S/SGT Leroy Ernest "Babe" Leist
418th Squadron, 100th Bomber Group, 8th AF
MIA 4 Feb, 1944
Walcheron Island, Holland
-- Adrian Leist Caldwell, Proud Daughter --
The lives of 10 families were devastated on 4 February, 1944. At 13:32
hours, B17G-42 37975 crashed into the icy waters of the Grevelingen Bay off
the coast of Walcheron Island, Holland. The formation was on the return
flight from a bombing mission to Frankfort, Germany, when they were attacked
by heavy anti-aircraft fire as well as German fighters ME 109s and FW
My father, S/Sgt. Leroy Earnest "Babe" Leist was the Tail Gunner on this
aircraft. He and the entire crew were lost that sad day. I was 20 months
old, my mother 22 years old. My Daddy Babe was 26 and considered an
My dad was born on October 18, 1918 in Delphos, Ohio to Earnest and Eva
McGath Leist. He has one brother who was two years younger than he. Their
mother, Mary died when my dad was 8 years old, his brother Vernon, was 6.
My grandfather raised the two boys as a single parent. After they were
grown, he remarried and had two daughters who are about my same age.
My dad was a member of the Ohio Army National Guard, "Buckeye Division." In
1940, this division was activated and sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. My
mom was a student at a College in the nearby town of Hattiesburg. They met
and married in March of 1941. My dad's enlistment in the National Guard was
fulfilled and he was released from service. Shortly after his release from
obligation with the Ohio National Guard, he was drafted and chose the Army
Because of my dad's size, only 5'9" and weighing 145 lbs, he was assigned as
a Tail Gunner. He trained on bases from Texas to Nebraska, and New Jersey.
Finally in October of 1941, he was sent to the 100th Bomb Group base near
Thorpe Abbots, England and assigned to the 418th Squadron.
My dad was flying on his 15th mission when his plane was lost to Erich
Scheyda of the Luftwaffe JG26 Squadron. Because the aircraft was already
weakened from a flak hit, the pilot, 22 year old Lt. William Green tried to
dive through the undercast for cover. Unfortunately, Erich followed the
crippled plane down through the clouds to issue the final blow and claim his kill.
My greatest possession is an old brown scrapbook my mother kept containing
pictures, letters from the families of the other crew members and the most
dreaded paper a family could receive, the telegram that begins, "We regret
to inform you....."
My father was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf
Clusters. His name is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the
Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Holland. There is a
Memorial Marker placed in his memory at the US Military Cemetery, Biloxi,
I swell with pride that my father was one of the thousands of brave young
men who answered the call to serve their country in the name of freedom.
May their sacrifices never be forgotten.