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Reeder was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on March 4, 1902. His father, Russell Potter Reeder Sr., was an Army officer. Reeder and his family moved to different military bases around the country. He wrote about his army upbringing in the book Born at Reveille. At the age of eleven, he saved the life of a drowning younger child in Casco Bay, Maine. For this achievement, he was awarded the Treasury Department Silver Lifesaving Medal. Reeder entered West Point in 1920, played football and baseball as a cadet, and graduated as a member of the Class of 1926.
During the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Reeder was stationed in California. Later in 1941, he was transferred to the Army Operations Division, Gen. George Marshall's general staff, Washington, D.C. In 1943 Reeder prepared a staff study proposing a "ground medal" comparable to the "Air Medal" already being given for "meritorious service while in 'aerial flight.'" The report presented to Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, then in charge of Army ground forces was forwarded to Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall and resulted in the creation of the Bronze Star Medal by President Roosevelt in February 1944.
In April 1944 Reeder was assigned to command the 12th Infantry Regiment within the Fourth Infantry Division. Reeder's regiment of 3,000 soldiers fought on Utah beach during D-Day. On June 11, 1944, during the Battle of Normandy, Reeder received a shrapnel wound in his ankle that almost severed his left leg. Reeder was taken back to England, and from there was taken to the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington and his leg was amputated.
After retiring from military service in 1946, Reeder became an athletic director at West Point. He quit this job after 20 years in 1967 and pursued a career in nonfiction writing. Of his nonfiction works, Medal of Honor Heroes and The West Point Story were written for the Landmark series of historical literature for children. Reeders other titles include "The Civil War Story," "The Northern Generals," and "The Southern Generals." His narrative account of Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's May 19, 1873 black operation against Mexican bandits titled "The Mackenzie Raid" served as the inspiration for a 39 episode television series first aired in 1958 titled Mackenzie's Raiders.
Reeder's sister Nardi Reeder Campion was an author and co-wrote Marty Maher's Bringing Up the Brass that was filmed as The Long Grey Line with Nardi co-writing the screenplay. Red Reeder had a cameo as a Commandant of Cadets in the film.
In 1997, Reeder was awarded the Distinguished Graduate Award by the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy. Reeder died on February 22, 1998 at the age of 95. He survived his wife and younger sister, and has four children, ten grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.
Colonel Reeder’s military decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and two decorations awarded by France: the Croix de Guerre avec Palm and the Légion d'honneur.
- Robert F. Door and Fred Borch, Bronze Star Medal was idea of WWII commander, Army Times, June 6, 2005
- Ballantine 1955
- West Point AOG - DGA Russell Reeder Jr