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Leonard Schmidt
War: World War II
Branch: United States Army
Unit: 542nd regiment
Birth Year: April 3, 1923


At the age of eighteen, Leonard and his buddies tried to enlist, but the government closed enlistments at that time. He was able to "convince" his draft board to draft him.

Soon after he entered service he volunteered for Jump School (an extra $50 dollars per month was given to paratroopers). Sickness prevented him from going to the South Pacific. He was then sent to demolition school, and was eventually assigned to the 542nd Regiment and sent to England. While in England, Leonard was assigned to the 101st Airborne, but missed going to Normandy because there were not enough planes.

Leonard's commander had given him a choice: S2 Intelligence of machine gun training. Although few people wanted the machine gun training, beuause it was always the main target of the enemy, he chose it.

Leonard jumped into Holland and was part of the "Market Garden" offense. He was very impressed with how grateful the Dutch were for being liberated. Eventually, Leonard fought in the "Battle of the Bulge" where he was wounded and finally evacuated to an Army Hospital. When he was first sent to a Mash unit, the doctor wanted to remove his leg. An old classmate was working as an assistant and talked the doctor out of the amputation.

Leonard spent more than two years in various Army Hospitals before being discharged in 1947. He returned to the Michigan area and went to Art School. He worked at various modeling jobs for all the the Big Three. He talked about how many people resented him as a veteran. He returned to civilian life two years after the War had ended and peopled treated veterans differently by then.

Leonard received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Infantry Rifleman's Award, and the European Theater with two Battle Stars. Leonard feels that he had a guardian angel watching over him: once when a gunner was shot and killed right next to him; another time when in Holland, two soldiers on either side of him wer shop and killed; he felt lucky that his old classmate was able to talk the doctor out of amputating his leg.

Leonard finished his interview by saying: "I'm proud of my service and I'd do it again."