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Col. Rene Studler, Bluffton's professional soldier

4th in a series of famous Bluffton High School alumni

By Fred Steiner

Rene R. Studler
Bluffton High School class of 1913
Born: Feb. 10, 1895
Died: Aug. 6, 1980

Call him Bluffton’s professional soldier. Recipient of the Legion of Merit,  the nation’s highest military award for non-combat service, Rene R. Studler served in many capacities in two world wars and became the U.S. Army’s chief of research and development on small arms, holding that post until his retirement.

• Under his direction and direct involvement, the U.S. Navy created the fighter plane ejection seat and canopy removers, 

• Chaired the development of the .30 caliber M1 carbine,


• Chaired development of the M-3 submachine gun, firing .45 caliber slugs at the rate of 450 rounds per minute,

• Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, along with his son, Lt. Commander Harlan R. Dickson, who also attended Bluffton High School 

Born in Bluffton, he devoted his entire adult professional life to the U.S. military, where he toured the world and retired as an Army colonel. Upon his death he gave a $2.3 million bequest to the American Cancer Society.

Here’s his story:

Rene Studler, a 1913 Bluffton High School graduate, grew up in Bluffton, living with his parents in a house standing today at 224 S. Jackson St.

While a Bluffton High School student, Studler was active in several student organizations and played basketball and football. Following graduation he briefly attend Bluffton College, eventually receiving a bachelor’s from Ohio State University.

In 1915, the Bluffton News reported that his parents attended a play given by the OSU French Club in which he had a role. It is believed that he spoke French at home because his mother’s family, Banderet, came from Canton Newchatel, a French-speaking area of Switzerland.

He joined the Bluffton Masonic Lodge in 1916, where he retained his membership. In 1976, the Lodge presented his 60-year membership pin, as a delegation from Bluffton visited him in Washington, D.C. 

His military career began surprisingly in Canada. During World War I he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and when the U.S. entered the war he transferred to the U.S. Army flying corps becoming flight instructor.

The Bluffton News followed his career closely, reporting on his military experiences, keeping readers updated on his whereabouts, as he was a town celebrity.

For example, the News reported that in 1918,  he was part of a flying circus in an exhibition of serial acrobatics comprising the 258th Aero squadron stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland. 

Described this way: “There flyers with utmost nonchalance, performed loops, barrel rolls, half barrel rolls, Immelmann turns, vertical reversesements and the falling leaf maneuvers to within a few hundred feet of the ground, so that many a sturdy veteran held his breath and women turned pale hearing the intrepid flyers.”

When the U.S. entered the war, First Lieutenant Studler was in charge of an overseas service squadron.

Following World War I he received a master’s in engineering in the field of small arms from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and  then spent two years at each of the United States military bases.

Eventually, stationed at Manila, Philippine Islands, from 1936 to 1950, he was an assistant military attaché in London. In his London post he had the opportunity to inspect and study small arm weapons used by the warring nations.

A 1937 Bluffton News article described one experience while in London: “Captain Rene R. Studler was recently presented to King George of England, at a reception at St. James Palace in London. Captain Studler is assistant military attaché at London. He was presented with members of the diplomatic circle.

The rest of the story with pictures is HERE.

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