Leland A. Wakefield

Leland Amos Wakefield was born August 3, 1921 in Grouse Creek, Utah a son of Milas Erastus and Annie Kimber Wakefield. Leland had four sisters and six brothers. They were: Leona Flossie, SarahGrace , Julia Vilate, John Afton, Arlin Elmer, Don Milas, George Ellis, Annie LaRetta, Claude Kimber, and Frank Elwood.

I well remember August 3, 1921. I was 10 years old. Mother had sent me over to the neighbors to take a bouquet of flowers to the lady of the house who was sick. Then I was instructed to go to my sister Sarah’s, who lived near by, and to stay there. Later in the afternoon sister Julia and my 3 year old brother, Elwood came. Sarah asked Julia if there was anything yet, to which Julia replied that it probably wouldn’t be long. Those were the days when certain events were not openly discussed. It was not bandied around like it is now. Anyway when I finally went home I was surprised to learn we had a new baby brother.

In the news today we hear so often about tragedies which occur as a result of children being teased, laughed at, and ridiculed. Leland could relate to that treatment.

When he was young he had what mother called St. Vitas Dance which was a term for extensive nerve problems. The kids at school teased him until he would get upset, he would cry and stutter. The kids thought that was funny, so would do it again and again. And even some unthinking adults were guilty, too.

This experience stayed with him and he talked about it just a few days before his death.

Before he started school his brother Jack would tell him he was tough, and would play boxing with him. Leland would go around puffing out his chest and flexing his tiny arms and muscles and say, very forcibly, “I ARE TOUGH!”. Perhaps that thought helped him in later years.

Mother and dad worried about Leland, perhaps more than- the rest of us at the time, for he was the last of the flock, and they knew that with the nerve condition he was different and had problems that were far more reaching than the usual measles, colds, earache and skinned knees.

He went to first grade and half of the second in Ogden. From the third thru the eighth he was at Grouse Creek. From there he went to and graduated from, Ogden High School, where he was in ROTC training. After high school he went to Weber College. That was where he was when mother died, Jan. 2, 1940. He graduated from college.

During his time in college he had some health problems. One which necessitated surgery, and since he couldn’t go back to his apartment and be alone, he went to his niece, Venice, and husband, Harold Flygare’s home to recuperate.

After college he worked until he was called into the service during WW II. He left Brigham City October 1942. Many family members saw him off on the train and it was a very emotional time, as it was for many families going the same thing all over the country. I remember sister Leona saying she was glad that mother wasn’t there to see any of her sons go to war. I think she was there and was with him in the times that followed.”

He went to Fort Douglas, SLC, where he had the dubious pleasure of getting the series of shots, uniforms, and some training before shipping out to Camp Blanding, Florida.’ ‘There, because of the rigorous training and the damp humid climate, he ‘ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and for a month it was “nip and tuck” for him.

From Florida he went to Camp Forest, Tennessee and again spent two weeks in the hospital. One night he was standing guard, was standing on a slight, small, grassy, muddy rise and just as a loaded supply truck pulled in, his foot slipped. The wheels ran over his foot and another trip to the hospital. Fortunately no bones were broken, but he did have a terribly painful, sore foot which made it difficult to walk.

From Tennessee he went to Camp Attebury, Indiana and from there to Fort Miles Standish, Massachusetts for shipment to England, arriving there March 23, 1943.

D-Day 1944 found him in the English Channel headed for Omaha Beach. They were under German fire and it never quit. They fought their way into France, Holland, and Belgium. At St.Lo, France he was wounded in the stomach by flying shrapnel and was sent to a hospital in England where he was for two months before going back to the front lines. Sometime later he was hit in the back of his neck, again with shrapnel, which he carried the rest of his life because it was too close to the spine to be operable. He had a lot of bad headaches, especially the last three or four years, probable cause, the shrapnel.

He was taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of The Bulge and was kept in a cellar, along with a hundred or so other POWs, where there was no light except what came under the door. There was no room to sit or lay down. They were fed very few, poor rations, so they became very weak, but that didn’t prevent the Germans from putting them to work carrying heavy mortar shells, and laughing at them when they could hardly  carry the shells because of weakness. As a result of being shut in that cellar, after that Leland could not stand to be in a dark room; ride an elevator and sometimes he found it hard to even sit in the back seat of a car. Those problems stayed with him pretty much the rest of his life. People who have never experienced claustrophobia don’t know what a terrible thing it is.

