Roderick wrote.
He was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions -- the second of three he received during the war.
The 22nd regiment was decorated with a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism for its role in the battle of the Hurtgen Forest.
Man against man
The Forest of Hurtgen, a 50-square-mile patch of densely planted, 100-foot-tall fir trees, became one of the bloodiest battlefields of the war.
This was a jumping off place into Germany's Ruhr Valley, the heart of the Reich's industrial complex. The 4th Infantry paid a high price to enter Germany, partly because the battlefield was inaccessible to support from tanks and planes. The Germans, desperately committed to defending their homeland, had artillery aimed at the few open areas.
"It was just man against man," Roderick recalled. "I remember our replacements coming up, many of them didn't get to the front lines because the artillery got them before they even got there."
In 18 days at Hurtgen, the 22nd Regiment had 2,678 casualties. The regiment contained about 3,000 men at full strength.
Hemingway wrote that any man who survived Hurtgen must have had a guardian angel on each shoulder. When he described the battle in a story published in Collier's magazine, he relied heavily on an eyewitness account by Capt. Howard Blazzard.
It was Blazzard, a career army officer, who later announced at a 22nd Regimental Society meeting that Roderick was the best 81mm mortar sergeant in the U.S. Army.
Loaded with service points because of months in combat, many awards and years of service, Roderick left Germany March 16, 1945, to begin his journey home. He returned to Decatur to visit family members and then headed for New Jersey to marry Lorraine Weber, a young woman he had met two years earlier while training at Fort Dix. They corresponded regularly during the war.
They were married May 5, three days before V-E Day. They celebrated their 58th anniversary last month. The Rodericks raised two boys: Skip, a teacher on a Navajo reservation, was killed in an accident at age 24; Scott is a pastor at a church in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Roderick, who had aspired to be a coach since he was a young boy and had played basketball at Decatur's Roosevelt Junior High School, applied to attend Panzer College of Physical Education in East Orange, N.J. Because he had no high school diploma, he had to pass a test to be admitted.
The man who had escaped injury so many times in war left the college after he received a shoulder injury playing football. He transferred to Arizona State College, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees. He attended Boice's First Christian Church, where he served as a deacon.
He went on to teach and coach for a total of 38 years in Phoenix, Thornton, Colo., and Lancaster, Calif. In Thornton, he took over a four-year-old football team that had never won a game and won three conference championships in six years.
Since retiring in 1989, he has written four books: "Deeds Not Words"; "Cognitive Parenting," a book on Christian parenting; and genealogy books on both his family and his wife's family.
Roderick said the values he learned from his hard-working parents provided him with a strong drive to serve his country.
"We were a poor family. We had been through the Depression. My father was hard- working and had strong values and was very, very strict with his five boys."
And he credits military leaders with having the foresight to provide men such as himself with years of training before D-Day.
"I was fortunate to be in a highly trained outfit which was able to spend the time in training before combat. I think that was a very important element."
----- Dave Roderick