Robert Lee Rutledge SN 34 973 267
48th Armored Infantry Battalion
(7th Armored Division)
United States Army
1944. Image of Robert Lee Rutledge.
nights the children would ride on their dad's shoulders while he chanted, "I see the moon and the moon sees me; God bless the moon and God bless me." Did Robert Rutledge softly repeat these words when he saw the moon so far away from home, so far away from his adorable children?
Only when we find never-before-read letters, yellowed by time, do we truly treasure the written word. Through the legacy of letters given to her recently by her mother, Ginger Gregory has come to finally know her father. These frozen-in-time letters contain correspondence between her father and those he loved. Because of these precious letters, a world unknown has been unlocked.
Robert Lee Rutledge's story is the story of every young man born in time of war. Country called for the ultimate sacrifice, his life,
and he answered. Only twenty-seven when he enlisted, he had everything to stay for; a beautiful wife, then twenty-four, two precious children, and a loving family. He had everything to go for; a country embroiled in a fight whose outcome would determine dictatorship or freedom. His was the call of freedom that every young man hears in time of war.
Requesting release from the Georgia Guard, Robert Rutledge stood ready. Discharged from the Guard, on November 21, 1942, he entered active military service on March 23, 1944.
His release papers spoke of the character of the soldier&emdash;excellent. As part of entering service, the Veterans Administration issues a $10,000 life insurance policy on April 15, 1944, "payable in case of death." He had no idea that policy would be paid. When he left his family, he left them in the care of his older brother, Jay; the same brother who had bought him a car, even before buying one for himself. Jay, along with the rest of his family, would make that trip to Fort McClellan, Alabama, to visit Robert during those seventeen weeks of training.
Ginger recalls that they would sleep in the car since there were few motels and fewer vacancies. After Ginger was grown, she asked her mom how they were all able to sleep in
the car. Marguerite replied, 'We would do anything to see your dad, even for a few short hours." Sacrifice came early to these war families. Gas was rationed, but many family members and friends gave their gas ration coupons so that the family could be with their young soldier. Seeing their father in uniform, Ginger, four, and Bubba, two, were so impressed that they often donned their own military uniforms and played "soldier." Memories of their dad sustained the children while he was gone.
As young as they were, the two children still have vivid recollections of their father. When he drove his car down the drive at the end of a long day, the children jumped on the "running board" with their dad holding on to his precious cargo. Further, to this day, Ginger says when she sees a full moon, her memory takes her back to
Click on the above "telegrams" for a larger view...
After the seventeen weeks of training, Rutledge was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland, where he remained for a short time before being shipped overseas in September of 1944. It was on that trip home for the last time that Robert exacted that pledge from his brother Jay; the promise that he would care for his family should he "not make it back." If the family were staying at the Cannington grandparents, Marguerite's parents, Jay would drive over with his letters, and the family would gather around, hanging on every word. Faithfully, mother, mother-in-law, and Marguerite wrote every day.
Recently, I sat at my desk for hours, reading the letters and documents that Robert Rutledge's family has cherished for over half a century. These pieces of family history unlocked for me a man, a family, a story that will be with me forever. Love shines through sacrifice. Bits and pieces of the puzzle slowly came together to paint a picture of a man, ordinary in beginning but extraordinary in ending He typifies each man who heard the call of country.
When that dreaded telegram was placed in the hands of Marguerite Rutledge. she wept the tears of every young woman, widowed by war. In Ginger's words, "I remember well the day a man came to our house to deliver a telegrams The man looked so sad when he handed the telegram to my mothers One by one, they read the telegram and wept. They didn't tell my brother and me that our daddy was 'missing in actions' I suppose we were too young, they thought, to understand." The date was November 13, 1944. On March 19, 1945, another telegram came confirming his death on October 29, 1944.
Robert Lee Rutledge joined the 292,130 other American men who fell in World War II. Georgian, son, husband, father, soldier, dead at twenty-seven, ten days after his wife turned twenty-five, less than two months before his twenty-eighth birthday. In a muddy field in Holland, first mourned as missing in action, later confirmed dead, Robert Rutledge had paid the ultimate price-his life.
