WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) today introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Master Sergeant Rodrick “Roddie” Edmonds, a lifelong Tennessean, in recognition of his heroic actions during World War II.
As the senior noncommissioned officer responsible for 1,275 members of the Armed Forces at a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, Edmonds orchestrated a remarkable show of unity when the Nazis ordered him to identify and separate out the Jewish-American soldiers under his command. Disregarding the orders, Edmonds and all 1,275 soldiers stood together. Upon seeing the soldiers united as one, a German officer angrily shouted, “They cannot all be Jews!”, to which Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews here.” The German officer eventually turned away and left the scene. The actions taken by Edmonds saved the lives of approximately 200 Jewish-American members that day.
Senator Corker said: “The courage and foresight Master Sergeant Edmonds showed that day to save the lives of approximately 200 Jewish-American soldiers is truly remarkable. Even when faced with death himself, Master Sergeant Edmonds and the men under his command stood united to protect their fellow soldiers. His moral fortitude and humility serve as an example for us all, and I am pleased to join my colleagues to honor his life in this way.”
Senator Cardin said: “When I learned of Master Sergeant Edmonds’ valiant actions that saved Jewish-American prisoners of war in Germany, I was reminded of the Talmud’s teaching that, ‘whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’ At a dark time in humanity’s history, Master Sergeant Edmonds was a bright light and did what his heart told him was the right thing to do. There are families alive today who can be thankful that their very existence is due in no small part to Roddie’s service and sacrifice. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in an effort to have Congress honor this proud son of Tennessee.”
Senator Alexander said: “Master Sgt. Edmonds’ bold statement, ‘We are all Jews here,’ saved hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers who were captured after the Battle of the Bulge. It is one of the most inspiring stories I know. The heroism of this 20-year-old East Tennessee soldier is an example for every one of us.”
Senator Kaine said: “Master Sergeant Edmonds was a true American hero and the embodiment of everything our nation was fighting for against the Nazis in World War II. In the face of death, his enormous courage and will to stand up for humanity saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers. I’m proud and humbled to support this bipartisan effort to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.”
Full text of the legislation, which includes details on Master Sergeant Edmonds’ heroic actions, follows and is available online here.
To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Master Sergeant Rodrick “Roddie” Edmonds in recognition of his heroic actions during World War II.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the “Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds Congressional Gold Medal Act”.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress finds the following:
(1) Rodrick W. Edmonds (in this Act referred to as “Roddie Edmonds” or “Edmonds”) was born in 1919 in South Knoxville, Tennessee, and graduated from Knoxville High School in 1938.
(2) Roddie Edmonds was a Master Sergeant in the United States Army and a member of the 422nd Infantry Regiment while serving during World War II.
(3) Roddie Edmonds landed in Europe in 1944 and fought to the border between Belgium and Germany. In December of 1944, while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Edmonds was captured by Nazi forces and detained in Stalag IX–A, a prisoner of war camp in Ziegenhain, Germany.
(4) Stalag IX–A was a site used to identify, segregate, and remove Jewish soldiers from the general population of prisoners of war and many of the Jewish soldiers who were so removed were sent to labor camps or murdered. Members of the Armed Forces were warned of this policy and aware that their fellow servicemen could be at risk.
(5) As the senior noncommissioned officer in Stalag IX–A, Master Sergeant Edmonds was responsible for 1,275 members of the Armed Forces at the camp. Approximately 1 month after the date on which Edmonds was detained, Edmonds was directed to order the Jewish-American soldiers under his command to fall out in order to separate the Jewish-American soldiers from their fellow prisoners.
(6) Disregarding the orders of the Nazis, Roddie Edmonds commanded all of his men to fall out and, the following morning, all of the 1,275 members of the Armed Forces under the command of Edmonds stood outside of their prison barracks.
(7) Upon seeing the soldiers, a German officer angrily shouted, “They cannot all be Jews!”, to which Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews here”.
(8) The German officer took out his pistol and pointed the gun at the head of Edmonds, but Edmonds refused to identify the Jewish soldiers. Instead, Edmonds responded, “According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank, and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us and, after the war, you will be tried for war crimes”.
(9) The German officer turned away from Edmonds and the other soldiers and left the scene. The actions taken by Edmonds saved the lives of approximately 200 Jewish-American members of the Armed Forces.
(10) Lester Tanner, a Jewish-American member of the Armed Forces also captured during the Battle of the Bulge, witnessed the incident and stated that, “There was no question in my mind, or that of Master Sergeant Edmonds, that the Germans were removing the Jewish prisoners from the general population at great risk to their survival. The U.S. Army’s standing command to its ranking officers in POW camps is that you resist the enemy and care for the safety of your men to the greatest extent possible. Master Sergeant Edmonds, at the risk of his immediate death, defied the Germans with the unexpected consequences that the Jewish prisoners were saved”.
(11) Edmonds survived 100 days in captivity and returned home after the war. Later, Edmonds served the United States in Korea as a member of the National Guard. Edmonds died in 1985, but never told his family or anyone else of his brave actions outside the barracks of Stalig IX–A during World War II.
(12) Edmonds was posthumously recognized by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, as “Righteous Among the Nations”, the first member of the Armed Forces and 1 of only 5 people of the United States to be so recognized. Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, announced the selection of Edmonds by saying, “Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds seemed like an ordinary American soldier, but he had an extraordinary sense of responsibility and dedication to his fellow human beings … The choices and actions of Master Sergeant Edmonds set an example for his fellow American soldiers as they stood united against the barbaric evil of the Nazis”.
SEC. 3. CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL.
(a) Award Authorized.—The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate shall make appropriate arrangements for the posthumous award, on behalf of Congress, of a gold medal of appropriate design to Roddie Edmonds in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during World War II.
(b) Design and Striking.—For the purpose of the award referred to in subsection (a), the Secretary of the Treasury (referred to in this Act as the “Secretary”) shall strike a gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions to be determined by the Secretary.
(c) Presentation and Award of Medal.—The gold medal referred to in subsection (a) shall be presented, and following the presentation awarded, to the next of kin of Roddie Edmonds.
SEC. 4. DUPLICATE MEDALS.
The Secretary may strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medal struck under section 3 under such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, at a price sufficient to cover the cost thereof, including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and overhead expenses, and the cost of the gold medal.
SEC. 5. STATUS OF MEDALS.
(a) National Medals.—The medals struck under this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code.
(b) Numismatic Items.—For purposes of sections 5134 and 5136 of title 31, United States Code, all medals struck under this Act shall be considered to be numismatic items.