Cornaby, Leslie H. (640th)

Leslie H_Cornaby_1Leslie H. Cornaby

Biography:  Leslie Hollingsworth Cornaby was born on November 11, 1901 in Spanish Fork, Utah.  He was the son of Samuel Hollingsworth Cornaby and Charlotte Goodwin Sterling and attended local schools in Spanish Fork.  He continued his education by attending Brigham Young University, graduating in 1925 with a BS degree in Political Science.  He went back to Spanish Fork and put his education to work as a Science teacher at the Junior High School and then a Science, English and History teacher at the High School.

On June 10, 1926, Leslie married the former Mary Elizabeth Johnson who was the daughter of Willis Lycurgus Johnson and Mary Johanna Gwyther.  Mary was born in Vernal, Utah, but the new couple made their residence in Spanish Fork.  They later moved to Santa Barbara, California, then Seattle, Washington, and finally Port Angeles, WA.  The couple had one son, Paul, born in 1929.

Service Time: Text written by Paul Cornaby on March 12 , 1999.

Leslie H. Cornaby inducted into Federal service in 1941 as a captain and the Commander of Battery C, 222nd Field Artillery Battalion, which entered training in March of 1941 at Camp San Luis Obispo, California. On July 31, 1941, he was promoted to Major and assigned as S-3, operations officer, of First Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery Regiment. On December 9, 1941, First Battalion moved from Camp San Luis Obispo to Escondido , California. At the time, a Japanese attack on the California coast was thought to be imminent, and the Battalion was charged with defending a portion of the coast against the expected invasion. The Battalion was armed with World War I French 155mm howitzers and an ammunition supply which totaled four rounds per howitzer. At this time, the personnel of the unit still were primarily from Utah towns ranging from Tremonton to Fillmore. In May , 1942, the Battalion was transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington to complete training prior to being sent overseas to the Pacific Theater. In June, 1942, Major Cornaby reported to the field officers’ training course at the Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma on detached service, not knowing what his subsequent assignment would be.



In August, 1942, he completed his assignment at Fort Sill and joined his battalion, which had moved from Fort Lewis to Camp Stoneman, California, in preparation for embarkation. Upon arrival in Hawaii, A and B Batteries were stationed in Honolulu and Battery C and the battalion headquarters sent to Maui, where they were combined with a battery from the New York National Guard and a battery of the 143rd Field Artillery to make the 1st Battalion of the 225th Field Artillery Regiment, equipped with British 75mm guns. Major Cornaby was assigned to 1st Battalion as executive officer. In March, 1943, Major Cornaby was promoted to Lt. Colonel and assigned as commander of 1st Battalion, 225th Field Artillery Regiment.

In December, 1943, Col. Cornaby left the 225th and assumed command of an armored unit, the 640th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which included the former 222nd Regiment Headquarters Battery. In January, 1944, the 640th embarked for Guadalcanal, and from there to New Britain, where they gave up the towed anti-tank weapons and received the M-10 Tank Destroyer units; and in December, 1944, the 640th joined the invasion force which landed at Lingayen, in the Philippine Islands. At this time, the 640th was attached to the 40th Division, and Lt. Col. Cornaby was also acting as the Division Armor Officer.

Leslie-Cornaby-N Britain

In January, the 640th was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, which was charged with spearheading the drive to liberate Manila. On the road to Manila, the Americans recaptured Clark Field, the main airbase in the Philippines, and the 640th advance elements were the first units onto the base, On February 3, the armored cars of the 640th raced across the river bridges outside Manila, surprising the Japanese before they could blow them up and burst past the Japanese guards into Cabanatuan prison at Santo Tomas University, liberating 5000 American civilians. The main battle for Manila was at the Intramuros, the old walled city where the Japanese were strongly entrenched. In order to reach those positions , it was necessary to breach the tremendously thick walls since bombing could not be used because of the civilians inside the Japanese positions. As part of the assault force, the 640th was employed to breach the walls with its high-velocity weapons. The battle raged for a month, resulting in 25,000 American and 125,000 Philippino casualties and destroying three-quarters of Manila. It was not until March 3rd that the last Japanese resistance was blasted by the guns of Companies A, B, and the Pioneer Company of the 640th.

The tank destroyer units had become very popular with the infantry since they were deadly in destroying caves where the Japanese were entrenched, bunkers, pillboxes, and other obstructions which impeded the infantry advance. Subsequent to the Battle of Manila, Lt. Col. Cornaby and the 640th participated in the assaults to retake the islands of Mindoro, Sulu, Negros, Panay, and Mindanao, on July 12, 1945 , which would be the last landing of the Pacific War. Lt. Col. Cornaby relinquished command of the 640th on September 7, 1945, to return to the U.S. for mustering out. Lt. Col. Cornaby was released from Federal service on 18 February, 1946 and promoted to full colonel in the United States Army Reserve. In December, 1961, he was placed upon the retired list of the Army of the United States having served his country faithfully and well from 1927 to 1961 in the Utah National Guard, the Army of the United States, and the United States Army Reserve.  His awards include the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with 4 Campaign Stars, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 Campaign Star, and 1 Bronze Arrowhead denoting the amphibious assault, the American Theater Ribbon and the American Defense Service Ribbon.

While in the Reserves, Leslie worked as the Director of Veteran’s Affairs for three Utah Counties.  In 1947, he was hired as Principal of the Spanish Fork Junior High school, where he remained for 16 years.  It was during this time that he received his Masters degree from the University of Utah.  Leslie also studied at the University of California at Berkeley. His civic commitments included serving as a member of the Spanish Fork City Council for 5 years, the county Red Cross Council for 4 years and the Civil Defense Board for 4 years. In his spare time, he enjoyed gardening, reading, fishing and photography but still found time to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Veteran’s Affairs as well as supervise the Army Reserve Program in Central Utah.

In his golden years, Leslie did some foreign traveling with his wife and a group from St. Louis University.  He would be known to his family and friends as a storyteller extraordinaire, and the nicest man on the planet.  Col. Cornaby passed away on February 27, 1996 and was laid to rest in the Mt. Angeles Memorial Park in Port Angeles, WA.

Photo Gallery – Leslie H Cornaby

I want to thank the Cornaby family for providing information and photos on Col. Cornaby and for all the materials supplied on the 640th TD Battalion.