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.

 

Orange 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].

 

Orange 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.

 

Orange 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 Claiborne, Louisiana. 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 what comes.

 

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 and Kentucky where they know how to [shoot]. So there was a lot of luck involved.