From Leader to Legend
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Why Rudder? Because he was rose from obscurity and deprivation in the American heartland to be widely admired by heads of state, soldiers, mechanics, and scholars; because he combined hardheaded leadership with altruistic motives for service to others; because his life illustrates the supreme importance of community and family in character formation; and because...
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So many people and institutions helped me produce this book that I can most efficiently express my appreciation by describing their assistance in categories, beginning with those whose assistance was comprehensive and affected the development of the entire manuscript, followed by those whose help was significant in the three sections of the book: The Early Years, The...
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London, 1943. Plans go forth for the Anglo- American attack across the English Channel on Nazi- occupied Europe in the spring of 1944. The cross-channel attack will be the main effort in Western Europe against Germany to end the war. A landing on the coast of Normandy in northwestern France will require breaching Hitler’s vaunted Atlantic Wall, a series of fortifications...
PART ONE: The Early Years
1. Eden, Texas, 1910–1927
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The remote West Texas town of Eden had never been so still or seen such crowds. Hundreds of people were standing quietly along the streets, waiting for a black- trimmed farm wagon drawn by six white horses. From farms and ranches across Concho County the mass of humanity had thronged down dirt roads on horseback, in buggies and hacks. Some walked and...
2. Tarleton College, 1927–1930
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On a summer day in 1927, a stranger driving across the vast, open spaces of West Texas stopped in Eden for his noon meal. Although anonymous in Eden, the traveler was well known a hundred or so miles northeast toward Fort Worth, especially in the vicinity of Stephenville, where he was the football coach at John Tarleton Agricultural College. His name was William...
3. Texas A&M College, 1930–1932
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Inspired by completing his basic course work at Tarleton College, Earl Rudder entered Texas A&M in the fall of 1930 with unprecedented motivation and self- direction. His new objectives would require an intense, consistent effort that solidified three distinct habits of his adulthood: setting personal goals, concentrating his mind, and improving...
4. Coaching Years, 1933–1941
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Rudder’s year-long search for a job ended in April 1933 when he was offered a position at Brady, Texas, High School to start in September. He accepted without knowing the salary and was on the job when it was approved at one hundred dollars a month for the nine-month school year. He was expected to coach football and basketball while teaching...
PART TWO: The War
5. Stateside, 1941–1943
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The United States went to war reluctantly in 1941. Historically, the nation had generally abided by George Washington’s advice to avoid “foreign entanglements” and conducted an isolationist foreign policy. However, in 1917 it had joined with Britain, France, and other allies to defeat Germany, only to become disillusioned with the results. In the...
6. Britain, 1943–1944
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Early on the first day of December 1943, the Queen Elizabeth lay still in the River Clyde, a quarter-mile out from Greenock, Scotland, with more than 15,000 American troops eager to disembark. The last to leave were the 513 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. In the six-day crossing from New York to Greenock they had been the ship’s military police and Rudder its provost...
7. Pointe du Hoc, June 6–8, 1944
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Rudder’s attack plan for D-Day was definite when the Rangers boarded their troopships in Weymouth Bay on June 1, 1944. He was in command of all Rangers in the invasion, some to land on Omaha Beach and others, four miles west at Pointe du Hoc, considered part of Omaha in the invasion plan. Each Ranger would cross to Normandy in two vessels, going most of...
8. Normandy Respite, 1944
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Immediately aft er Pointe du Hoc, Rudder’s staff believed he discussed with his superiors the return of the 2nd Ranger Battalion to England. Having taken 60 percent casualties, they needed rest and time to reorganize and train replacements. Instead, they got light duty for two months escorting POWs and standing guard on the Cherbourg peninsula against the possibility...
9. Brittany, 1944
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In Mayenne on August 14 Rudder was surprised by new orders to take the 2nd Ranger Battalion west into Brittany. He expected to go east, where the real business was. But orders were orders, and he wrote in his black vest- pocket notebook the names of towns on the 220- mile route that would traverse the full length of the long peninsula: “Dinan, Jugon, Lamballe, St. Brieuc...
10. Belgian Interlude, 1944
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While Rudder and the Rangers were absorbed in Brittany, the Allied forces had pursued the Germans in a rapid retreat across France. Paris was relieved of enemy occupation on August 25, and Brussels, 175 miles farther, on September 5. By the time the Germans surrendered in Brest on September 20, the Allies had freed northern France, Belgium, and most of tiny...
11. Huertgen Forest, 1944
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On November 1, 1944, Rudder was told to move the 2nd Ranger Battalion immediately up to the Belgian frontier with Germany and keep it in a state of readiness to enter combat on short notice. The five- mile move was a clear signal that the Rangers’ six- week recess from combat would soon end. His men were ready and rested. They had new clothing. Their weapons were...
12. Battle of the Bulge, 1944
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The 28th Infantry Division that Rudder joined as a regimental commander on December 8, 1944, had in the previous five weeks suffered 6,184 casualties, amounting to about 35 percent of the entire division. A study by the army described its losses as “one of the most costly” of any division in the entire war. Percentage- wise, Rudder’s 109th Infantry Regiment absorbed...
13. Colmar Pocket, 1945
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Two days aft er Christmas, Rudder brought his 109th Infantry Regiment back under General Cota’s command in the 28th Infantry Division. The scattered units of the division were painfully reassembling about twenty miles to the rear in Belgium to begin rebuilding for the third time in six months. They had taken the brunt of German counterattacks...
14. End of the War, 1945
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Shortly after five o’clock on the afternoon of February 9, General Cota came to Rudder’s command post in a former textiles store in the center of Croix-en-Plaine. When asked about the 109th Infantry’s defensive positions along the Rhine, Rudder pointed to the map locations of half a dozen squad-sized detachments (ten to twelve men) watching the other side of the...
PART THREE: Public Servant
15. Rise to Prominence, 1946–1954
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Rudder had gone to war as a man of faith, believing in the basic goodness of people in the small towns of his early life, in the cohesion and bonds of his family, and in the religious teachings of his childhood. They were the psychological pillars that inspired him with confidence, shielded him from doubt, and buttressed his spirits in times of peril. He returned from the war...
16. Texas Land Office Commissioner, 1955–1958
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Texas governor Allan Shivers had growing political problems that defied solution. He had been reelected in early 1954 with 54 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary runoff that determined the winner of the general election in November. Yet almost from the day of the Democratic primary, his administration had been plagued by allegations of unethical conduct...
17. Texas A&M Presidential Years, 1958–1970
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When Rudder was offered an executive position at Texas A&M, he was as eager to go as he had been in 1943 when offered command of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. As when he took charge of the Land Office and the Veterans Land Program, he was going to an organization in crisis, but this time he could not leave immediately. He was nine months into a two-year elected...
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Page Count: 528
Illustrations: 68 b&w photos. 8 maps. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2011
Edition: General, Original TAMU Press edition
Series Title: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University