John S. Leuty Jr.
Biography: John Stanton Leuty Jr. was born on March 20, 1914, in Dayton, Tennessee. He was the youngest of five children born to John Stanton Leuty and Alice Bates. His siblings consisted of three sisters, Bessie, Virginia and Kelly and a brother Burton. John graduated from local schools and his enlistment record indicates he was working as a salesman prior to the war.
Service Time: John entered the service on March 17, 1941, at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. After his basic training, he was assigned to the C Company of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion and trained with them within the U.S. John received special training to man the company’s T2 (M31) Tank Recovery Vehicle, which was constructed by modifying an M3 Medium Tank with a Garwood power boom crane, which had a 10,000 to 30,000 lb. capacity.
On July 3, 1942, while on leave, John traveled back to Tennessee and married the former Katherine Cooper Rhoades, who was born in Mayland, TN, and was the daughter of Burnett Rhoades and Patty Ware Cooper. The new couple would make their home in Dayton, TN.
John returned to the unit and moved with them from Camp Gordon, GA, on September 30, 1943, to Fort Slocum, New York, where they boarded the USAT (US Army Transport) ship James Parker and sailed for the United Kingdom. They arrived at Liverpool, England on the 18th and continued their training for the next 9 months before boarding LST’s (Landing Ship Tank) at Weymouth in Dorset, England, and landing on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on July 11th, 1944.
The unit was initially committed to battle on July 12th near Fallot, France. Over the next five days, they experienced extremely heavy artillery and mortar fire, took many prisoners and destroyed one complete battery of 88mm guns, numerous machine gun positions and a command post.
On July 17th, in the vicinity of St. Lo, the Daily AARs (After Action Reports) provide the following information:
“At 1900 hours, Sergeant Lonzo P. Miller’s (2nd platoon) destroyer with Corporal George D. Babcock, Tech 5 Grade Fred Cross, Tech 5 Grade Albert Herdon, as crew members ran into an enemy mine field, hitting a mine and damaging the destroyer to such a degree that it was necessary to have the company T2 (wrecker) pull the tank from its position in the mine field.
As the destroyer was being towed to the rear it struck another mine, killing Tech 5 Grade John S. Leuty, Jr., crew member of the T-2 seriously wounding 2d Lieut. Jeremirah D. O’Mera, the platoon leader of the 2d platoon.
Tech 5 Grade Leuty was the first man of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion to be killed as the result of enemy action.”
The above record identifies that Technician 5th Grade John S. Leuty died on the 17th but his grave marker states that he died on the 18th. I am not sure if that is a mistake or if the events written above actually went into the next day or if he died of his wounds the next day.
John was buried temporarily in cemetery #3539 in La Cambe Cemetery at Isigny, France, Block A, Row 21, Grave 9. He was reinterred in the Normandy American Cemetery American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Plot A, Row 21, Grave 9. In addition to his wife, he left behind a daughter, Patricia, born in 1943. John received the Purple Heart posthumously, which would have been given to his wife.
I want to thank John’s relative, Cary “Don” Leuty, for providing the main photo and information for this tribute. I also want to thank Andy Graves and Rose Marie Boarman for their work to make the unit’s ARR’s available and for the use of them for this tribute. Thank you also to Carol Pollard for the use of the grave marker photo.