Texas Originals

United States Army Major General James Earl Rudder

He commanded the Ranger Battalion on D-Day that scaled the 100-foot cliffs of Normandy. After the war, he came home to serve in many roles including president of Texas A&M University.


He commanded the Ranger Battalion on D-Day that scaled the 100-foot cliffs of Normandy. After the war, he came home to serve in many roles including president of Texas A&M University.Wikipedia

James Earl Rudder
May 6, 1910– March 23, 1970

 

The German army considered Pointe du Hoc a perfect spot for defending the coast of France from Allied forces during World War II.  From a top its hundred-foot cliffs, German guns could reach both Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.  The Germans thought their position was secure. And it was — until June 1944, when Texan James Earl Rudder and his 2nd Ranger Battalion began to climb those cliffs.

A French officer decorates Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder with a medal for valorCourtesy of Cushing Memorial Library
A French officer decorates Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder with a medal for valor displayed during the invasion on Pointe du Hoc.

Rudder graduated from Texas A&M University in 1932 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army reserves.  He taught high school and college … and coached football until he was called to active duty in 1941.  He trained U.S. Army Rangers for one of D-Day’s most dangerous operations: taking Pointe du Hoc.

During the assault, over half of Rudder’s men were killed or wounded and Rudder himself was shot in the leg.  But the high ground was seized and the German guns were silenced.  

After the war, Rudder continued to take on tough challenges.  As president of Texas A & M, he supported optional membership in the Corps of Cadets and he helped open the university to women, despite great opposition.

When he died in 1970, Rudder was celebrated for his courageous leadership in both war and peace.  An inscription on Rudder Tower, located on the A&M campus, remembers Rudder’s “uncommon ability to inspire men and lead them to exceptional achievement.”

 

For More about James Earl Rudder

In June 2011, Humanities Texas published an excerpt from Thomas M. Hatfield’s 2011 book Rudder: From Leader to Legend in our monthly e-newsletter. The excerpt details the Second Ranger Battalion’s first night on Pointe du Hoc.

The James Earl Rudder Collection, 1918–2001, is held by Texas A&M University’s Cushing Library. The collection includes materials from Rudder’s time in the service during World War II, clippings from newspapers, posters, magazine issues, memorabilia, and Rudder’s awards.

Rudder statue
Rudder’s statue on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas.

In recognition of the significance of Rudder’s tenure as president of Texas A&M University, the university erected a sculpture of Rudder in 1993. The statue, which was designed by Lawrence M. Ludtke, was originally located in front of Bizzell Hall, but was moved in 2009 to stand at the south end of Military Walk.

 

Selected Bibliography

Ambrose, Stephen. The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II. Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Brinkley, Douglas. The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. Harper Collins, 2005.
Lane, Ronald. Rudder’s Rangers. Manassas, VA: Ranger Associates, 1979.
Rudder, James Earl. Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/RR/fru6.html
Hatfield, Tim. Rudder: From Leader to Legend. Texas A&M University Press, 2011 (forthcoming).

This episode first aired on July 28, 2012.

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