March 18, 2005
Oroville Mercury Register, April 6, 1945
continued from last week.
Turn Of The Head Saves Leonard From Japanese Bullet On Burma
Hardships of Myitkyina Campaign Described by Major: He Praises
By Naome Caziee
The men spent Christmas Day in their foxholes on Tonkawa. Water
often filled the foxholes waist-high. The men were not unhappy though.
The day before, planes had dropped their Christmas packages. Leonard
said their morale was superior.
From Tonkawa, the men made a forced march of 100 miles and sneaked
in on the Japanese on the old Burma road about 40 miles above Lashio.
On the last part of their advance into Lashio they marched for 20
hours without rest. The Japanese had all of the trails blocked.
Cutting their way through the jungle, the task force caught the
Japanese off guard and knocked them out of the area. Then the Mars-men
dug in while the Japanese re-organized and made several strong attacks
against them using tanks, heavy artillery and “anything else they
could dream up,” according to Leonard. There the force was rescued
by the Chinese. Leonard said much of the credit for the success
of the mission was due the men who handled the mules. “They were
pretty good to them,” he related, “and the mules deserved it.”
Perhaps some of the credit should go to Leonard. A citation accompanying
the award of the Bronze Star to Leonard, in recognition of his service
as company commander near Myitkyina, mentions his outstanding courage
and meritorious service. It reads further, “Major Leonard’s inspired
leadership, complete mastery of the situation and thorough knowledge
enabled his company to complete successfully all their assigned
missions, which eventually led to the disintegration of the Japanese
defenses before his battalions. In front line positions on numerous
occasions, Major Leonard’s personal bravery and exemplary conduct
led the officers and men in his company to move forward under severe
fire from enemy mortars and automatic weapons.” Leonard also wears
the Combat Infantry Award and a Presidential citation won by Merrill’s
Stu’s Notes: Several people I know are clipping out my articles,
saving them in various ways. This is good. I wish all would stick
them in the attic in the walls of your house, bury them in the ground
hide them in books, put them in time capsules. So years from now
they will be found and future generations will know the stories
of our OROVILLE HEROES. What a story about Major Raymond Leonard.
Not only was he a true American Hero, but those who served under
him were Heroes. I envy him for he got to know these men. Their
stories should be told. There are many in Oroville who lived these
stories. I urge them to tell what they did. Many won’t, but think
of it this way, your buddies that have passed on, who can’t tell
their story’s. When you tell yours you include them. The Veterans
History Project wants these stories, which will go to the Library
Of Congress. Kelly Birchfield and Alma Chaika of the Oakmont and
Country Crest are the people to call. They have forms for veterans
to fill out. They want to hear from you. Country Crest 533-7857
or The Oakmont 895-0123.