Once the Germans asked for volunteers to peel potatoes for soup, so Leland was one who volunteered. The Germans had confiscated some chickens, probably from some poor French farmer, to put into the soup. They said that they would share it with the prisoners. The soup was about ready when an American plane flew over strafing, knocking over the stove and losing the soup. What a disappointment! It would have been ‘a real treat after the starvation rations.

Leland received the Purple Heart for his wounds.

It was interesting to learn in later years that the Army unit his nephew Wayne Tanner was in was sitting up on a rise watching the POWs, just waiting for a chance to rescue them—Wayne not knowing that Leland was in the group. The rescue was made.

I have told only a few things about Leland’s war experiences, and only this much because it was something he lived with from then on. It was never very far from his mind, and sometimes it really upset him. I am sure other war veterans have gone through the same thing, after all wars.

After his discharge and return to Utah, he made a trip to visit family members. Elwood in San Leandro, California, Don in Parma, Idaho, Claude in Seattle, and us at Grandview, Idaho.

On June 8, 1951 he married Eris Parker in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. They had the following children: David, Paul, Carol Ann, and Janet.

Later he went to St. Louis, Missouri to attend schooling for employment with an airline, but his health didn’t let him continue, so he returned to Ogden and got a job as mail clerk and baggage handler at the Union Pacific Railroad depot.

His work at the depot required him being there really early in the morning, so after his marriage, and living at Washington Terrace, he walked from the terrace to the depot. In the winter his walk was usually in the dark. One time as he was walking a police car pulled up and he was asked what he was doing out that time of the night. Leland said he was going to work, and he was driven to work. That did happen often thereafter.

Leland loved music, loved to sing and for years he sang with the Southern Pacific male chorus. He also sang in the 18th ward choir. If he could find an organ he could get to, he really enjoyed playing it.

He had a good sense of humor, loved to hear a good joke and he had a long list he loved to tell. I think that most people enjoyed his jokes and sense of humor. It helped him to make friends, too.

One of the things he used to do — he used to say, “you know, people think that I have lost my marbles.” then laughing, he pulled a small bag of marbles out of his pocket. Holding them up he said, “See, I still have my marbles.”

Adams Place (Retirement Home), the old Ramada Inn, was the first place that Leland lived after he moved from home. There was a large, multipurpose recreation room in which the Relief Society met. When Leland appeared at a meeting he was told that he was welcome if he sat in the back and kept quiet. The ladies were a little surprised and shocked, and maybe a little amused when he came to a meeting with a dress on. He was told that in the future “forget the dress”. He would still be welcome—sitting in back, keeping quiet.

Leland loved people. Our dad used to say that he was like our Grandma Julia Ann Johnson Wakefield. She loved people, was always making friends, and always had time to help or just visit if someone needed a helping hand, a kind word or a smiling face.

He appreciated little things. For about the last six years Shirley Rae and I have taken Leland a small, artificial, table top Christmas tree all decorated and with lights. He really enjoyed it. In 1997, when Shirley Rae had her auto accident and was unable to deliver the tree at Thanksgiving time, nephew Larry Wakefield took it to Leland.

It is often the little things that bring happiness into people’s lives. Not long ago Leland was crossing the busy street of Grant and 25th or 26th when he stepped into a hole, fell flat, and couldn’t get up. Fortunately a passerby saw his plight and stopped to help him, than took Leland to TLC Retirement Home where he was then living. He had cut his arm and face, but nothing too serious. It did remind him to watch his step.

Most of the local bus drivers and police knew him and did watch out for him.

Leland was a scripture reader and very often one would find him in his room reading scriptures, or would see the book lying open where he had been reading. He was always active in the church.

I’ve said he loved people. This didn’t apply to just living people. His work for the dead is very commendable. He spent a lot of time at the temple; the workers knew him and helped him. For years he walked from the (Ogden) Terrace family home to the temple, do a session or two, then walk out to the Bishop’s Storehouse on 17th and Wall Ave. and donate his time there for the rest of the day. He then walked home or sometimes caught a ride with some of the workers. I recall that he said that he did that for about fifteen years. He loved those people there and they seemed to return the affection and appreciated his help. He kept a record of the numbers for which he did work at the temple. A few years ago he showed me the list, which at that time numbered almost 28,000. Now it could be in the area of 29,000, maybe more. He went to the temple most every day up until about the last three or four weeks.

