Leslie D. Eckhard
Quartermaster 3rd Class
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 06/06/1944 - 05/28/1946
Quartermaster, USS Goodhue APA-107

Leslie, the grandson of German immigrants, was born at home in Seward County, Nebraska, one county west of Lincoln, the state capital, to Francis W. Eckhard and Velma Leta Collier Eckhard. He would have one sister. Francis was a local contractor and something of a jack-of-all-trades with people working for him in various endeavors, such as unloading railroad freight, delivering groceries, and digging graves. When Leslie was about nine, the family moved to Seward in 1935, where Francis worked a city route for the post office. During the Depression his mother worked at a poultry processing plant to supplement the income, then later as a clerk at J.C. Penney. The Eckhard home was modest, with no indoor plumbing and a wood stove. He remembers snow drifting into a bedroom he shared with his sister. The family kept a garden for their vegetables. Seward was safe, he recalls. "Never locked our doors," he recalls, and when he took the car to town he left the key in the ignition. Leslie played football in high school, and enjoyed fishing and hunting rabbits, pheasants and ducks. Anxious to help in the war effort, Leslie enlisted in the U.S. Navy in January 1944 in his senior year in high school and reported for active duty on June 6 while Allied troops were storming ashore in France. With him were four of his classmates. They signed up for the duration of the war and six months. He completed 12 weeks of boot camp at Farragut, Idaho, graduating as a Seaman 2nd Class. He was sent to Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California where he boarded the USS Montrose APA, or Auxiliary Personnel Attack. It carried landing craft known as Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel, or LCVP for ferrying soldiers to shore, as well as LCMs, a larger landing craft. Leslie was on the shakedown cruise, then took on troops in Seattle and sailed to Pearl Harbor. There Seabees came aboard, with their pontoon craft welded to the side of the Montrose. They sailed to the Philippines "right at the end of the Battle of Leyte, for which he earned a battle star. By then Leslie was part of the "the flag"--among 30 men who were assigned to the commodore in charge of a division of APAs. Leslie was the commodore's orderly who carried messages and other information. The group of 21 ships sailed as a flotilla. In the Philippines, Leslie accompanied the commodore who decided to move his quarters to the USS Goodhue. That ship took aboard part of the 77th Infantry Division that was spread across the flotilla of 21 ships. About 500 soldiers were aboard Leslie's vessel. Soon he learned the flotilla was sailing for the invasion of Okinawa, where it and the 77th would capture a group of islands called Kerama Retto, about "forty or fifty" miles west of Okinawa. There American dive bombers from one of the division's aircraft carrier's bombed a squadron of Japanese suicide boats, an ammunition dump and other enemy facilities. On the "third or fourth" of April the flotilla reached Okinawa, sailing at night. Just before sunset of his birthday a suicide plane hit the ship's superstructure. The concussion knocked Leslie down. There were numerous fatalities and wounded in sickbay. He recalls seeing men with the letter "M" for morphine painted on their forehead. In all 27 died, with 127 wounded. The ship was not crippled. Each day, wave after wave of suicide planes attacked. Each night, a smoke generator covered the ships in smoke to hide them from the suicide pilots. On April 15, word came over the public address system of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. In a feint, the Goodhue participated in the mock invasion on the south end of Okinawa, in an attempt to squeeze the Japanese against the Allied forces attacking from the north. On April 26, the 77th Division went ashore and the ship returned to the United States in the summer of 1945. The Goodhue had lost approximately 150 personnel. Meanwhile, Leslie was getting mail from his girlfriend or his mother that was sometimes "almost six months old." He was sent on a pre-commissioning detail of another ship, this time in Portland, Oregon. Meanwhile, he had put in for quartermaster training and earned a 3rd Class Quartermaster rating. He finally sailed out on the new ship, USS Glynn, APA 239. Again he sailed into the Pacific, but by then the war had ended. They sailed to Honolulu where the ship was caught in a tsunami that hit the Hawaiian islands. Forty-foot waves swept across the Glynn, and pulled life rafts "right off the side of our ship". That was on his 20th birthday. Leslie was working with the navigator, helping shoot the stars. He worked sunrise and sunset. He believes the ship picked up troops in Okinawa at war's end. "That was our main function with the Glynn, to haul people home," he recalls. Acting as a quartermaster he was a special sea detail helmsman, and steered the ship. Leslie left the Glynn at Port Chicago in California and separated from service in St. Louis. He went home to Seward, Nebraska and worked in a manufacturing plant learning to be an overhead crane operator. He learned brick-laying, then used his GI Bill to attend Coyne Electrical School, a trade school in Chicago where he graduated in 1948. On August 14, 1953 he married Dorothy Roselda Day, a girl he had known since childhood. (They would have three children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.) Leslie continued to work in the electrical field, including a stint as general foreman for one of the Atlas Missile Bases near Lincoln, Nebraska. In Wichita, Kansas he was a superintendent in building the Titan II missile bases. He worked at Cape Kennedy, where he witnessed several missile launches and met some of the astronauts who lived in one of the buildings where he worked. Leslie's work took him to many states and building projects. He moved to Shreveport in 1978 as project manager at General Motors. He retired in the 1990s.