WWII hero Roddie Edmonds's story | Keeping the Faith

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Tens of thousands were killed, thousands more captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

One of those was the father of an East Tennessee Pastor, Chris Edmonds.

"I discovered his story via the internet one night,"said Edmonds.

Edmonds found a New York Times article about a World War II prisoner of war, Lester Tanner, who sold a townhouse to former President Richard Nixon.

"Lester made the statement, 'Had it not been for the bravery and courage of my Master Sergeant, Roddie W. Edmonds I wouldn't have been able to make that sale,'" said Chris Edmonds.

He says he was stunned at what he read.

"Two questions, what did my dad do? And who is Lester Tanner?" he said.

Chris Edmonds found that Tanner was captured with Roddie Edmonds by the Nazis in 1944.

His diary read, "We were marched 31 miles without food and water and as I said before, we were herded into a lot and lay in the mud until morning."

They ended up in a German Stalag with over 200 Jewish Americans.
Chris dug through archives, letters and many other personal items, including his dad's diaries written while in captivity

They were ordered to fall out every day, but that all changed on January 27th, 1945.

"Only the Jewish Americans are to fall out. Immediately my father said, 'We are not going to do that.' When the Commandant came out, all 1,275 U.S. soldiers were standing straight and tall, strong. He said, 'All of you can't be Jews.' My dad's response was, 'We are all Jews here,'" said Chris Edmonds.

The commandant became enraged.

"He pulled his Luger out, stuck it into [Roddie Edmond's] forehead, deep into his forehead and said, 'You will have the Jewish-Americans step forward right now or I will shoot you on the spot,' and Lester said,
my dad paused for a moment and he quietly said, 'Major you can shoot me but if you do, you'll have to kill us all,'" said Chris Edmonds.

Lester told the younger Edmonds the Major lowered his Luger and walked away.

To those Jewish American soldiers, Edmonds was a hero.

Roddie Edmonds grew up in South Knoxville, went to old Knoxville High School, and even coached a number of ball teams in the area. But his faith was the center point of his life and that influence lives on today.

"He helped me understand who God is, my need for Christ," said Chris Edmonds.

Roddie Edmonds passed away in 1985, but his story is one that will never die. It will be told by the surviving POWs to their friends and relatives, as well as one proud son.

The family of Master Sergeant Edmonds is set to receive Israel's highest honor for non-Jews for his bravery.

He is the only the fifth American to ever be recognized for the honor and the first American serviceman to be honored. President Barack Obama will also be there Wednesday night in Washington.

Roddie Edmonds is also being considered for the Medal of Honor.