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1997 Distinguished Graduate Award

    COL Russell P. Reeder, Jr. '26

As a distinguished soldier, courageous combat leader, respected author of over thirty-five books, outstanding coach and administrator, and as a brilliant West Point athlete who excelled in baseball and football, the name “Red” Reeder has ever been synonymous with steadfast dedication to duty, unmatched valor, and the highest sense of honor.
Russell Potter Reeder, Jr. was born at reveille, just as the saluting gun boomed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1902. At the age of eleven, he heroically saved the life of a drowning younger child in Casco Bay, Maine. For this achievement, he was awarded the Treasury Department Silver Life-Saving Medal.
“Red” Reeder graduated from West Point in 1926, and was commissioned in the Infantry. Lieutenant Reeder’s first assignment was to the 34th Infantry at Fort Eustis, Virginia. During the next five years, he served at various Army posts in the United States. In 1928, Lieutenant Reeder was invited to work out with the New York Giants baseball team; at the end of the tryout he was offered a contract to play professional baseball at three times his Army salary. He refused, electing to remain on active service.
Promoted to first lieutenant in 1932, “Red” Reeder was assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning as a student officer, graduating in 1933. In the fall of 1929 he returned to West Point to help coach the Army football team, a seasonal duty that he repeated through the 1936 season.
Reassigned to Fort Clayton, Canal Zone, in 1934, he commanded infantry companies for over two years.
On leave in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, “Red” Reeder reported to Fort Ord and immediately assumed command of a reinforced battalion of the 32nd Infantry, 7th Infantry Division. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in February 1942, he served a short period as regimental executive officer before being reassigned to the Operations Division, War Department General Staff in July 1942.
In the fall of 1942, General Marshall sent Colonel Reeder to Australia and New Guinea, charged with “bringing back lessons our soldiers and Marines have learned fighting the Japanese.” His report, written in informal style and entitled “Fighting on Guadalcanal,” was accepted by General Marshall, who wrote a foreword and ordered one million copies printed and distributed to all troops in training for combat, including Marines, the British and the Chinese. While in New Guinea, “Red” Reeder was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action by General MacArthur, and his outstanding staff work on the War Department General Staff was recognized with the award of the Bronze Star Medal.
In March 1944, Colonel Reeder’s tireless efforts to be assigned to a combat theater were rewarded; he was ordered to the United Kingdom to report to General Omar Bradley for duty. On April 1, 1944, he was assigned to command the 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division.
Colonel Reeder’s superlative ability to lead men was no more in evidence than during the two months preceding the invasion of Normandy. Taking a regiment that had been the “stepchild of the division,” lacking in confidence and poorly trained for war, “Red” Reeder was able to turn the 12th Infantry Regiment into a first class fighting outfit, one that amply justified the faith General Bradley had placed in Colonel Reeder by giving him the command.
The 12th Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel Reeder, was the third regiment ashore on Utah Beach, and the furthest inland by dusk. Always at the point of the attack with his men, “Red” Reeder gave new meaning to the phrase, “leading by example.” His inspired leadership and indomitable courage resulted in his being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the first such award made in France.
For six days the 12th Infantry spearheaded the invasion. But, on June 11, a German 88 millimeter round burst near Colonel Reeder, badly wounding him. The war was over for “Red” Reeder, and, several months later, his left leg was amputated.
He retired from the Army in 1945, but was immediately recalled to active duty at the request of Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, Superintendent of the Military Academy. At West Point, Colonel Reeder commanded the Second Regiment, United States Corps of Cadets for two years. He established a course in leadership in 1946 at the request of the Superintendent, a course that provided the foundation for all leadership taught at West Point since then — and the model for the Department of Behavioral Science and Leadership, widely recognized as the standard for leadership instruction.
In 1948 “Red” Reeder joined the Army Athletic Association as an Assistant Director of Athletics, responsible for maintenance and operation of the athletic association’s physical plant. In addition, he coached the Plebe (freshman) baseball team and was an assistant coach for the varsity team. “Red” retired from the Army Athletic Association in 1967.
After taking a correspondence course in 1954, he began a writing career that spanned nearly forty years and produced over 35 books. A prolific and versatile author, Colonel Reeder’s work encompassed military history, children’s books, athletics, biography, and autobiography.
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’s Badge, and two decorations awarded by France: the Croix de Guerre avec Palm and the French Legion of Honor.
He was presented with the Freedom Foundation’s National Recognition Award in 1963; received a citation from the Association of the United States Army in 1968 for “outstanding services to the U.S. Army;” received the Ben Castle award presented by the West Point Society of Washington, DC, in 1968 for services to West Point; and in 1979 the Superintendent, USMA, presented Colonel Reeder with a silver plaque recognizing his “exemplary service and dedication to the United States Military Academy.” The Colonel Russell P. “Red” Reeder Baseball Award is presented annually to the most valuable player in the graduating class at USMA. In 1985, the Commandant’s Conference Room at West Point was renamed the Red Reeder Room. The new Johnson baseball stadium has a Red Reeder team room.
Colonel Reeder’s life epitomizes the finest qualities of the American infantryman. Resolute and fearless in battle, dauntless in the face of adversity, possessed of an incorruptible honor and the motivation to win at all costs, “Red” Reeder learned a lesson on the playing fields that has stayed with him all of his life: “never quit, always press on, press on.”
Throughout a lifetime of service, Colonel Reeder has made invaluable contributions to the welfare of his country and his Alma Mater. His accomplishments clearly reflect the values expressed in the motto of West Point: Duty, Honor, Country.
Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy hereby presents the 1997 Distinguished Graduate Award to Russell Potter Reeder, Jr., USMA Class of 1926.

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