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Grappler Gold

EMU Regents Throwing Away The Legacy Of World War 2 D-Day Hero

By Michigan Grappler, 04/10/18, 11:00AM EDT


EMU Grad and Wrestler Dean Rockwell is credited with single most important action in D-Day Invasion

I am writing this letter on behalf of a friend because he can no longer speak for himself. His name was Dean Rockwell, an EMU alumni. He graduated in 1935 and is in the EMU Athletic Hall of Fame and the EMU Education Hall of Fame.  You may have heard of him.  It is my understanding that at his passing in 2005 he bequeathed over $500,000 to Eastern Michigan University for the sport of wrestling. The EMU wrestling room is dedicated to him and was built in his honor.
Dean Rockwell was dedicated to wrestling. He was a man of courage, honor and devotion. He founded the Michigan Wrestling Club and spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money to help Michigan wrestlers train and compete all over the world. He was the 1964 Olympic wrestling coach. Dean saw what the sport of wrestling can do for a man.
My father joined forces with Dean to encourage and support the sport of wrestling. I had the audacity to be born a girl, but all four of my brothers wrestled in college and beyond. I married a wrestler. He is now in the Eastern Michigan University Hall of Fame, one of only four EMU wrestlers so honored.

What you may NOT know about Dean Rockwell was that he was a decorated war hero. According to historians, his actions as a commander in the D-Day  Invasion on the beaches of Normandy turned  the tide of the war. He is credited with saving thousands of lives. For his actions he was awarded the US Navy Cross and the French Croix de Guerrero.
Dean Rockwell never spoke of his heroics.  His many friends and admirers only learned of his actions in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion when he was honored in Washington DC.  He introduced President Clinton at the ceremony.
So this letter is on behalf of Dean Rockwell - to honor his legacy to the sport of wrestling and his service to our country.  I know he would not have given up the battle. Dean Rockwell didn’t retreat, he didn’t turn back. He found a way!
I challenge you to do the same. Dean Rockwell loved EMU and he loved the sport of wrestling. Honor him and do the right thing!  The war is worth winning. Save EMU wrestling.

Mary Davids Willer  EMU ‘83



Dean Ladrath Rockwell


DATE OF BIRTH: May 25, 1912
Cass County, Michigan
East Detroit, Michigan




Navy Cross

Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade
Division: USN Scout Boat (LCT)



The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Dean Ladrath Rockwell, United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Group Commander of LCT Scout Boats carrying tanks to the beaches during the amphibious assault on the Normandy Coast of France on 6 June 1944. Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Rockwell, in the face of very heavy enemy fire, discharged the tanks on the ground. By quick and sound decision he was able to land all these tanks at the correct spot and, by skillful handling, incurred only a minimum of damage to his ships. The conduct of Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Rockwell throughout this action reflects great credit upon himself, and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.