Deep down, in Ginger's words, she still had a burning desire "to know him&emdash;to know what he liked, disliked&emdash;to know his favorite colors and books and all the individual hopes and desires of my fathers"
In early September 2001, she got that chance when her brother passed to her the worn duffle bag containing all of her father's belongings from the war. Opening the letters, she began hungrily reading, laughing and crying at intervals. The letters from November 1944 to March 1945 were never opened since the family continued to write, not knowing that he had fallen in battle the end of October. Among the letters was an unfinished letter written by Rutledge, called out to the battlefield, never to return. Dated October 19, 1944, it wa a letter to his wife on her twenty-fifth birthday.
While Ginger treasures the more than two hundred letters, perhaps she loves most the one her Dad wrote to her on her fifth birthday. A mere five weeks later, he would lie dead on the cold ground of that battlefield in Holland. Written on V-Mail, a soldier's special paper, the letter read:
My Darling Baby,
What sweet memories I have today It carries me back five years ago. We thought we were as happy as could be until God sent you down to us. You'll never know how proud I am of you. I've always, since that day, done everything possible for your benefit. I never dreamed of being away from you as I am now. You are too young to understand it now, but you will later It's all for your benefit. You came into a free world, and I want you to finish in one.
Loving you always, Daddy
Perhaps the letter dated April 10, 1945, from Senator Walter F. George, Georgia's senior Senator, says it best:
"Your husband gave everything he had to his country. It is my hope and prayer that we who are spared will do everything within our power to see that his great sacrifice was not made in vain."
For years, the children basked in the love generated by family and others who loved and protected them. Ginger recalls that when she was twenty-one, her paternal "GramMama" handed her a yellowed envelope inscribed in her own handwriting: "For our Dear Darlings to read when they grow up."
For the first time, Ginger read the newspaper articles of her father's death. Now entrusted to Ginger's care, she has saved the letters to pass on to her grandchildren and those children yet unborn&emdash;in the words of Ginger, "to know that their greatgrandfather gave his life for the freedom of all."
Marguerite Rutledge had a choice to make: bring her husband home or leave him to be buried in the land where he fell, giving his blood for the cause of freedoms After much anguish, she decided he should remain where he fell. In 2003, Marguerite will be eighty-three, and she, along with Ginger's family, is planning a trip to visit the grave of Robert Lee Rutledge for the first time. They hope to see the Dutch family who has lovingly cared for his grave all these years&emdash;a small tribute for a life given to strangers.
Words are not real until they are lived. To say one is willing to give his life for his country is one thing; to give one's life is another. Take any war, take any country, take any young man&emdash;death is no different in another time or another place. Robert Lee Rutledge knew the price of freedoms He said the words, and then he gave his utmost, his life.
Editor's Note: Today, Americans and Bulloch Countians are again deeply and painfully aware of the price of freedom. Although the pain may fade with time, the memories of loved ones who give the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our way of life stay alive within us forever. Our hearts will travel with Marguerite and Ginger as they finally kneel at the grave of their husband and father, a family together again.
Janet Burke is a freelance writer and former English teacher at Statesboro High School.
The preceeding is from an article that ran in the Summer 2002 eition of the Statesboro Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 2.
Permission has been kindly given by the magazine editor -- Ms. Andrea Powell, of the Statesboro Magazine, the freelance article writer, Ms. Janet Burke, and the daughter of Robert Lee Rutledge, Ms. Ginger R. Gregory,to World War II Stories - In Their Own Words for our use of the article on our website.
Interested in more details with regards to a daughter's quest to learn more about her Dad who was taken away from her in the prime of this life? Read Robert Lee Rutledge's story.
A Daughter Lovingly Remembers Her Dad
The Search for Pvt. Rutledge
The Search for Pvt. Rutledge Pt.2
The Search for Pvt. Rutledge Pt.3
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