Monday, March 11, 2013

Honoring Leslie Ervin Green

PFC Les Green, B Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was one of only 55 men in his battalion left standing at the end of the Battle of the Bulge.

Private Leslie Ervin Green, c. 1943.
One of the pleasures that come with writing a book like The Boldest Plan is the Best: The Combat History of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during WWII, is the interaction you have with people who read your book and were moved to contact you. I am grateful to those folks and answer every letter and email I receive. Via Facebook, I was contacted by Pat Stephen of Morgan, Utah. Pat lost her father during the Battle of Midway when she was only 4 years old. Her uncle, Leslie Green, served with the Gingerbread Men during WWII. She was 8 years old when he came home from the war. Pat is 74 now and has many fond memories of her uncle. She recently sent me some information and a few pictures of her uncle Les, and I wanted to share those with you here.

Leslie Ervin Green was born on June 23, 1923 in Lebanon, Missouri. At age nineteen, Green was inducted into the United States Army on March 10, 1943 at the Army Induction Center in Arlington, California. Les spent his first thirteen weeks in the Army going through infantry basic training at Camp Roberts, California. That was followed with four weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia for jump school.

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Les Green, and likely his whole class that had just completed parachute training, would move to the European Theater as replacements. In September of 1943, Green and his fellow paratroopers, moved from Fort Benning by train to Fort Patrick Henry, New Jersey, and then by convoy to the Port of Oran, in the North African country of Algeria. The trip took twenty-eight days.

From Oran, Green and the other paratrooper replacements moved by rail to the airborne training center that had been set up at Oujda, French Morocco. After weeks of intense training, Green boarded a train once more, this time bound for the Port of Bizerte, Tunisia. From Bizerte a convoy of ships carried Green and his fellow paratroopers to Naples, Italy.

Les Green was assigned as a rifleman in B Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, who at the time was deployed within the beachhead at Anzio. On February 18, 1944 a small British landing craft put Green and his fellow soldiers ashore at Anzio. This was the beginning of a cumulative 180 days of service on the front lines. After Anzio, Green participated with the 509th PIB in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. He served in the Maritime Alps. Finally, Les Green fought with the Geronimos in the Battle of the Bulge. Les Green was one of the 55 combat soldiers who were still standing when the Battalion was disbanded.

Paratroopers of the 509th PIB gather before a training jump.
Les Green is the first man standing on the right, wearing the
helmet. Photo courtesy of the Harvey Sutherland family.

After the disbanding of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the survivors were sent to other units. Les served with the 82nd Airborne Division until the end of the war. In occupied Germany, PFC Green was part of General Eisenhower’s honor guard. Leslie Green returned home in November of 1945. He had served in six campaigns. Representing his service, he wore the Combat Infantry Badge, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. During his service with the Geronimos he also earned two Presidential Unit Citations and a unit award of the Croix de Guerre.

Les Green is on the back of the tank entering Nice during
the liberation of southern France.
Like many of his generation, Leslie Green did not talk much about the war, being fairly humble about his role in it. But his memories of the war and admiration of the men he served with remained. Green worked for Home Savings Bank for several decades before retiring. He told his niece, Pat, one of the highlights of his life was making an honorary parachute jump in 1994, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion of southern France. Leslie Ervin Green passed away on February 16, 2011 in Kingsburg, California.

Leslie Green, B Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion
walks down the streets of Nice, c. 1944.

Leslie Green was one of thousands who have been a part of the legacy of the 509th Parachute Infantry, and one of millions who have worn the uniform of the United States military services. Through their service and sacrifice, these people have had an effect on so many others. Their country called, and they went. Those who were able to return lived, and continue to live, among us. They are your next door neighbor; they work down at the bank, or in the grocery store. These men, and women, are not faceless or nameless. Today I wanted to introduce you to one of them.

Les Green (on the right) served on General Eisenhower's
Honor Guard in occupied Germany.

PFC Leslie Green, a proud Geronimo veteran
of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

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