PFC Leonard L. Link
Co. A, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th (Ivy) Division, First Army
Died 1/20/45 in Luxembourg
-- Robert Link --
Leonard Link grew up in Illinois on a farm homesteaded in the 1850's by his grandparents. He worked in
C.C.C. camps during the depression, married Sudie Meyers in 1937, and spent the few years of their marriage
working at a steel mill and building houses until they were able to purchased a small farm just before the war
broke out. Leonard, Jr. was born in 1938 and I came along in 1941. Dad missed Sauerkraut Days in his hometown
in 1944, but he set foot in the country of his and many neighbor's ancestors that year. It was a tour of duty,
Drafted to be a replacement soldier, Dad was inducted in May, 1944, at Fort Sheridan, where his brother Ray was
an M.P. His other brother, Don was a Sergeant in the Army, serving in New Guinea. Basic training was at Camp
Fannin in Tyler, Texas, and he excelled in marksmanship and was trained to shoot the bazooka. We traveled to
Tyler as his training neared completion, and Mom received some criticism for taking little boys on that difficult
cross-country trip. She was always independent; she needed to be later on, and her critics didn't anticipate it
would be our last days together.
After a short leave at home, he shipped out in October, 1944, through Fort Meade to Europe. His unit fought in
the Huertgen Forest near Aachen, Germany, and had been rotated out to Luxembourg when the Ardennes counter offensive
began, and it held its ground in that fight. Dad was killed in action on January 20, 1945, two months short of his
thirtieth birthday, and was buried temporarily in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg. Mom wrote for his
reburial service in 1948.
He lost his life in a successful counterattack made by his outfit recovering terrain they retraced during the Battle
of the Bulge, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.
My only memories of him are from those days in Texas, tussling with my brother in a booth in a bowling alley, as we
drank orange pop and listened to Mom and Dad talk and laugh amid the bowling racket and the sweltering Texas heat.
Another time I cut myself on a piece of broken glass in the yard and only calmed down when I heard Dad's voice and
felt Mom's hugs as they patched me up.
Our parents sent letters regularly, and reading them now is melancholy, especially those in envelopes she marked
"Received after the Telegram." Their letters are filled with young love and hope and thinly masked fear, separated
as they were after just starting their life together. Dad wasn't seeking fame or glory. He called training or combat
"work," and it was just a job that he and others had to do. Dad couldn't write much about his "work" that would pass
the censor, so he wrote how much he missed us and loved us, and loved life. He wrote of the earth in one letter, as
a soldier would, not as a farmer might love the soil and the things it could grow. He described digging a hole in
the half frozen ground with his G.I. shovel, roofing it to keep the snowfall out, and huddling in it to be safe from
artillery and warm enough not to freeze to death at night, as many on both sides of the line did in the winter months
He described "trench foot" and told that his first shower and shave since arriving in October was just before
Thanskgiving day. He mentioned that the food was good on that Holiday, and he was thankful he didn't have to
work then, but he could hear the sounds of battle raging nearby and hoped those who were working would get their
chance to have a hot meal and a shower soon. Dad joked that he'd probably sleep outside year round and might not
remember how to bathe when he got back. He wanted to get the job done and be home with his family. He told me he
loved me, loved all of us, in those penciled pages.
I love you too, Dad, I'm glad you and Mom are together again, finally and forever. Mom, who never remarried and
did it all for us, died last summer after being separated for fifty-five years from the man she loved all her life.
They are buried now in West Grove Cemetery, near Forreston, Illinois, a few miles from where they both grew up.
All the reluctant Link soldiers are gone now. Uncle Ray returned with a glass eye and worked for thirty years in
the steel mill until retirement. Uncle Don returned to run the family farm for forty years and continue to suffer
the after effects of Malaria each summer. The souvenir Luger and Japanese swords they carried back were quickly
shuffled off to the attic after some brief attention. Neither would say much about their war experiences as Len
and I grew old enough to ask; they cared too much for us, I think, to tell us about their "work."