From a contemporary press report:
The General saw the tanksdeployed along a dry river bed far below. Pointing them out to his brigade commander, he directed the helicopter pilot to land there. Duty in Korea with constant field exercises found the general often aloft. As the chopper swept down to a lower level, an electric high power line loomed ahead. Too late the pilot reacted. The chopper mushed onto the line, snagging the rear of a skid. It shuddered, about to stall, 80 feet above the ground. A split-second decision by the General had him opening the door, stepping onto the skid, pulling the wire loose, and freeing the craft. Such action by Brigadier General Frederick C. Roecker, Jr., surprised no one who knew him. Stories of his combat prowess frequently surfaced in advance of his arrival.
Born on July 11, 1919 and an Eagle Scout at 14, he showed interest and great promise in the military, entering the National Guard at 15. At Walla Walla High School, he led the ROTC unit and was vice president of his class. He had one goal: WEST POINT!
At West Point, he was proud of being a member of a Corps champion intramural squash team, of being a tackle on the “Engineer” team that beat the “Goats,” and of being a representative on the Honor Committee.
At 25, Bud entered combat in the Normandy Campaign in WWII as Captain, S-3, 2d Battalion, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. On 15 Jul, near St. Lo, the 2d Battalion jumped off before daylight. Furious action reduced the companies to an average of 30 men and one officer. When the battalion commander, seriously wounded, was evacuated, the executive officer balked at taking over. Roecker assumed command. His unit was first to reach the division objective.
Confirmed in his command role, he received replacements but little rest. In the following action, he suffered mortar wounds in his leg and groin, but refused to leave until his executive could be briefed and take over. After 5 days in a field hospital, he returned to his unit still weak in body but strong in determination. He received a Bronze Star for valor and promotion to Major.
The Division continued eastward as part of Patton’s Third Army. South of Paris at Montargis, with the enemy just ahead, the 2d Battalion received an attack mission. Roecker, anticipating a strong enemy force, formed a combat team, including 5 tanks that he led himself. They killed 5 enemy, captured 69 prisoners, including 2 officers, and cleared the way for the battalion to take the objective without the loss of a single man. He received a Silver Star for this action.
Later, enemy contact along the Moselle River promised to make crossing difficult. The 2d Battalion began an attack to clear the west side of the river. When Major Roecker reported the bridge near Flavigny ready to be blown but still intact, he received the order: “Take it.” Although darkness had fallen, his battalion crossed the bridge, formed a bridgehead, defused the explosives, and prepared to defend. The counterattack came soon. During this intense action, Roecker crossed the bridge on his belly 4 times. Promised artillery fire and an expected tank destroyer unit to reinforce the bridgehead never arrived. The bridge collapsed, destroyed by German field guns. The battalion decimated, the survivors had to wade and swim back. Although severely wounded, Roecker refused evacuation until, as before, he had fully briefed his executive. Thinking his effort a failure, he was later informed by the division commander that his unit had created a diversion, making 3 successful crossings of the Moselle possible elsewhere.
Commanding his battalion throughout intense actions at Morhange and Saarguemines, he received another Bronze Star for valor. When VE Day arrived, his unit had reached the Elbe River just 70 miles from Berlin. He received the Purple Heart with 3 oak leaf clusters for wounds that gave him pain for the rest of his life.
In peacetime, he chose troop duty with assignments in the 25th Infantry Division in Japan (1946–48) and Korea (1953–54) and two in the 7th Infantry Division in Korea (1960 and 1966). Other assignments were: USMA, as an instructor in mechanics (with a year at Harvard for an MSCE); several at DOA, Career Management Division; before and after attendance at the National War College; and International Branch Operations, OJCS. In closing his military career as CG, CDCEC, he brought his eminent technical and practical experiences to the testing of new weapons and organizations in simulated combat.
On retirement, he received the Distinguished Service Medal from a General who had greeted him 31 years earlier on his entry to West Point as a member of the First Class “Beast Detail.” He taught high school mathematics for 8 years until pain from war wounds forced his retirement.
He revered his forbearers who had been in military campaigns beginning with the Civil War. His grandfather served as Sergeant Major, 4th U.S. Cavalry during the Indian wars. His father preceded him in the Washington National Guard and served in the 41st Infantry Division in New Guinea during World War II. He retired from active duty as a full Colonel. His son, F.C. Roecker III, became a Regular Army officer after graduating from Oregon State University. The loves of his life—his mother Beulah Saunders Roecker, sisters Margaret and Joann, and wife Mildred Jean Parrish Roecker — buttressed his will to fight for his country. He quietly expressed his deep feeling for his wife by supporting her hobby of horsemanship — a sport he did not especially savor as a cadet.
General Roecker died on July 2, 1996 and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
In the minds of the living are those members of the Long Gray Line who epitomize our revered motto. Those who knew Frederick C. Roecker, Jr., well can see him in that particular rank most clearly and standing tall—very tall indeed.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard