Leo James Day1

M, b. 7 May 1915, d. 3 January 1945
Father*John Jeremiah Day1 b. 29 Oct 1883, d. 22 Feb 1976
Mother*Caroline Francis Walsh1 b. 2 Apr 1879
Last Edited=28 Feb 2016
Leo James Day
     Leo James Day was born on 7 May 1915 in Highland Township, Bayard, Guthrie County, Iowa, United States.1 He was baptized on 23 May 1915 in St. Josephs Church, Jefferson, Greene County, Iowa, United States.1 He married Nora Amelia Miller on 17 May 1941 in St. Josephs Church, Jefferson, Greene County, Iowa, United States; Standing up for Leo and Nora were Leo Miller and Bernadette Gower.2 Leo James Day died on 3 January 1945 in Belgium at age 29.3 He was buried in Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Hombourg, Belgium. He was buried on 24 April 1948 in St. Marys Cemetery, Guthrie County, Iowa, United States; Casket bearers were Bob Carey, James Cuddy, Leonard Pearson, Harold Hall, Richard Griffin and Paul Hochstatter. The Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph's Church in Jefferson, Iowa, by Father T. J. Perion.3
     He appeared on the census of 24 February 1920 in the household of John Jeremiah Day in Franklin Township, Greene County, Iowa, United States.4 Leo James Day appeared on the census of 1 January 1925 in the household of John Jeremiah Day in Franklin Township, Greene County, Iowa, United States.5 Leo James Day appeared on the census of 3 April 1930 in the household of John Jeremiah Day in Franklin Township, Greene County, Iowa, United States.6

Leo, after basic training at Fort Knox, was recruited to be a Staff Sergeant in the 526th Armored Infantry Brigade, and was sent to a scret facility in Arizona to train. The army was experimenting with a type of tank that was equipped with powerful mercury arc lamps in an effort to gain control of the night-time battlefield. The tanks the 526th trained with, affectionately called "gizmos", were equipped with lamps that could project light a phenomenal distance. Twelve of them on the battlefield could project light far enough to make it possible to read a newspaper at a distance of over a mile. The lights themselves were so bright that an enemy would have difficulty judging the distance to their target, and thus the lights were difficult to knock out. The tanks and their lights were kept under wraps. No one knew anything about them, including the Generals who were supposed to use them. When the battalion was shipped overseas to Ireland, none of the Generals wanted to accept the new tanks as a part of their fighting force. As a result, the 526th reverted to a regular armored infantry brigade. They landed on Normandy about three weeks after the invasion of D-Day.

After moving behind the invading forces from D-Day, the 526th found itself stationed in a small village in Belgium called Comblain la Tour. Note that the 526th was not attached to any division at this time and was still considered Special Forces. The new assignment for the 526th, since the gizmos had not worked out, was to train to take control of high-ranking prisoners. It was known that after the end of the war, there would be a need to capture, hold and interrogate high-ranking officers in the German Army. The 526th was given this duty and, while in Comblain la Tour, they were being trained to follow closely on the heels of the invading army while targeting high-ranking officers. There job was to find them and to incarcerate them.

While the 526th was training in Comblain la Tour, Hitler launched his forces in what he termed the "battle of the Ardennes" forest. Comblain la Tour was only a few miles from the front when this incursion occurred. Immediately it was sent to provide reinforcements in the area of Malmedy. When they arrived at Malmedy, it was held by a small force of Norwegian-American soldiers. The 526th immediately attached itself to this force and dug in above the town. The town itself was not in immediate danger during the first part of the battle. (Note, however, the massacre that occurred outside of Malmedy when over 200 American prisoners were summarily executed by German SS forces.) Later in the battle, Malmedy came under attack by a make-shift division of German soldiers under the leadership of Otto Skorenzy, one of Hitler's right-hand men. The battle was hotly contested, but the German's were eventually turned away.

On January 3, 1945, the 526th was sent south of Malmedy near the village of Heremont to reconnoiter the position of retreating German troops. During this assignment, Leo’s squad was caught in the open and all but one man were killed by machine gun fire. The Regiment withdrew, unable to retrieve the bodies of the slain soldiers. The bodies lay on the battlefield until January 15th when they were recovered by United States forces. All of the soldiers were buried in the military cemetery at Henry Chapelle in Belgium. Leo’s body was later recovered and returned to his family in Iowa.

Family: Nora Amelia Miller b. 15 Feb 1918, d. 13 May 2015

Citations

  1. [S251] St. Josephs Catholic Church, Church Records for St. Josephs Catholic Church.
  2. [S251] St. Josephs Catholic Church, Church Records for St. Josephs Catholic Church, Matrimony Register, p. 53.
  3. [S251] St. Josephs Catholic Church, Church Records for St. Josephs Catholic Church, Deaths (January 1933 - January 1982).
  4. [S258] February 24, 1920 Census Record, Provo, Utah, United States.
  5. [S260] January 1, 1925 Census Record, Provo, Utah, United States.
  6. [S259] April 3, 1930 Census Record, Provo, Utah, United States.