Saturday, June 28, 2014

Leo Bradford Leonard A Short Biography

Leo Bradford Leonard was born in Price, Utah on 17 August 1905. He was the oldest son of Zoe Ellen and Leo P. Leonard. As the oldest of 9 children, he had to assume responsibility early for the care of the younger brothers and sisters and was expected to perform his share of chores around the home and property. He showed early a flair for leadership and assumed his responsibilities with great enthusiasm. He and his younger brother, Emmett, became popular among the young folk in the Carbon County area. Their popularity was equally strong between the young women and the young men. Both played in their father's band, the original Night Hawk Orchestra. This was the first band organized in that part of the state of Utah and all of the children played in it at one time.

Leo Bradford graduated from Carbon County High School and left home early after signing a professional baseball contract. He subsequently played for the professional teams in San Pedro and Los Angeles, California. In addition to playing for these minor league professional teams, he hung around the lots of a number of movie studios and played in the movie studio orchestras. He also played as an extra in several movies including, Wagon Wheels, an early talkie, where he played the part of an Indian.

(Picture 1: Leo at the POW camp in Gorica, Italy, circa 1945 where he was the commander.)

While in Los Angeles, he did pick up work for several large bands and orchestras, including the Paul Whitman orchestra, when they made their western tour in the late 1020's. While working for Whitman, Leo Bradford met Bing Crosby, Harry Barris, and Hal Rinker, then known as the Original Rhythm Boys. Leo Bradford's assessment was that they were never destined to fame. And Crosby's voice certainly was not strong enough to ever replace Rudy Vallee or Ted Lewis as a contender for the heartthrobs of the young damsels of that era.

In 1927, on a dare from several of his friends including his cousin Buzz Snow, he stopped by Fort McArthur in San Pedro. Each of his buddies went into the recruiting office one by one and each came out indicating that he had enlisted for a period of three years in the Army. Leo Bradford, or Lee as he was known among his friends, was the last to go in and after enlisting came out. He found his buddies had all been playing a game with him, they had all gone in but had not enlisted. He was the only one that did enlist!

While he didn't realize it at the time, that was the start of a 30 year career in the Army of the United States. With his musical talent, he performed in the Post Band later moving to the 32nd Infantry Band where he became band leader. The 38th Infantry Band was part of the 38th Infantry Regiment stationed at Fort Douglas, Utah. He returned to Utah in the 1930's. By 1938 the band was well known and was regularly featured at the Coconut Grove, located between 5th and 6th South on Main Street. The Coconut Grove was later called the Jerry Jones Rainbow Rendezvous, and later still, The Terrace. The 38th Infantry Band always played during Christmas and New Years at the Coconut Grove and was well known in inter-mountain circles as a fine dance and concert band.

Prior to Lee's joining the Army, and between playing seasons with the San Pedro baseball club, he went to New York City for a short time, where he studied trumpet under Schlossberg, who played with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. While there he played in several of the better New York night clubs.

In 1935 he married Florence Robins, and in 1938 they had a son named Leo Donald Leonard. Phillip Merrill Leonard was the second son born in 1941, a week before Pearl Harbor. In 1940, Leo Bradford was a sergeant in the Army and an assistant band leader. He was sent to Camp Ord, California, where he became band leader for the 32nd Infantry Regimental Band. Later he became Assistant Division Band leader for the 7th Infantry Division Band and applied for and was accepted for Band Leaders School in Washington, D.C.

He graduated in 1942 and became conductor of the All Army Band. This was a wartime version of the United States Army Band and composed of inductees from civilian life, all of whom had prominent musical backgrounds. He organize the band with outstanding instrumentalists from such well know orchestras as Benny Goodman, Dorsey Brothers and the New York Philharmonic. A total of one hundred members comprised a group consisting of five orchestras. He took the band on a short tour from coast to coast with the band playing on such radio stations as KNX, KHJ, and KNER. This band was responsible for Irving Berlin's, This is the Army, radio program, which originated later in San Antonio.

