LYNCHBURG, Virginia— For outstanding service to the United States Army from 1943 to 1946, Corporal Technician Fifth Grade Leslie K. Coleman was made an honorary member of 2nd Battalion, 317th Regiment “Second to None”, here February 25, 2017.
Lt. Col. Barnes, Command Sgt. Maj. Bagwell, and the Soldiers of Delta Company assembled at Guggenheimer Health and Rehabilitation Center earlier today to publicly acknowledge Coleman’s military service and sacrifice with the 3rd Army, Company A, 1306 Engineers Corps under General George S. Patton.
Ninety-seven year old Coleman lives as an inspiration and hero for us all. He received the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, the Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal. Today we recognized his honest and faithful service to this country.
On 6 June 1944, the largest one-day military invasion on history took place in Normandy, France. More than 130,000 Soldiers of a multi-national forces invaded Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, Pointe du Hoc and Utah Beach. Corporal Technician Fifth Grade Leslie K. Coleman and the 1306 Engineer Corps provided support to the infantry units at Utah Beach and throughout Europe, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.
Bridges were built under fire, and the engineers sustained land dominance for the infantryman from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division to advance forward. For 281 days, they defended the front lines in an effort to free France from Nazi Germany. Additional duties included clearing the area of obstacles and mines. According to Coleman, building bridges under enemy fire was not nearly as daunting as seeing a Soldier’s leg get blown off. The summer of 1944 was one of the bloodiest parts of the Normandy Campaign.
“We were involved in major battles at St. Lo, France; Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne), Belgium; Metz, Germany; and the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany,” Coleman said. Company A,1306 Engineers built 85 bridges including the longest military bridge in world history, crossing Rhine River (2,320 ft.).
During the end of the war, the 3rd Army liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. Coleman still remembers the foul smell of bodies piled in the area. During the Battle of the Bulge, Coleman and his units slept in haystacks to maintain their concealed position. They went four days without food, using the snow as a hydration source. Severe weather conditions obstructed supply routes and planes would not fly. His team of engineers continued to disrupt the German Forces, placing dynamite along the mountain paths. The explosions of 55-gallon gas tanks and the images of 100 ft. flames still exists deep in his memory. After the Germans surrendered, the 1306 Engineers Corps traveled across the Atlantic thinking they were coming home.
September 1945, Coleman arrived in Manila, Philippines under the Command of General Douglas McArthur and spent two months building the Clark Air Force base. From the Philippine Islands, they were deployed to Tokyo, Japan to collect and secure all ammunition and explosives. They continuously searched and captured Japanese Soldiers hiding in the mountains and provided support to adjacent units. Finally, they returned home.
January 1946 Company A, 1306 Engineers arrived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where Coleman received an honorable discharge and returned to his wife. Today he is recognized for his faithful service to this country. We honor our brother-in-arms and his family for his outstanding courage, bravery and sacrifice to preserve the freedom we proudly defend.
“Thank you. It is an honor to receive this award,” Coleman said. “I’m glad y’all could come.”