Blackburn bill would honor American WWII soldier who protected Jewish comrades

Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on March 4 introduced legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Master Sergeant Rodrick “Roddie” Edmonds in recognition of his heroic actions during World War II.

“This honor ensures Master Sgt. Edmonds will be remembered throughout history for risking his life to save the vulnerable,” said Sen. Blackburn.

S. 642, sponsored on Monday by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), would award the nation’s highest civilian honor to Edmonds, a lifelong Tennessean, for saving the lives of approximately 200 Jewish-American service members during their time together in a Nazi prisoner-of-war(POW) camp.

“Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds’ unwavering solidarity with his Jewish comrades exemplified his unending will to achieve justice for the persecuted,” Sen. Blackburn said. “He was a courageous hero who embodied the American spirit.” 

Edmonds was captured during the Battle of the Bulge by the German army on Dec. 19, 1944.

As the story goes, according to Sen. Alexander’s statement, Edmonds was thesenior noncommissioned officer responsible for 1,275 United States service members at a German POW camp, where the Nazis ordered him to identify and separate out the Jewish-American soldiers.

Edmonds reportedly disregarded such orders and all of the soldiers stood together, at which time a Nazi officer shouted, “They cannot all be Jews!” prompting Edmonds to reply, “We are all Jews here.” 

Despite the Nazi officer’s threat to shoot Edmonds if he refused again, the master sergeant again refused, stating that the Geneva Convention only required the men to provide their name, rank and serial number. The Nazi officer eventually turned away and left the scene, according to the lawmaker’s statement.

“Master Sergeant Edmonds’ courageous statement, ‘We are all Jews here,’ saved hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers who were captured after the Battle of the Bulge,” said Sen. Alexander. “His story reminds us of why we say and believe, ‘We are all Americans.’”

Surviving 100 days of captivity, Edmonds returned home after the war, but never told his family about the incident. He died in 1985 at the age of 65.

S. 642 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.