Wayne Countians were saddened last week to learn of the passing of Mr. Ruben Odle, our county’s oldest surviving World War II veteran. Mr. Odle passed away peacefully on April 22nd at the amazing age of 100.
In May 2018, members of the Waynesboro and Collinwood American Legion performed a bridge dedication ceremony in honor of Mr. Odle. Following is an excerpt from Mr. Odle’s biography which was read by County Executive Jim Mangubat at the bridge dedication ceremony:
“Ruben was born on March 15th, 1919. His parents were Jessie Franklin Odle and Hattie Pearl (Long) Odle, and he had eight siblings: Luther McKinley, Mary Magdaline, Pauline, Nadine, Willa Ruth, Fannie L., Leyline, and Robert Edwin.
Ruben grew up on the family farm and worked at a sawmill prior to being drafted into the U.S. Army on March 14th, 1942, one day before his 23rd birthday. Little did Ruben know that he would soon see combat action in Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. He boarded a bus in Waynesboro and traveled to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for initial processing. After processing into the Army, he was sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for initial training and assignment to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 325th Parachute Glider Infantry Regiment (nicknamed “The Falcons”) in the famous 82nd Airborne Division.
After his assignment and initial training at Camp Claiborne, his unit was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where they received Glider training and began preparing for deployment to North Africa. The Falcons arrived at Casablanca, French Morocco on April 28th, 1943 and began training and preparation for their first combat mission. They made their first assault landing at Salerno, Italy, on September 15th, 1943. It was not, however, by glider, but by landing craft. During this period of fighting, Corporal Odle’s battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for actions near Maiori, Italy while operating with the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions.
After service in the Italian Campaign, his unit deployed to England and conducted further training in preparation for Operation Overlord, the D-day Invasion of Normandy, France. On June 7th, 1944, Corporal Odle’s unit conducted a glider-borne assault on Normandy at Omaha Beach and engaged in heavy fighting until July 4, 1944, sustaining heavy casualties. They were withdrawn back to England for more training and preparation for their next mission.
Ruben’s unit was committed to another glider-borne assault in September of 1944. He fought in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden and later saw action in the Battle of the Bulge where they defeated two German Divisions: the 62nd Volksgrenadiers and the 9th SS Panzer. In early 1945, the Falcons made a final 25-mile thrust to capture the German town of Ludwisgslust, thus ending their action in World War II. During Corporal Odle’s time in the service, he served as a Heavy Machine Gunner and Squad Leader.
Ruben returned home and was honorably discharged from the service on June 28th, 1945. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Glider Wings, four Bronze Stars, and one Silver Star.”
Mr. Ruben Odle was, and will remain, an unforgettable example of those who answered the call to arms and served our country well. Wayne County, Tennessee is truly honored to be the place that he called home for 100 years.