Leo James Day

M, b. May 7, 1915, d. January 5, 1945
Father*John Jeremiah Day b. December 29, 1883, d. February 22, 1976
Mother*Carrie Frances Walsh b. 1880, d. March 6, 1967
Leo Day
     Leo James Day was born on May 7, 1915 in Franklin Township, Greene County, Iowa.1 He was the son of John Jeremiah Day and Carrie Frances Walsh. Leo James Day married Nora Amelia Miller, daughter of Michael Miller and Nellie Thomas, on May 17, 1941 in St. Joseph Church, Jefferson, Greene County, Iowa. Leo's sister Bernadette and Nora's brother Leo were witnesses at the wedding.2,3 Leo James Day died on January 5, 1945 in Hedomont at age 29.4 He was buried in January, 1945 in Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Welkenraedt. He was buried in St. Mary Cemetery, Greene County, Iowa.5
     He began military service on June 23, 1942 in Jefferson, Greene County, Iowa,
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 secret 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 the Battle of the Bulge began. 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 Hedemont 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. (Note that this is why some death records indicate that Leo died on January 15th.) All of the soldiers were buried in the military cemetery at Henry Chapelle in Belgium. Leo’s body was later returned to his family in Iowa.6

Children of Leo James Day and Nora Amelia Miller

Residence

February 24, 19201920 Federal CensusFranklin Township, Greene County, Iowa7
April 3, 19301930 Federal CensusFranklin Township, Greene County, Iowa8
April 20, 19401940 Federal CensusHardin Township, Greene County, Iowa9
ChartsPater Familias O'Dea Descendant Chart (Indented)
Thomas (Darby) O'Dea Descendant Chart (Indented)
Last Edited3 Feb 2021

Citations

  1. [S53] Iowa Births and Christenings, 1830-1950, online https://www.ancestry.com/
  2. [S251] St. Joseph Catholic Church, Church Records for St. Joseph Catholic Church.
  3. [S435] Iowa, U.S., Marriage Records, 1880-1951, online Ancestry.com.
  4. [S598] U.S., World War II Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954, online https://www.ancestry.com, The bodies of soldiers killed were processed through hospital units where diagnosis was always "killed in action."
  5. [S214] Find a Grave, online http://www.findagrave.com, (accessed 03 February 2021), memorial page for Leo J. Day (7 May 1915–15 Jan 1945), Find a Grave Memorial no. 131494446, citing Saint Mary's Cemetery, Cooper, Greene County, Iowa, USA ; Maintained by Bethalene (contributor 47629116).
  6. [S599] U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, online https://www.ancestry.com
  7. [S258] February 24, 1920 Census Record, Provo, Utah, Roll: T625_491; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 104.
  8. [S259] April 3, 1930 Census Record, Provo, Utah, Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0004; FHL microfilm: 2340391.
  9. [S592] April 20, 1940 Census Record, Provo, Utah, Roll: m-t0627-01162; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 37-7.