He was assigned to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma in the summer of 1942 where he took over as Division Band leader for the newly formed 88th Infantry Division Band. He was on a nation-wide radio program for thirty minutes a week featuring The Division Band during 1943 and 1944, sponsored by Gem Razor Blades. He stayed with this band through its landings in North Africa. The Army and Army records indicated that it was the most effective of all American divisions fighting in the European theater in WW II. It was rated fourth behind three German units as the most effective combat units in WW II in European theater.

(Picture 2: Leo on the left with his army band at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, circa 1943)

The 88th Infantry Division received its first combat in Italy in the fall of 1943. At that time the band was disbanded and Lee was made Assistant Division Provost Marshall with the responsibilities of interrogation and guarding prisoners of war.

For a short time he was Provost Marshall of Rome and later of Florence Italy as the Division moved up the peninsula. After the war, as Division Provost Marshal, he was placed in charge of patrolling the area bounded by Trent, the Brenner Pass, Venice, Trieste, and the Austrian Frontier. As Provost Marshall, during the critical period of 1945-46, he was under combat conditions, having to fight both Italian and Yugoslavian Partisans and Communist forces in the Trieste area.

One of the highlights of his wartime experiences as Provost Marshall was the part played by the 88th Infantry Division's entry into Rome. The 88th was the first division to enter Rome and the Military Police were among the very first units to enter the city. Another highlight was his capturing of a number of SS troops under General Wolf's jurisdiction, the Commander and Chief in the Italian Air sector, and also the capture of the wife and daughter of Heinrich Himmler, chief of Hitler's SS and head of the Gestapo.

(Picture 3: Leo leading his army band in Colorado, circa 1952.)

In 1947 Lee returned to the United States and attended the Provost Marshall school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He served for a short time as Provost Marshall at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Later he was sent to Germany in 1948, during the Berlin Airlift, to serve as Provost Marshall of Stuttgart, Germany.

He returned to United States in 1952 and the following four years he spent as Provost Marshall of Colorado Military District, which included Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. He was technically in charge of all military police affairs and all the Provost Marshalls at the military bases in those states. In 1954, shortly prior to his retirement, he received the rank of Lt. Col. He retired from active military service in 1955 and returned to college, receiving two degrees from Mexico City College (later known as the University of the Americas) in Mexico City. He then returned to Vienna, Austria where he resided until his death from a stroke in 1975.

He was an avid reader and thinker, particularly in areas dealing with philosophy and religion. He was also a decorated war hero, receiving the Bronze Star metal with oak leaf cluster in place of a second award. His being awarded the Bronze Star was for gallantry in action against the enemy in Italy. He also had the American Defense Medal, the WW II Victory Medal, the war Cross of Military Valor awarded by the Italian government, the Army Commendation Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal, and the European Theater of Operations Campaign ribbon.

(Picture 4: Elise Gangl at the POW camp in Gorica. She latter married Leo. )

While baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after his early teen years he was not active in the church. After his death, his brother Clair Leonard, went through the temple on his behalf and completed all the various endowments and ordinances. He was sealed to his first wife Florence and his older son Leo in 1987 and 1988, respectively. He was always very close to his brothers and sisters whenever visiting in Utah made a point to visit with all of them. He was particularly close to his brother Stanley Leonard. The two of them worked and discussed many areas of philosophy and religion together.

Lee was also very close to Max and Jean Leonard. Max and Jean lived and worked in Germany and spent a good deal of time with him after 1958. Evelyn and Birdie were very close to Lee and Lee was always very interested in the progress of their children. He did live to see several of his grandchildren. Shortly before his death, he indicated to his eldest son LeoDon that he intended to return to the United States to live and was planning to do so within the year of his death in February of 1975. He has a burial plot in Salem, Utah. However, at this time his body is still interned in Vienna, Austria.

No comments: