After landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 1, the late Milt Rudio (1909-1994) spent 11 months of World War II in almost constant contact with the Nazis, displaying valor that earned him multiple combat medals and the admiration of his fellow soldiers.
Rudio grew up in Marysville, and was drafted into the Army in September 1942. He trained for 20 month with Company G, 9th Infantry, 2nd Division. Their motto was “Second To None.”
On June 7, 1944, Rudio’s landing barge swamped off the coast of Normandy. The 35-year-old Montanan nearly drowned in the icy English Channel before freeing himself of the 50-pound backpack that was pulling him down. In the struggle to surface, he lost his rifle as well.
Rudio grabbed a gun from one of the thousands of bodies on the beach, and led his platoon 600 yards across a mine field, under murderous fire from the top of the cliffs. “I was so scared, I couldn’t even spit,” related Rudio in 1984.
After overtaking the German pillboxes, about 30 miles inland on D-Day plus 10, they were engaged in one of the “hedgerow battles.” Part of a mortar shell tore into Rudio’s rear shoulder, and shrapnel riddled his back. At an English hospital, they tried to remove all the metal, but some of it remained in his body. After two weeks Rudio was back on the front lines again.
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The 2nd Division slugged its way across France — complete with 70 consecutive days of combat — while overtaking Trevieres, Hill 192, St. Lo-Berigny, St- Jean-des-Baisants, Torigny-les-Villes, Vire, and Brest, before trekking 450 miles to the Siegfried Line.
Nicknamed “The Indian Heads” for their logo, their final campaigns before May of 1945 were the Battle of the Bulge and the Remagen Bridge. Discharged in 1946, Rudio’s medals included the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with two clusters, and the European Service Ribbon with five battle stars.
He lived the rest of his life in the Capital City in constant pain, from his wounds and frostbite.
Max Evans, author of “The Rounders,” served with Rudio from Normandy to the Ardennes Forest.
“He was the greatest man I met in the war,” Evans once wrote. “I would die for Milt Rudio.”