Leland liked to ride the bus, so sometimes he rode it to see different parts of Ogden and other areas. He even went to Brigham City to visit Dorothy Frost. (widow of sister Julia’s son, Lamoyne.)

He frequently had to go to the Veteran’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for check-ups, treatments, etc., so most of the time he went alone, by bus.

Leland really appreciated and enjoyed Venice and Flora bringing him to our house, in Thatcher, where we all had a good, old fashioned visit. Often some of the other nieces were able to join us. Arlene (Munns), her sister Fay (Green), and Dorothy. We visited, had lunch, and visit some more. Sometimes Leland played the organ. The first visit was spent going through albums, exchanging pictures, stories about.the pictures, and a little genealogy.

At the TLC Retirement Home (27th and Brinker) there was a lady resident, Bobbie, who had gone to school with Leland. Quite often, in good weather, in the evening, she and he went for walks. Later, as she became less orientated she would wander off. He was the one who went out to find and bring her back. When other residents sometimes also wandered off, Leland went out and brought them back.

All the long walks to work, the temple, etc. and walking for exercise, he probably could have gone across the U.S. several times.

Leland died on Monday April 17, 2000 at Appletree Retirement Center in Kaysville, Utah at the age 78. He is buried at Lindquist’s Washington Heights Memorial Park in Ogden where Military Honors were accorded.

Written by LaRetta Wakefield Smith April 24, 2000 Ogden, Utah

Life of Leland A. Wakefield in the United States Army

I was drafted into the Army on October 19, 1942, at Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City, Utah.

At Fort Douglas we were issued our equipment here, given shots, given tests for our abilities, and the like for further duty. We were here for just a few days. From here we were sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, just outside of Jacksonville,Florida. It was at Camp Blanding that our basic training began. (November 23, 1942) I was assigned to company E, 119th Infantry, 30th Division. Our rations were very meager for a few days, because of the late rations from the ration board there.

I was a patient here in the General Hospital. It was the change of the climate and the hard basic training in the cold damp air. We worked day and night in the heavy rainfall, and soon the hospital was overflowing with patients. The nurses and doctors were undecided that if I would make it through the attack of pneumonia. I had taken down on a cold on November 24, 1942. Each time I went to sick call they gave me aspirins and sweat pills and sent me back to the barracks to bed. The sweat pills had just begun to work when I had to get up in the cold air and walk down to the dispensary about a mile away. I did this every morning for three mornings. Enlisted men took care of me the other two mornings, but this morning, Captain Kansas took my temperature and immediately ordered me to the hospital. I remained there for one month (December 24, 1942). Every since that time I have been having trouble with my chest, as I had had pneumonia before as a baby and had almost died from it. Hence my condition has been weak in that respect although the medical exams don’t seem to have picked it up. I was also treated for varicose veins while in the hospital.

We were then transferred to Tennessee for army maneuvers for three months (June 1943). While at Camp Forrest Tennessee I went to the hospital twice, once for dysentery. The whole company was attacked with it. I spent two weeks there and left in a very weak condition.

My second trip to the hospital was because of an accident that I had. I was on guard detail and the weather was cold and the roads were slick. A two and a half ton truck loaded with Barrack bags and rifles turned into the gate that I was guarding. I stepped back to let him pass, as the truck passed my foot slipped on the side hill that I was standing on and my foot went under the dual wheels of the truck. It didn’t seem to hurt my foot so much which was a surprise to me as well as to my partner who was standing on guard with me. Next morning my foot began to hurt me and I found great difficulty in walking on my foot. I went to the dispensary and they sent me to the field hospital as we’ were then on maneuvers. They x-rayed my foot but didn’t find anything wrong but my foot still bothered me. I was later attached to the Military Police as a road guide for maneuvers. Later we were transferred to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, for further basic training. (About December, 1943)

After our brief training at Camp Atterbury we were then ready for P.O.E. and were sent to Camp Mile Standish in Massachusetts. (January, 1943)

From here we were sent to England. (About February 1943) We arrived in Liverpool England (about March 23, 1943). Our training here was much like that in the states and lasted only a few short months. We hit the beach at France on D-6. They made a mistake with our convoy and started to unload us on the Utah beach, so amidst the heavy shelling and fighting they put us back on board again and put us off on the Omaha Beach, where the fighting was not quite so heavy. I was in combat until we reached just outside St Lo France. I was wounded here on July 15, 1944, by shrapnel from a mortar shell. They sent me to the hospital in England. I remained there until September 1944. I was then sent to the 10th Replacement, just outside Birmingham. I remained here for a month. I was sent to France to another replacement camp. I was thus sent to several replacement camps throughout France, Belguim and Holland.

