MEMOIRS - BY LESLIE ERVIN GREEN
LIFE IN MISSOURI
I was born June 23, 1923. My parents Maria Rhoda (Brown) Green and George Ervin Green were parents of my sisters, Glenna Irene, age 12 (at the time of my birth); Sylvia Lucille, age 10; Emma Ann, age 8; and Blenda Paulina, age 5.
The doctor drove five miles in a horse-drawn wagon to assist in my delivery. The delivery was performed at our home, which was on a farm located five miles from Lebanon, Missouri. The farm was purchased by my father on February 1, 1912. It included forty acres at a total price of six hundred forty-five dollars. I still have the grant deed for the purchase. The house did not have inside plumbing or electricity. Our water came from an artesian spring located some distance from the house. One of the duties of the girls and me as I grew older was to carry fresh water from the spring to the house. Our lighting was provided by two kerosene lamps. Since we only had two lamps, it was necessary to carry a lamp to where lighting was needed at night.; My sisters were very attentive and loving and much help to Mother in helping to keep me out of trouble.
I first attended Kapp school located approximately one mile from home. I would walk on a path through the forest accompanied by my sisters to the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse had only one large room in which grades one through eight were taught all by the same teacher.
My father farmed the land on which our house was located. He raised most everything needed for food for the family and to feed the livestock which included horses, milk cows, pigs, etc. He also maintained a fruit orchard -- apples, peaches, cherries, etc. Every summer Mother would plant a vegetable garden. Once a week a trip would be made to Lebanon to purchase staple groceries that couldn't be produced on the farm. I can remember my father taking Mother and me to buy groceries in our horse-drawn wagon and later on in a Model T Ford.
In addition to running the farm, Dad had a contract with the U. S. Postal Department to deliver U. S. mail. His route ran from Lebanon to Linn Creek, then returned to Lebanon. This was before Bagnell Dam was built at Linn Creek, which caused the town of Linn Creek to be relocated in order to form the lake which is now known as Lake of the Ozarks. Along the route he would buy produce, eggs, milk, wild animal fur, etc., from the farmers, then resell them to the warehouses in Lebanon. When I was old enough, Dad would take me to ride along on the route. It was much fun riding in the Model T Ford.
In wintertime Dad built rabbit traps for me that I would set in the forest and fields. Each morning before school I would go out through the snow to check for caught rabbits, then bring them in and Dad would buy them from me for five cents each, then resell them to the produce stores in Lebanon.; I have many fond memories of my life on the farm. Dad often took me hunting for squirrels during summertime, and during winter opossum, etc., and also the many trips to the river to fish and swim. Mother was very active and worked long hours in her garden, cooking on the wood stove, etc., including doing the laundry in a large wash tub over an open fire in the back yard, after which she would throw me in the tub of suds for my bath. She was a loving and dedicated mother.
Dad was good at playing the fiddle and was invited often to play for barn dance parties. There wasn't much to do during long evenings on the farm. It was always fun when Dad would entertain us with the fiddle. Sister Emma would join, playing the guitar, and Sylvia the organ. This would often be how our evenings were spent. We didn't own a radio. Often on Saturday nights we would visit relatives to listen to their battery-powered radio broadcasting from the Grand Ole Opry at Nashville, Tennessee. Later on, Dad brought home an RCA Victograph which played the cylindrical records -- the pioneer of record players. The first entertainers I remember were the Carter Family, Jimmy Rogers and Roy Acuff. Dad and the girls emulated much of their music and songs.
HEAD WEST, YOUNG MAN!
