Raymond "Jack" Schuder survived the military courts of friends and enemies, a date with a firing squad, a battle in which his unit had 92 percent casualties, a death march, five POW escape attempts, sawdust bread, not enough food, too much food, and cigarettes.

He died Sept. 17 in a Conroe hospital, where he was recovering from surgery for an aneurysm. A memorial service was held Thursday in Huntsville and a burial service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Millersview Cemetery, in the cotton country east of San Angelo.

Schuder, 77, lived at Riverside, Texas, near Huntsville. You could call Jack Schuder courageous, patriotic, combative, stubborn, or just plain mean. But he was a real piece of West Texas work, and if there hadn't been a Jack Schuder Hollywood would have invented him.

He went into the U. S. Army in 1941. He weighed over 200 pounds and had done some boxing, so they made him an MP. In England a second lieutenant ordered him to arrest a soldier who had a shirt pocket unbuttoned. That led to a fight with the officer, to a stay in the brig, and the threat of his first court martial.

About that time the U. S. military was forming its first special unit patterned after the British Commandos. In the U. S. forces they were "Rangers." Schuder was allowed to "volunteer" and the court martial was forgotten.

He was in the original Darby's Rangers, was in the raid on Dieppe, France, fought in North Africa and Sicily and was captured between Anzio and Rome when his Ranger unit took its objective and the main force didn't come up soon enough to help out.

Not long before he was captured he faced a second court martial for fighting with another second lieutenant in Naples, this time over a woman. Colonel Darby fixed that ticket when he heard Schuder's side of the story.

Schuder was among 3,000 POWs marched across Europe to prevent their liberation by the advancing Allies. Only 250 made it to Germany. There they were forced to repair railroad tracks and do other body-breaking labor with little rest and little or no food. Schuder said he was fed bread baked using sawdust to increase its volume.

Like Hollywood, if there hadn't been a Jack Schuder the U. S. military would have invented him. In 1955 the U. S. armed forces adopted a Code of Conduct, which says: "If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape."

Schuder crawled under the barbed wire and tried to escape five times, although he never got to friendly lines. He hid in brush piles and ditches, but was recaptured and thoroughly beaten each time. Occupying his captors that way was the best he could do for his country's war effort, he said.

Near the end of his captivity he was on a work crew building an electricity relay station, packing concrete with a stick. He just sort of happened to drop a few mechanical parts--cogs and pulleys that the Germans were planning to use in the facility--into the concrete. They caught him and didn't think it was too funny.

He was sent to Berlin and on his third brush with a court martial, this time by his enemy, he was convicted.

He was sentenced to die by firing squad on May 25, 1945. American troops arrived on the 3rd.

By this time his heavyweight frame had dwindled to 95 pounds. That first day 21 of the 200 or so prisoners who had been released died of overeating. They got a stomach pump to Schuder in time.

He came back to Texas where he worked in the West Texas oil fields, and lived in Riverside since 1970. He and his wife, a talented musician and teacher with the uncommon female name of Vernon, were married on Christmas Eve in 1965.

His old injuries from bayonets, grenades and rifle butt beatings gave him a 100 percent disability. He smoked too much and knew it, but said his nerves wouldn't let him stop. The shrapnel in his face, shoulder and upper arm twice set off airport security devices.

He spent just about every Thursday night during his last years teaching Ranger tactics to about 30 Sam Houston State University ROTC cadets who call themselves Schuder's Rangers. He also gave the unit $20,000 over the years, including a recent gift of $5,000 this spring, and threw them a barbecue every semester.

He did it to pass on the Ranger spirit, he said. While his highest decoration during the war was a Bronze Star, he counted some 379 Ranger "missions" in which he participated.

"I know that in some of the toughest battles fought, the Rangers were fighting," he said once. "I know that we did our share."


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak

Sept. 19, 1996