I returned to my division and Company (Company K, 119th Infantry, 30th Division) on. Armistice Day, November 11, 1943. (Belgium) Everything went along fairly well but my back kept on bothering me. On December 19th 1943 the breakthrough at the Roer came into effect. Our division was alerted and we moved into the town of Stoumont, Belguim. This was in the early morning and we thought that we had the situation under control. But the Germans surprised us by an early attack and took a great many of us prisoners and killed many others. I was taken prisoner of the Germans here on December 19, 1943. We marched several miles through the dark and heavy forests and deep snow, back to Stoumont, while here the Germans treated us pretty rough at times, such as we had very few rations and we were very weak because of it. The Germans had us out carrying the heavy ammunition for their 88’s. We carried it for great distances while under fire from our own troops that were sitting on the surrounding hillsides, watching us and just waiting for a chance to get us out as soon as possible. Our lack of rations made us very weak. The Germans seeing this just loaded us with heavier work, and all the time making fun at us in our efforts. We had to move several times through the night as our own accurate shooting Americans set our prisons on fire with their phosphorus shells. We sweat this prison of war out until the afternoon ofDecember 24, 1943. It was on that day our own troops came and liberated us. I went back to the rear for awhile and stayed at the kitchen, until I came back up to the front where I was made Company runner for a short time. I remained on this job until the first part of January, 1945. On January 23, 1945 I was just outside of St Vith in Belguim, I was digging my foxhole and my back started acting up again and could not straighten up. I went to the medics. With the aid of the medic that had worked on me in the field when I was wounded, we finally convinced the Captain to send me back to the hospital. They claimed no shrapnel was in my back; hence I went back to Paris, (l08th General Hospital) and had the shrapnel out or at least part of it. I have reason to believe that there is still some shrapnel in my back, and it is to close to the spinal column that the surgeon was afraid to operate and take all of the shrapnel out while I was in the service. It has never stopped bothering me every since it happened. I get caught in a stooped sometimes and I can’t get back up for a few minutes without a lot of effort and pain.

From Paris, France I was reclassified and sent to the 18th Base Post Office in Paris. (Reclassified because of my being a Prisoner of war) I was here for about two months. I was then transferred to Siene Section Headquarters, also in Paris. I was here in this organization until the first part of September. I was then sent home to the United States of America, by application to the proper authorities as to my being a prisoner of war, and orders were to send all prisoners of war home. I arrived in Fort Douglas Utah in October and I received my discharge from the army on October 31, 1945.

The following was written by Wayne R. Tanner (nephew) Oct. 29, 1993

Leland Amos Wakefield was an infantryman in the 30th Division. He was captured by the Germans at St Vith, Belgium in December (19) 1944. In January of 1945 the 75th Infantry Division surrounded St. Vith and recaptured it from the Germans.

Wayne R. Tanner, a nephew of Leland and a member of the 75th Division, received word from his Mother in the U.S., that Leland had been captured. Wayne’s Mother, Sarah Grace Wakefield Tanner, was a sister of Leland Wakefield.

Wayne contacted a Chaplain of the 75th Division to see if any information could be obtained about the status of Leland. A code was agreed upon between Wayne and the Chaplain in the event any information was obtained. This code was necessary because Military regulations forbade the Chaplain to release information until the War Department gave the official word. Within a week Wayne received a coded message from the Chaplain that Leland was OK, and had been recaptured from the Germans.

When Wayne received the message from the Chaplain he notified his Mother at home in the U.S., and she in turn passed the word along to the Wakefield family.

After the fall of Germany in 1945, Wayne and his friend, Herm G. Stauffer of Ogden, Utah, visited Leland in Paris, France twice during the summer of 1945.