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82nd A/B vet get his jacket back lost during Waal River crossing


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I just discovered this article about someone I know.


I met Mr. Leonard for the first time in 1991 at the 82nd A/B yard sale near Linglestown,Pa. not too far form Lancaster but very far for a local boy.


He had me over to his house and I got some TR items from him.


I visited with him several times and talked about WW2.


He was very frank about it and told me some stuff I had never heard before from a vet.


In relation to this article about his jacket.


He showed me an M-42 jacket that had been cut down into an Ike jacket of sorts.


Told me that he wore it on the Waal River crossing.


His mom cut it down because " She took off the part where I was wounded ".


I wondered about the story because I thought that m-43 jackets were worn.


Anyway as they neared the bank 3 MG's converged on their boat killing or wounding most everyone.


This is when his metal Carlisle pack slowed the bullet.


He showed me the bullet damaged pack as he still had it.


As the battle calmed down and prisoners were brought in Leonard took a beed on them and was ready to kill when the chaplain jumped in front of him.


He told me that years later he ran into this chaplain at a reunion and he cussed him out for stopping him.


Anyone know Frank Spiering ?


Here is the article



An old jacket sparks poignant memoriesAn East

Petersburg man, wounded in action during World War II, remembers a day that

changed his life forever.By Rory HasslerLancaster New Era

Published: Jul 21,

2004 3:38 PM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - An astonished Bill Leonard stared at

the blood-stained jacket.For the better part of an hour, the 82-year-old East

Petersburg man rubbed his hands over the worn khaki cloth, closely inspecting

the sewed-up bullet holes on the lower left pocket.“There’s that darn old thing

all right,” Leonard said, recalling the moment he realized the punctured pocket

lined up perfectly with the scar on his upper left thigh.Last week, the World

War II veteran was reunited with the jump jacket he lost after sustaining an

injury in Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation of the war.How

Leonard came to wear the jacket again after nearly 60 years is a complicated

tale with a distinct beginning and end. The middle chapters, however, are a bit

fuzzy.***A member of the 82nd Airborne Division, 504th Parachute Infantry

Regiment, Leonard jumped into Grave, Holland, on Sept. 17, 1944, three months

after his unit was held out of D-Day because it was depleted from a rough

campaign through Italy.Market Garden’s objective was to seize strategic bridges

in German-occupied Holland, which would enable allied ground forces to advance

to Germany.More than 50 miles behind enemy lines, the 82nd Airborne was charged

with taking the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal River.On Sept. 20, a few hundred

men from Leonard’s unit received orders to cross the river by boat and storm the

German resistance.Leonard was on the first of 26 canvas boats to push off.More

than half of the men in the initial crossing were injured or killed and just 11

boats would return to pickup reinforcements for a second wave.As they neared the

middle of the 400-yard-wide river, the men came under heavy artillery and

small-arms fire.“Water was flying up and down and guys were falling left and

right,” Leonard said. “There was more blood in the boat than water.”Leonard

stood up and reached to the left and right to prevent two wounded comrades from

drowning.As he ducked down to return to a crouching position, it happened.A

piercing pain surged through his left thigh.“It felt like somebody hit me with a

sledgehammer,” he said. “If it had been a little higher it would have hit me in

the heart.”He only thought about reaching the river’s far bank.As far as he can

remember, no man in his boat escaped injury during the crossing. Short on oars,

the wounded soldiers navigated toward the far shore using rifle butts as

paddles.When they reached the bank, only two men were able to pull Leonard and

the others onto land.Unable to walk, Leonard dug a small hole with his helmet,

using it for shelter until the combat died down and help arrived.He was

transported on a stretcher to the medical station where doctors treated him,

removing his jacket.***A few months ago, Leonard answered the phone in his East

Petersburg home.He was surprised to hear the voice of his former commanding

officer, Moffet Burris, on the other end of the line.Burris said a 35-year-old

Dutchman with a passion for collecting World War II artifacts named Frank

Spiering had contact him, hoping to find Leonard.Spiering claimed that he

recently purchased the jacket Leonard wore in Market Garden. As a favor to

Spiering, Burris called Leonard to inquire.The man must be mistaken, Leonard

thought.“I have my jacket,” he told Burris.Spiering, shocked when he heard the

news, thought he had been duped. An American seller had guaranteed that it was

Leonard’s.Spiering contacted the seller, who insisted the jacket was Leonard’s

but refused to reveal how it had been acquired.For that reason, he believes the

seller bought the jacket from an acquaintance of Leonard’s. That person may have

taken it while Leonard was receiving medical care.***Spiering was baffled.He

decided to take photographs of the jacket and mail them to the former

soldier.When Leonard opened the package and saw the photos, he still believed it

wasn’t his.Leonard had often shared war stories with his neighbor, Greg Smith, a

postal worker and retired Air Force pilot.He walked across the street and showed

Smith the photos. Immediately interested, Smith received Leonard’s permission to

e-mail Spiering and invite him to visit.“I didn’t hesitate for one minute when

Greg gave me the offer,” Spiering said.If the jacket was Leonard’s, as he

suspected, Spiering planned to return it and lose his investment.The money

didn’t matter to Spiering. He is more interested in preserving the history of a

man who helped liberate his homeland.“I wanted to hear Bill’s story,” he

said.Spiering arrived in East Petersburg on Thursday and stayed through

Monday.When he handed the jacket to Leonard, the former soldier saw the bullet

holes and realized it was his.“It took my breath away when I first saw it — oh

my!”But how could it be Leonard’s jacket, if he already had one?It turns out

Leonard had forgotten that it was standard procedure for the military to issue

two uniforms to paratroopers. That’s why he already had one jacket at his

home.Spiering tried to give the jacket back, but the older man politely

declined.“He’ll have more use for it than I will and can show it to more

people,” Leonard said.***Although the 82nd Airborne would successfully capture

the Nijmegen Bridge, Operation Market Garden failed when British troops were

overrun at nearby Arnhem.A few days after being wounded, Leonard was transported

to a hospital in Belgium. Within a couple of weeks, he moved again, this time to

a hospital in England.Luckily, the bullet that wounded Leonard had traveled

through a small metal first-aid kit in his pocket. Doctors believed the bullet

would have shattered his femur if the kit had not reduced the impact.After

spending two months of his 29-month overseas tour in recovery, Leonard was

released from the hospital in early December of 1944, returning to combat within

days to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.Shortly after the war ended, he

returned to Lancaster and soon married Mildred Steinmetz, his wife of 57 years.

The couple raised four boys and now have 10 grandchildren.Retired from Permutit

Co. for 19 years, Leonard is contemplating a return visit to Holland.Spiering is

planning a three-day exposition in September to mark the 60th anniversary of

Market Garden and has offered to fly the Leonards to Holland for the event.“I

wouldn’t mind going,” Leonard said. “I’m going to have to think about it.”

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  • 4 weeks later...

m...........do you remember the oil painting i bought from you done by leonard of the crossing.on the back is written"this is where i got hit sept 20 1944"...............dave

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Capt. Delbert A. Kuehl was the 504th Chaplin who crossed the Waal River and received the Silver Star. I dont know if he is the one mentioned above or not.

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