Donald Rudolph, 85, Medal of Honor Winner, Dies

New York Times, May 30, 2006

By Richard Goldstein

Donald Rudolph an Army sergeant in World War II who received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly destroying Japanese machine-gun positions in the battle to recapture the Philippines, died Thursday, 25 May 2006, at a nursing home in Grand Rapids, Minn. He was 85.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, his wife, Helen, said.

On Jan. 9, 1945, nearly three years after the Bataan Death March and the fall of Corregidor, United States forces launched the invasion of Luzon, the main Philippine island, going ashore at Lingayen Gulf for a drive on Manila, about 110 miles to the south.

On Feb. 5, Sergeant Rudolph, a platoon leader in the 20th Infantry, Sixth Infantry Division, was administering first aid in the battle for the heavily defended Luzon town of Muñoz when his men came under fire from Japanese soldiers concealed in a culvert. With riflemen covering him, Sergeant Rudolph moved forward alone, carrying his rifle and grenades.

According to the Medal of Honor citation, he killed three Japanese soldiers in the culvert, then worked his way across open ground and attacked pillboxes housing machine guns.

He hurled a grenade through an opening in the first pillbox, tore away the wood and tin covering with his bare hands, then dropped another grenade inside. He then grabbed a pickax and used it to pierce a second pillbox, which he took out with rifle fire and a grenade. He destroyed six more pillboxes, and when his platoon was attacked by a Japanese tank, he climbed to its top and dropped a white phosphorus grenade through the turret, killing the crew.

He was given a battlefield commission as a lieutenant, and on Aug. 23, 1945, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. He was cited for acting in "complete disregard for his own safety" and having "cleared a path for an advance which culminated in one of the most decisive victories of the Philippine campaign."

Mr. Rudolph, a native of South Haven, Minn., retired from military service in 1963 and worked as a benefits counselor for the Veterans Administration in Minnesota.

In addition to his wife, of Bovey, Minn., he is survived by a son, Donald Jr. of Arlington, Va.; two sisters, Luella Henderson of Visalia, Calif., and Marjorie Ralph of Brooklyn Center, Minn.; and three grandchildren.

While taking part in a Veterans Day parade in Minneapolis in 1969, Mr. Rudolph told The Washington Post: "When I see that flag, it does something to me inside. I want to jump up and salute."

But his actions that drew the Medal of Honor, his wife said, were simply a matter of soldiers watching out for one another. "The fellas in his unit relied on him for leadership," Mrs. Rudolph told The Herald-Review of Grand Rapids in 2004. "He felt it was his duty to protect them because they were going to protect him."

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