James Earl Rudder
James Earl Rudder
|Born||May 6, 1910|
|Died||March 23, 1970 (aged 59)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1941–1967|
|Battles/wars||World War II Cold War|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross|
Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal (2)
James Earl Rudder (May 6, 1910 – March 23, 1970) was a United States Army major general who as a lieutenant colonel was the commander of the historic Pointe du Hoc battle which was part of the Invasion of Normandy. He also commanded U.S. forces at the Battle of the Hurtgen wood and led a series of delaying actions and ambushes during the Battle of the Bulge. General Rudder also at various times served as Texas Land Commissioner, the 16th president of Texas A&M University, third president of the Texas A&M University System, mayor of Brady, Texas, and a high school and college teacher and coach.
After graduation from Texas A&M, Rudder had been commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry in the United States Organized Reserve Corps. After being called into active duty in 1941, Rudder took part in the D-Day landings as commanding officer of the United States Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion.
His U.S. Army Rangers stormed the beach at Pointe du Hoc, scaling 100-foot (30-meter) cliffs under enemy fire to reach and destroy a German gun battery. The battalion's casualty rate for this perilous mission was greater than 50%. Rudder himself was wounded twice during the course of the fighting. In spite of this, Rudder ordered his men to dig in and they fought off German counterattacks for two days until relieved. His men and he helped to successfully establish a beachhead for the Allied forces. The siege was replicated in the 1962 epic film The Longest Day.
British military historian Gary Sterne has argued that in the course of taking Pointe du Hoc, Rudder disobeyed orders and lost lives unnecessarily. Shortly before the landings, American officers, including Rudder, had learned that the Wehrmacht had moved the guns from the battery and gun pits were being destroyed, yet the assault still took place. Furthermore, Rudder's orders called for taking Maisy battery, which Sterne later unearthed, yet he remained at Pointe du Hoc, claiming his orders were to hold the highway between Maisy and Vierville-sur-Mer against possible counterattack. But Sterne and no other researcher to date (75 years later) have found a record of that order existing in British or American archives.
Seven months later, Rudder was re-assigned in the middle of an assault to the 109th Infantry Regiment, which saw key service in the Battle of the Bulge. Rudder earned military honors including the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, French Legion of Honor with Croix de Guerre and Palm, and Order of Leopold (Belgium) with Croix de Guerre and Palm. He was a full colonel by the war's end and was promoted to brigadier general of the United States Army Reserve in 1954 and major general in 1957.
Political and academic career
Rudder served as mayor of Brady, Texas, for six years from 1946-52. In 1953, he became vice president of Brady Aviation Company. On January 1, 1955, he assumed the office of Texas Land Commissioner after James Bascom Giles abandoned the position. At that time, the Veterans Land Program was under scrutiny for mismanagement and corruption. Rudder undertook the task of reforming policies, expediting land applications, and closely supervising proper accounting procedures. He also oversaw the proper leasing of state lands by employing more field inspectors for oil and gas sites and adding a seismic exploration staff. In addition, he improved working conditions for his staff and instigated a program to preserve the many deteriorating General Land Office documents.
Rudder won the 1956 state land commissioner election as a Democrat. He became vice president of Texas A&M University in 1958 and was named its president in 1959. He was president of the entire A&M System from 1965 until his death in 1970. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Distinguished Service Medal, the country's highest peacetime service award. Since his death in 1970, an annual service has been held in Normandy, France, in his honor.
While president of Texas A&M, Rudder is credited for transforming it from a small, all-male land-grant college to the renowned university of today. Specifically, he made membership in the Corps of Cadets optional, allowed women to attend, and led efforts to integrate the campus. While the changes were hugely unpopular to the former students (it has been said only a president with Rudder's heroic military record could pull off such drastic changes), there is no doubt these changes freed Texas A&M to become the fourth-largest university in the United States. Many reminders of Rudder are on campus, including Rudder Tower, next to the Memorial Student Center. A special training unit within the Corps of Cadets known as "Rudder's Rangers" is named in his honor. Cadets within the Corps of Cadets at A&M are expected to be able to recite an excerpt from the inscription on Rudder tower, a "Campusology" that reads:
In memory of James Earl Rudder, 1910–1970, Class of 1932, Heroic Soldier, Commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas, Sixteenth President of Texas A&M University ... Third President of the Texas A&M University System.
Earl Rudder was architect of the dream that produced this center. In this, as in all he did, he demonstrated uncommon ability to inspire men and lead them to exceptional achievement.
Rudder died on March 23, 1970, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.
- Earl Rudder Freeway — the portion of U.S. Highway 190/State Highway 6 (future Interstate 14) that runs through Bryan and College Station, Texas
- Earl Rudder Middle School — a middle school in San Antonio, Texas
- James Earl Rudder High School — the second high school of the Bryan Independent School District opened in Bryan in August 2008; appropriately, the athletic teams are known as the Rangers
- James E. Rudder State Office Building — main public office of the Texas Secretary of State, 1019 Brazos St., Austin, Texas 78701
- J. Earl Rudder Tower & Conference Center — a 12-story building on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas
- TS General Rudder — training ship for the Texas A&M "Texas Maritime Academy" at Galveston (2012)
- Camp James E. Rudder, subpost of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, training site for the Florida phase of U.S. Army Ranger School
The Major General James E. Rudder Medal is awarded annually by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) to an Army Reserve Soldier - serving or retired - whose career in the Army Reserve exemplifies the example of the Army Reserve Citizen-Soldier modeled by General Rudder.
- Gal Perl Finkel, 75 years from that long day in Normandy – we still have something to learn, The Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2019.
- Sterne, Gary (2014). The Cover-up at Omaha Beach. Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 84–140. ISBN 9781629143279.
- Higham, Scott (June 2, 2019). "One of D-Day's most famous, heroic assaults may have been unnecessary". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
- James Earl Rudder Papers – Texas A&M's Cushing Memorial Library Online
- 2nd Ranger Battalion – How Much Of It Is Real? The Saving Private Ryan Online Encyclopedia
- Todd, William N., IV; Knape, Gerald (June 15, 2010). "Rudder, James Earl". Handbook of Texas (online ed.). Texas State Historical Association.
- Excerpt from: The VICTORS : Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II
- Hatfield, Thomas M. (2011), Rudder: From Leader to Legend, Texas A&M University Press, ISBN 978-1-60344-262-6
- Black, Robert W. (2006), The Battalion: The Dramatic Story of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in World War II, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-0184-6
- Black, Robert W. (1992), Rangers in World War II, Presidio Press, ISBN 978-0-8041-0565-1
- Brinkley, Douglas (2006), The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion, Harper Perennial, ISBN 978-0-06-056530-5
- Lane, Ronald L. (2005), Rudder's Rangers, Ranger Associates, Inc., ISBN 9780934588157
- Mauro, Gary (1986), The Land Commissioners of Texas: 150 Years of the General Land Office, Texas General Land Office
| Texas Land Commissioner