LeRoy B. Hecker
Biography: LeRoy Bernard Hecker was born on October 30, 1919, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Clyde Jerome Hecker and Evelena Noonan and attended Washington School through the grammar grades. He later worked as a groundman for Penelec, which was the local power company.
Service Time: LeRoy received a letter from the Johnstown local draft board No. 2, on February 28, 1942, ordering him to report to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station at 9:30 am on March 16, 1942. He was then transported to New Cumberland, PA, where he was inducted into the Army that same day. He was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and assigned to Company B of the 608th Tank Destroyer Battalion. On June 20, he received a certificate of completion and the rank of Technician 5th Grade. At the time, the unit was training with the 3″ towed gun.
When the 608th was deactivated on December 20, 1943, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, LeRoy was transferred to Company B of the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion and continued his training with them. The 610th shipped out from the New York port on June 3, 1944, arriving in Scotland on June 12th. Just over a month later, they landed at Utah Beach on July 31st and were committed to action on August 10th, near Craon, France. They participated in the elimination of the Falaise Pocket and raced east to the Moselle River by September.
The unit was the first to be converted to the M36 tank destroyer in September–October and then helped clear the Maginot Line fortifications in November. They were ordered to the Ardennes on December 21st and helped eliminate the Bulge in January, 1945, and then battling through the Siegfried Line in February near Brandscheid. The 610th was then transferred back south in March and crossed the Rhine at Worms on March 29th. They raced through central and southern Germany in April and reached the vicinity of Munich by month’s end, and were finally stationed in Ingolstadt at the end of combat.
LeRoy received credit for the campaigns of Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes_Alsace and Central Europe and was awarded the EAME Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Purple Heart. His injuries were the result of an artillery shell which hit close by their TD. He heard the round coming in and leaned over the man below him in the unit. Shrapnel ripped into his back, sending him to a field hospital. He left the service on October 18, 1945, at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, PA, at the rank of Sergeant.
When he returned to Johnstown, he initially drove truck for Penelec but later worked as an electrician for the city, eventually reaching the position of Chief Electrician. On February 2, 1948, he married the former Helen Barbara Petrowski, who was born in Johnstown and was the daughter of Waclaw Petrowski and Frances Ratkawski. The couple had five children, three girls and two boys. In his spare time, he enjoyed softball and on August 26, 1950, he joined the Pennsylvania Nation Guard and was assigned to the 628th Tank Battalion. He was honorably discharged a year later at the rank of Sergeant 1st Class. He was also member of the VFW and the CWV (Catholic War Veterans) organization. He retired from the city as their Chief Electrician.
LeRoy passed away on January 1, 2006, and was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Johnstown, PA. I want to thank LeRoy’s son, Keith, for providing the photo and information for this tribute.