SIDNEY — Leonard Schaffner, 96, of Sidney, served his country during World War II.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army on Aug. 10, 1942, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. From there he was tranported to Fort Cheyenne, Wyoming, for basic training. After basic, he went to Monroe, South Carolina, where he was trained to be a truck driver. His outfit was the 3768 Quarter Master Truck Company. Once his training was complete, he was transported to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where he hauled supplies whic included food, clothes and anything else that needed transported.
His next station of duty was at Fort Helen, Montana. His job there was to drive all over Montana picking up scrap metal. He would then take it to Billings, Montana, where it was smashed into big bales. The bales would then be transported back to Fort Helen to be melted down. The metal was sused to make guns, tanks and anything that could support the war effort.
In October 1943, he received orders to report to an army base in California. there he waited to board a ship in San Francisco for an unknown destination. He said they were never told where they were going until they got there. This was the start of the real war for Schaffner.
His unit boarded a ship on Oct. 25, en route to their desitnation. Partway there, the ship took a hit. They weren’t sure if it was a torpedo or a mine. And they were never told what it was. They spent the duration of the night in a standstill — no lights and no sound.
After daybreak, the preceded on, zig zagging the rest of the way. On Nov. 15, he arried in Guadalcanal. This is an island in the Pacific Ocean that is 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. His job there was to transport bombs and ammunition from ammunition dumps to airfields, or anywhere needed.
On one particular night, Schaffner was coming down from a steep hill and there was an air raid. During this time, he had to drive withou headlights and creep along. All of a sudden, he heard voices and it scared him.
How he made it down the hill, he’ll never know. He put his foot on the pedal and with the grace of God he made it down in one piece.
Another close call was at one of the ammo dumps, Hell’s Point. It was blown up right after he had been there.
Another time, one of the ships Schaffner had just loaded with ammo and bombs was blown up. He was about a half mile away when it happened. Large pieces of metal were scattered in a large area. There were only two ports of entry and this port was shut down permanently due to debris and body parts washing up on the shore.
With the securing of Guadacanal, they weere trapsorted to the Philippines and were stationed in Manila. this is where the battle of Luzon occurred.
On Dec. 8, 1945, Schaffner boarded a ship for the United States — his tour was coming to an end. He arrived back in the U.S. on Dec. 23, 1045, and was honorably discharged on Jan. 6, 1946, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, with the rank of technician fifth grade.
Schaffner said he may not have been the most outstanding soldier but he did receive the American Theater Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with one bronze star, Phillippines Liberation Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal.
“I made a lot of friends in the service, but I’d like to mention one that was a good friend and lived in Union City, Indiana, — Pat O’Neil,” said Schaffner. “We stayed close and visited often. I lost my good buddy six years ago 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 Schaffner brothers who served in World War II. They all served during the same time. Leonard was in the South Pacific and his four brothers — Forest, Orville, Vernon and Harold — were in the European Theater. They all returned home safe and sound.
After the war, he married Viola Schellenberg Gillespie on Feb. 23, 1946. Together they raised her two children, Charlene Gillespie Echcols and Charles Gillespie. In March 1947, they had a daughter, Regina Schaffner Long. He lost his wife in August 1991 due to an ilness and his son in 2004 due to an accident.
Schaffner said he has a wonderful family with 11 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. Ten years ago, his family took him on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the WWII Memorial.
“This is something I’ll never forget,” he said.
Schaffner has escorted the Vietnam Wall three times. He has riden with his grandson, Don Mumford, all three times.
“It is an honor to ride escort for our Vietnam vets,” he said.