Legendary Servicemembers: Leonard Schroeder – from the Beach at D-Day to the Jungles of Vietnam

Leonard Schroeder

It’s not every day that a Brig. General visits a captain in the hospital, and it’s especially rare right before a huge invasion. But that’s exactly what happened when Leonard Schroeder became ill right before the D-Day landing.

Career-Driven Young Man

Schroeder was made to be in the Army. The Maryland native went to college at the University of Maryland on an ROTC scholarship. In June 1941, he graduated and was an Army officer at 22 years old. Six months later, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor.

Schroeder joined the 4th Infantry Division in Georgia at Camp Gordon. The unit spent the next 18 months were spent training together. After, they spent six months in Florida training on amphibious landings. At 25 years old, Schroeder was leading 219 men from Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division as they set sail for southern England.

However, Schroeder became ill. Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. visited him to share the unit’s orders and inform Schroeder that he wanted to ride with Company F into France. Schroeder’s daughter, Jane, told a Tampa, Florida outlet, “So General Roosevelt went to see him and said, ‘come on, you got to get out because I’m riding on your boat…I want you to get me on the beach.’”

Utah Beach

The 8th Infantry didn’t have combat experience, but they were prepared for their final destination of Utah Beach. Capt. Schroeder left the hospital and joined the troops on the USS Barnett on June 5, 1944. They reached the shore two minutes before schedule, and the pre-invasion bombardment was still raining down.

However, Schroeder was the first Allied soldier to step onto the French beach. Since they were the first on the beach, they had to navigate through bombs dropping from the sky, Nazi machine guns firing their way, mines in the water, trenches, barbed wire, and anti-tank obstacles.

Their job was to get to the village five miles away, liberate it, and destroy the Nazi stronghold. The battle that ensued was brutal, with a 50% casualty rate.

Schroeder was hit and awoke on a stretcher with his arm tagged for amputation. But, he refused and was sent to an English hospital, where they saved it. Schroeder was given a Silver Star for leading the charge on Utah Beach and served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, fighting in Korea and Vietnam.

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