Written by 1st Sgt. Thomas J. Korenich, 1st Infantry Division, World War II

WWII era photo of Doc Leonard–Captain Arthur J. Leonard and his headstone

Carole Popchock sent me this moving tribute written by her father, Thomas J. Korenich, who served in North Africa and Sicily and was wounded on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Treating his wounds that day was “Doc” Leonard–Captain Arthur J. Leonard–a football and boxing star at the University of Pittsburgh before joining the Army as a doctor. Below is the record of his treatment: “W.I.A. – shrapnel wound on left hand on Beach.” Treatment included “Dry Dressing and Sulfa Powder.” Carole passed along the tribute with a note, “The original typed document is not dated, but I believe my Dad sat down at our old Underwood typewriter by the early 1950s to put his thoughts down on paper. . . . My Dad wasn’t a scholar, but he was sincere in his admiration for Doc Leonard.”

Thomas J. Korenich WWII record of his treatment filled out by “Doc” Leonard on June 6, 1944

Before I begin my story, I would like to comment on one thing:  any tribute, regardless of how large or small, that can be paid to the front line medics would only partially repay them for one of the grandest jobs done in this war.  Their job was one that should never be forgotten by the American people.

This story is about a Pittsburgh boy who, after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh and finishing his internship at the Allegheny General Hospital, entered the Medical Corps of the United States Army.  He was then known as 1st Lt. Arthur J. Leonard.

After his period of training was over in the states, he was sent overseas.  After serving with several units in North Africa, he was ordered to the 1st United States Infantry Division where he was assigned to the Battalion that I was in.  At the time we were in Sicily.  I had known him as a great athlete from Pittsburgh.  He played football and boxed for the University of Pittsburgh.  He was well liked by everybody that knew him.  In short, he was a swell Joe.

I met him a few days after he joined our outfit and we talked over old times and friends that we both knew back in Pittsburgh.  In a short period of time we became the best of friends, a friendship that will never be forgotten by this soldier.

Anyone that met Art took a liking to him immediately because he had a personality and character that would be hard to equal.  This of course helped him in his work as a front line doctor; he was confident in himself, and every man he worked on had all the confidence in the world when Art worked on him, regardless of how large or small the wound or injury.

Before the Sicilian Campaign was over, Art was decorated with the Silver Star for gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty.  He was taking care of the wounded under heavy artillery and mortar fire, which the enemy sent over relentlessly.  Disregarding his own life he continued on with his grand work.  He earned the right to be called a great Doc, a great guy, and a swell officer.

After the Sicilian Campaign was over, we had gone into a well-earned rest period.  After a while the 1st Division was sent to England for more rest and then the preparation for the Invasion of France.

In England Doc Leonard got to know the men a lot better, new and “old” men.  Everyone liked him.  He put on several boxing shows for the boys, which everyone enjoyed.  It was here in England that he also got his hard-earned promotion to Captain.

Well, the big day was here:  June 6, 1944, D-Day in France.  The battle was on.  It was the turning point of the war in Europe.

The first time I got to see Art in France was June 8, 1944.  On that day we had suffered a few casualties and Art was taking care of some of my boys.  One of my platoon guides had been wounded in the arm and face, and I was talking with him when Art came over to fix him up.  He offered him a sip of brandy to calm him down, and then he offered him a drink.  Art brought this brandy along just as a little comfort for the wounded boys.  He paid for it out of his own pocket.  It wasn’t the cost of it but the thought behind it.  He was just taking good care of American wounded boys the best way he could, the way Art Leonard would do it.  A great Doc.

After the beachhead was made, we were in a defense position waiting for orders.  We had been in the same position for about two weeks.  It was a continuous artillery and mortar duel.  In between time there was a lot of patrol action.

Art had continued doing a grand job in taking care of our wounded, and there were several of them.  I remember one case when one of the men in my company had been wounded badly; in addition, he was suffering from shock.  Art took care of this boy.  When the boy left our Aid Station he was laughing and joking and saying, “I’m okay cause Art fixed me up.  He’s a great Doc.”

During the time we were in this position, I know of several times when we were being pounded by German artillery and mortar fire, and while the shells were still falling Art was out taking care of the wounded.  His conduct in and out of combat and his devotion to his duty cost him his life.

On July 5, 1944, the Germans were shelling us heavily and a couple of soldiers in another company were wounded.  While the shelling was still going on, Art was out taking care of the boys that were wounded.  More shells fell while he was administering first aid, wounding a few more and killing our great Doc.

I feel I am safe in stating that when he died he knew he had done his job to the best of his ability; but in the eyes of the American fighting men he took care of, and the men he knew, he did his job excellently. “Killed in action July 5, 1944” is what the next of kin were told.  The War Department cannot give the detailed story of every man killed or wounded in our Armed Forces, but it does realize the great job that each and every one has done.

In combat, as a rule soldiers don’t have time to think about their dead buddies, but I know that even to this day the officers and men who knew Captain Arthur J. Leonard haven’t forgotten him, and they never will.

So here’s to an American front line doctor, who saved many a life for his country and also gave his own life for his country.  I ask the people of Pittsburgh and all Americans, please don’t forget our great Docs.