R. HEREFORD, JR.
Patriot, Chapter 1919
WWII, Europe) Article June 1997
Leslie says he was in combat for 15
minutes, and in the hospital for 22 months. As disabled veteran, amputee,
he obtained a graduate degree, had a long and successful working career, and
lived his life to the fullest.
Leslie Hereford, Jr.
was born in 1921 in Tow, Texas. The family farm was located on land that
became lake-bottom when Buchanan Dam was built, so the Herefords moved to Lometa in adjacent Lampasas County. Leslie graduated from Lometa High
School and then went to Tarleton College in Stephenville for two years. He
then transferred to Texas A&M, and he was there at College Station when the
United States entered the war. He graduated at mid-term, January 1943,
having already volunteered for active duty in the 90th Infantry Division.
was commissioned Second Lieutenant, Infantry, on May 27, 1943 upon
completion of Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He then
trained at Camp Wolters (Mineral Wells) and Camp Barkeley (Abilene), Texas
and in Haan, California. From there, the 90th Division was moved to New York
and on March 22, 1944 embarked for England. By coincidence, Leslie Hereford
was stationed at Hereford, in the South of England, where the 90th
Division conducted pre-invasion training. First Lieutenant Hereford
was the Platoon Leader of 3rd Platoon, Company K, 358th Infantry Regiment.
They went aboard ship two days before the D-Day invasion at Normandy, but,
it was D + 2 before it was their turn to be landed. The 90th Division went
ashore at Utah beach on the afternoon of June 8th.
They were still confined to a relatively
small beachhead on the afternoon of June 10th, and Company K was in action
at Pont l'Abbe (Etienville). Leslie was credited with capturing two enemy
prisoners and locating a German command post in the taking of Etienville.
At 5:15 PM he was hit by an artillery shell, which tore off his right arm;
and at 5:30, just before the Medic reached him, a sniper's bullet severely
wounded his left hand. He lost consciousness on the stretcher. He did not
awaken until he was in a hospital back in England the next day. He had only
been in France two days.
Leslie was medically evacuated back to the
United States on July 7, 1944. For the next 22 months he was in VA
hospitals (at McClusky in Temple, and William Beaumont in El Paso)
undergoing reconstructive surgery, skin grafts and physical therapy. He was
medically retired from the Army in the grade of First Lieutenant on
March 28, 1946. As a disabled veteran ever since that time, today Leslie
says, “In the first 30 minutes of combat, I lost an arm and part of my
other hand; I have four fingers left. Now I have more pain in my hand than
in the rest of my body put together. But, at the time, I was just hoping to
get out alive. I can launch into a long story about the nurses, about the
people who helped. What you've got to do is accept that time will take care
of everything if you are patient enough. I write better now with four
fingers than I did with my whole hand before. You just have to learn to
accept help when you need it, to not become isolated.”
did not live in isolation, nor did he accept limitations in living his life
to the fullest. He returned to College Station for a Masters Degree in
Range Management from A&M. On March 19, 1949 he married Joyce Baker, “The girl
that lived just across the Colorado river from us in Burnet County.”
Their daughter was born in Kerrville after Leslie Hereford had begun what
was to be a 25 year career in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil
Conservation Service. Following that, Leslie worked for Metropolitan Life
in for another 14 years, after which he retired for a third time.