Interview of Bill Leunig
of Long Island, New York.† Recorded at Orange High School
in Columbus, Ohio
during the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Reunion, September 2008.
High School Student: Did
you ever write home?
Leunig: Yeah. I wrote very often. Did you every see what the
letters were like in World War 2? We had to write on Vmail. Wasnít Email, it was
Vmail. It was a little piece of paper about this big. If you wanted to get any
information on it you had to write microscopically. And then all your letters
went through a censor. All mail going back to the United States went through a
censor. If you had a nasty lieutenant, he might cross out something you put
down that related to where you were. I still have one Vmail letter that I saved
that survived. Iím not even sure it was mine. I think it might have been a
cousin or somethingís letter. I am surprised that you donít see it in museum
exhibits or at schools. Itís a little thing about the war. And I think they
sent it home with some kind of photograph. You know like the way now on
computers. I think they were sent on maybe 35mm film at that time. And then
when they reprinted it like in the United StatesÖ[unclear-static].
Of course it was loads of mail from hundreds of thousands of troops all over
the world being sent back homeÖ[unclear-static].
High School Student: Did
you have any brothers that went over with you?
Leunig: My two brothers went into the service. One went in
the Air Force and one was in the Navy. Neither one went overseas.
High School Student: Did
you serve with a lot of people that you knew or did you meet a lot of people?
Did you go over with any of your friends?
Leunig: By the time we had left on the train, we had
separated. I had a friend who went in the same day. We both worked for a
company, and we were deferred to working in an excessive potential industry.
But they had a manning table that the government demanded of all workers in
plants like this, I was an instructor for a plant making fire control
instruments for the Navy. In fact they stopped me from going into the Air
Force. I passed the test for the Air Force knowing I was going to be released.
And they refused to release me and the Army refused to take me into the Air
Force. Thatís why I had to take the test again when I went into the Army. And
in order to take the test when I went into the Army, I had to go A-wall. In
other words, my captain did not forward the papers. And I was doing what they
call CQ all night and I did what I wasnít supposed to do. I went through the
captainís desk and I found my application and four others there. So I knew he
wasnít forwarding them. And I couldnít confront the captain. Because the way
the Army was formulated, had I confronted him, I would have been the guy in
trouble for going through his desk, even though he had violated the rules. He
was supposed to forward it, even if he wanted to forward it disapproved. He
could forward it disapproved, but it had to be forwarded. So then what
happened, I went to an Air Force base to take the test. But it was beyond the
twenty miles that a pass allowed us to go. We could only get a pass to go
twenty miles, and that was a couple of the nearest towns. So the Air Force base
was another 10 or 15 miles, so I had to take a chance. Well I passed it. And
thatís how I ended up getting into the Air Force. The Army wasnít too
scrutinous about [unclear]. When I originally went into the service, I
volunteered for enlistment. I was not going to be drafted, so I quickly rushed
out and enlisted in the engineers. And I got assigned to Camp
Breckenridge in Massachusetts. I lived in New York. And thatís great I am going to Massachusetts. I kept my
car with me. I was going to Massachusetts,
you know four hours away. And when I left the induction center on Long Island, there was 14 other
fellows and I was made the acting corporal, by whoever makes these things up.
Everybody wanted to know where we were going; I am the only one who knew where
we are going. So I showed them the paper. I am assigned to Camp Breckenridge, Massachusetts.
Forty-eight hours later I get off in Camp
That was the start of what they were saying about donít
volunteer, donít make promises. The services had no scruples, about making
promises, about promising you new things, about not keeping promises. So after
awhile, you got to the point where you donít volunteer with anything. You take
Leunig: Iíll never forget the cold. Because when the war was
over, I really didnít see half of what most of these fellows did during the Battle of the Bulge. I
was blessed. I had an easier pass through the Battle
of the Bulge and through Europe. I didnít try
to wipe out memories. But it seemed like when I got home that there was enough
unhappy things that I had seen and experienced. That my mind went blank. I
didnít remember things. It was embarrassing that I wasnít trying to tell anyone
or anything but it didnít make much difference. In later years it sort of came
back to me. But I never forget the cold. All during that period, all I remember
is freezing. You know, trying to keep my feet from freezing and trying to put
enough on you to keep warm. After the Battle
of the Bulge it was a static front. And we were working as infantry; we were
infantry until they moved. Until the forces needed bridges and road work,
mostly bridges. You would walk guard. You had to walk two guys. It was freezing
cold. It was snowing. The Germans were a certain distance away. They also had a
guard. I remember walking with a rifle that was utterly useless, because they
never gave us any type of...[unclear]. There was an
outside trigger developed for the gun, that you couldnít get a frozen finger
in, even if you could get the mitts off. But if you got the mitts off, you were
frozen. And to try and get your finger in was impossible. So they did have an
adapter that could make a trigger be pulled from the outside. Like you know you
would take the frozen hand and pull it. But we never got that. So youíd be
walking with an M1 rifle that literally was useless. If a German showed up
right and front of you, you were too frozen to even try and get your gloves off
and get him. Hopefully heíd be just as frozen. And I think that happened
sometimes. They had guards the same way. They also couldnít act very fast. You
know when you walk guard you were supposed to walk a certain path in the snow
and everything. And you were getting immobilized and dopey from the cold. Which
sometimes means you would walk too far. That would mean you might walk into
another one of your guards. Who would ask for the password and you couldnít get
it out fast enough and he was liable to shoot you. There were guys who were
pretty fast on the trigger from some of these states like Tennessee
where they know how to [shoot]. So there was a lot of luck involved.