Among the many briefings U.S. servicemembers receive are a few that instruct them on how to behave if ever they become prisoners of war. It is emphasized that even if they are out of the fight, they still have positive obligations as members of the American military that they must fulfill if they are to “return with honor.”
Near the end of World War II, many U.S. soldiers became prisoners during the last gasp German offensive that would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. Encircled troops without the means to resist were rounded up by the Wehrmacht and sent to POW camps until the end of the war.
Roddie Edmonds was one such soldier. Once in the camp, he was the senior NCO present, and thus responsible for the morale and discipline of those under him — even in this grim setting. But it would be in this dark hour that Edmonds’ character would truly shine:
One day in January 1945, a month after his capture, the Germans ordered all Jewish POWs to report outside their barracks the following morning. Edmonds knew what awaited the Jewish men under his command, so he decided to resist the directive. He ordered all his men — Jews and non-Jews alike — to fall out the following morning.
Upon seeing all the soldiers lined up, the camp’s commandant, Major Siegmann, approached Edmonds. He ordered Edmonds to identify the Jewish soldiers.
“We are all Jews here,” Edmonds said.
Irate, the commandant jammed his pistol against Edmonds’ head and repeated the order. Again, Edmonds refused.
‘We are all Jews here’ “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,” Edmonds had said, according to one of the men saved that day. read more at timesofisrael.com
Edmonds (who later also served in the Korean War as a member of the National Guard) never told his family about the incident. It was only made widely known due to the fact that his son Chris Edmonds has shared the story with the world.
In total, Roddie Edmonds is credited with having potentially saved the lives of 200 Jewish American GIs, and he was posthumously honored by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous for his deeds.
Without question, Roddie Edmonds was a soldier who knew what it meant to “return with honor.”