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Reeder was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on March 4, 1902. His father, Russell Potter Reeder Sr., was an Army officer. Reeder and his family moved to different military bases around the country. He wrote about his army upbringing in the book Born at Reveille. At the age of eleven, he saved the life of a drowning younger child in Casco Bay, Maine. For this achievement, he was awarded the Treasury Department Silver Lifesaving Medal. Reeder entered West Point in 1920 and played football and baseball as a cadet. He graduated in 1926.
During the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Reeder was stationed in California. By the end of December 1941, he had joined the Army operations division and was transferred to a military base in Washington. Reeder was sent to England in April 1944, to command the 12th Infantry Regiment within the Fourth Infantry Division. Reeder's regiment of 3,000 soldiers fought on Utah beach during D-Day. On June 11, 1944, during the Battle of Normandy, Reeder received a shrapnel wound in his ankle that almost severed his left leg. Reeder was taken back to England, and from there was taken to the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington and his leg was amputated.
After retiring from military service in 1946, Reeder became an athletic director at West Point. He quit this job after 20 years in 1967 and pursued a career in nonfiction writing. Of his nonfiction works, Medal of Honor Heroes and The West Point Story were written for the Landmark series of historical literature for children.
Reeder's sister Nardi Reeder Campion was an author and co-wrote Marty Maher's Bringing Up the Brass that was filmed as The Long Grey Line with Nardi co-writing the screenplay. Red Reeder had a cameo as a Commandant of Cadets in the film.
In 1997, Reeder was awarded the Distinguished Graduate Award by the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy. Reeder died on February 22, 1998 at the age of 95. He survived his wife and younger sister, and has four children, ten grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.
Colonel Reeder’s military decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and two decorations awarded by France: the Croix de Guerre avec Palm and the Légion d'honneur.