SIDNEY — My name is Leonard Schaffner and I am proud to be a World War II veteran.
I was born and raised in Sidney, where I still reside. I am 95. My story is probably a lot like other veterans’, but I would still like to share it with you.
I was drafted into the Army on 10 Aug., 1942, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. From there I was transported to Fort Cheyenne, Wyoming, for basic training. After basic I went to Monroe, South Carolina. There I was trained as a truck driver. My outfit was the 3768 Quarter Master Truck Co. My training lasted approximately four weeks. I was then transported to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. There I hauled supplies: food, clothes, anything that needed to be transported.
My next station of duty was at Fort Helen, Montana. My job there was to drive all over Montana picking up scrap metal to take it to Billings, Montana to be smashed into big bales. Then we would transport the bails back to Fort Helen to be melted down. After it was melted, it would be used to make a lot of useful items: guns, tanks anything we could make out of the metal to support our cause.
In October 1943, I received orders to report to an army base in California, where we would wait to board a ship in San Francisco, destination unknown. You were never told where you were going till you got there. This was the start of the real war for me. We boarded the ship Oct. 25, enroute to our destination. Part way there, we took a hit. Not sure if it was a torpedo or a mine. We were never told. We spent the duration of the night in a standstill, no lights and no sound. After daybreak, we preceded on, zig-zagging the rest of the way. On 15 Nov, 1943, we arrived in Guadalcanal. This is an island in the Pacific, 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. My job here was to transport bombs and ammunition from ammunition dumps to airfields, or anywhere needed.
I would like to relate to you a few of my experiences: One night, I was coming down from a steep hill and there was an air raid. During this time, you had to drive without headlights and creep along. All of a sudden, I heard voices. It scared the crap out of me. How I made it down that hill I will never know. I put my foot on that pedal and with the grace of God, I made it down in one piece.
Another close call was at one of the ammo dumps, Hell’s Point. It was blown up and I had just been there earlier to be loaded. Another time one of the ships that I had loaded with ammo and bombs was blown up. I was about a half mile away by then. Large pieces of metal were scattered a block and a half wide. There were only two ports of entry; this port was shut down permanently, due to debris and body parts washing onshore.
With the securing of Guadalcanal, we were then transported to the Philippines. There our outfit was stationed in a town called Manila. I pretty much did the same duties, transporting ammo and bombs or any thing that was needed. This is where the battle of Luzon occurred.
On the Dec. 8, 1945, I boarded ship for the United States. My tour of duty was coming to an end. I arrived in the USA the Dec. 23, 1945. I was discharged the Jan. 6, 1946, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana with the rank of Technician Fifth Grade. I might not have been the most outstanding soldier, but I received the American Theater Ribbon; Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with one bronze star; Philippine Liberation Ribbon; Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal.
I made a lot of good friends in the service, but I would like to mention Pat O’Neil, who was a good friend and lived in Union City, Indiana. We stayed close and visited often. I lost my good buddy last year due to bad health. He is truly missed. He served with me in Guadalcanal and the Philippines, and was also in the 3768 QMTC.
There were five of us brothers who served in WW II. We all served during the same time. Five of us at war: I was in the South Pacific theater, and my four brothers in the European theater. We all returned home, safe and sound.
After the war, I married Viola Schellenberg Gillespie on Feb.23, 1946. Together we raised her two children, Charlene Gillespie Echols and Charles Gillespie. In March 1947, we had a daughter, Regina Schaffner Long. We resided in Sidney, where I was a farmer until my retirement.
I lost my wife in August 1991 due to illness. I also lost my son in 2004 due to an accident. I have a wonderful family, eight grandkids, 15 great-grandkids and two great-great-grandchildren. Four years ago, my family and grandkids all took me on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial. That was a trip I will never forget. Another event I will never forget was when my grandson-in-law, Don Mumford, gave me a ride on his Harley from Piqua to escort the Vietnam Wall into Sidney. It was an honor to ride escort for our Vietnam vets. This year, I was also fortunate to ride with Don from Wapakoneta to again escort the Vietnam Wall into Sidney. This is an experience I will never forget.
My hobbies are going to fairs, festivals and pitching horseshoes. I am still active in the Shelby County Horseshoe Club. I still pitch, not as good as I used to, but I can still wing a few shoes.