WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced bipartisan legislation to posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to East Tennessee native Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who put his life on the line to protect Jewish-American soldiers.
Blackburn was joined by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.). Representative Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds embodied true American heroism in the face of indescribable evil and intimidation,” said Senator Blackburn. “His resiliency, courage, and leadership saved over 200 Jewish lives. Awarding Roddie Edmonds with Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation is an appropriate way to honor his actions and legacy.”
“Roddie Edmonds showed incredible bravery that should make every American proud. He fearlessly faced down Nazi soldiers during World War II and saved hundreds of Jewish lives when he refused to turn in his fellow Jewish servicemembers, even at gunpoint. This Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting way to honor his legacy,” said Representative Burchett.
“Proverbs tells us that ‘the wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.’ In January of 1945, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds was a lion of courage as he faced down threats by Nazi captors to reveal the Jewish soldiers under his command. After a night of prayer, Edmonds told all of his men that they would risk their lives rather than give up their fellow Americans. When the Jews were asked to line up the following morning, Roddie and his men stood firm, with Roddie boldly proclaiming, ‘we are all Jews here.’ Roddie Edmond’s singular heroism that cold winter morning saved the lives of more than 200 American Jews. For those Americans and their families, Roddie’s decision changed the world, simply by standing up for what’s right. I can think of no one more deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal than Roddie Edmonds, righteous and bold as a lion,” said Senator Cotton.
“The bravery of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds saved hundreds of Jewish-American soldiers from certain death,” said Senator Blumenthal. “His leadership – along with the courage of more than 1,200 American POWs – united servicemembers of all backgrounds to resist the Nazi’s horrific orders. Awarding Edmonds with the Congressional Gold Medal will honor his selfless service and commitment to protecting his fellow troops. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this measure,” said Senator Blumenthal.
“As a prisoner of war, Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds risked his life to fight not only for his country, but for the 1,275 fellow captives, over 200 of whom were Jewish. I am honored to join my colleagues in introducing a legislation to award his bravery with a Congressional Gold medal,” said Senator Cardin.
“Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds went above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of over 200 Jewish soldiers during World War II, displaying courage and selflessness worthy of the high honor of the Congressional Gold Medal. I’m proud to join my colleagues to posthumously recognize this true American hero,” said Senator Rick Scott.
The Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds Congressional Gold Medal Act is endorsed by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).
“Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds is most deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal for his heroic efforts to protect hundreds of American-Jewish servicemembers from certain death in the Second World War. Demonstrating extraordinary bravery, Edmonds put his own life in mortal peril, and inspired fellow non-Jewish American servicemen to do the same, and then he humbly did not even tout his actions after the war. His noble courage embodied the very best of America,” said Michael Makovsky, PhD, President & CEO, Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).
BACKGROUND - In December 1944, Master Sergeant (MSG) Edmonds was captured by Nazi forces and spent over 100 days in captivity at a Nazi prisoner of war camp. As the non-commissioned officer in charge, MSG Edmonds found himself responsible for 1,275 fellow captives, over 200 of whom were Jewish.
When the Germans directed Edmonds to order all Jewish-American soldiers of the camp to assemble outside of their barracks, he coordinated a mass formation. All 1,275 of his men stood outside their prison barracks in unity. Irritated by this defiance, the German Camp Commandant held MSG Edmonds at gunpoint in a coercive attempt to force him to either surrender his Jewish soldiers’ identities or his own life. Edmonds still refused to reveal their identities.
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