After many years on the farm, Dad and Mother thought our life would be easier if we moved to the city. When I was eleven, we moved to Lebanon. Dad gave up the mail route and started his own repair shop, working on farm machinery, etc. Business was not very lucrative. From relatives living in California, he learned that there was opportunity there. The year 1934 we sold everything, loaded the car, and headed for California. The next morning after the first night on the road we awakened to a heavy snow. The cold weather affected the car, causing it not to start. It took a mechanic almost the full day to get it going. After getting on the road for several hours, at the next town, we looked for a motel, only to be informed that there was an oil workers boom in town and there was not a vacancy anywhere in town. We drove outside the town and slept in the car, awakening in the morning to the sound of coyotes howling. The rest of the drive was uneventful until we reached the check station at Arizona to be told that the registration on the car was not in order. Dad had to pay a fine, then buy an Arizona license, only to learn he had to buy another license after we arrived in California. He wasn't very happy to buy another license. Dad soon found work. We located a house near the ocean in Long Beach. There I enrolled in Thomas Edison grade school.
LESLIE GREEN, ENTREPRENEUR
After settling into our new life in Long Beach, as a family we often visited points of interest in the city. At a park I observed young boys carrying shoe shine kits busy shining men's shoes, charging five cents. I told Dad I would like to try that. He built a box, bought polish, and soon I was in business. I still have that shoe shine box. I took pride and enjoyed being out each day after school and weekends earning twenty to thirty cents each day.
After a few months shining shoes, I decided that I wanted to sell newspapers. I took a job selling the Long Beach Press Telegram. My hours on duty were after school weekdays, then Saturday morning. Starting at the least desirable street corner, I slowly worked my locations to sell to a better location at Ocean and American Streets. Then I found out there was a location to sell at the Navy landing. At the time, Long Beach was the home of the Pacific naval fleet and many battleships, etc., were anchored off shore. The navy landing was the landing dock where all the sailors arrived at shore from their ships. This was a very good place to sell papers. From my location there I would visit and go on board the foreign and U.S. cargo ships that were tied up, unloading or loading. The ships' crews were very kind. The cooks often invited me to eat in their dining room, and when buying a paper they often gave a tip. Our family moved across town and the commuting to the navy landing became too much. I took a paper route delivering the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper. This job required that I get up at 4:00 a.m., go to my route, organize my papers, load up and start out. I would finish my delivering in time to get home, have breakfast, then go to school. My route was in the Signal Hill area of Long Beach. I was paid extra because of the steep hills. I attended Hamilton Junior High School. I rode the street car to and from school. Long Beach had just recently experienced a very severe earthquake and many buildings were destroyed, including schools, resulting in students attending half days only, because of lack of space.
I joined the Boy Scouts and was a member of Troop Four. I learned many things and fully enjoyed the time I spent scouting, camping, first aid, crafts, etc. After I graduated from Hamilton, I enrolled at Long Beach Polytechnic Senior High School. My choice of a major study was an industrial trade subject called automotive electrics and aviation instruments. At graduation I received a certification award for the required hours for all three years of high school in that subject. Before I graduated I found a job with the National Youth Administration (N.Y.A.). The hours were after school, so I could continue my major, be paid for it, and qualify for a future better job; This job required the operation of heavy machinery, lathe, milling machine, shaping machine and other related heavy equipment. At this time the war in Europe was underway and the U.S. was beginning to get prepared, which resulted in a heavy demand for industrial workers. I then found myself assigned to teaching women the operation of the various types of machinery.
I was offered the opportunity to work as a skilled operator of machinery at an industrial firm in Long Beach. During my junior year in high school a classmate invited me to work with him at a flying school. He was working at the school and they wanted another person. I took the job, which required working after school and on weekends. My only salary was free plane rides and flying lessons. It was a fun job, including dusting and keeping the planes clean, starting the engines to warm them prior to the pilots' taking them off, refill, helping the mechanics, etc.
After I graduated from Poly High School, I had saved enough money to buy a car. It was a 1930 Model A Ford and cost $65.00. This was not my first car, however, since I had bought a car approximately one year before. It was a 1924 Studebaker costing $10.00. I paid $6.00 down; after I drove it for some time I had to sell it to pay off the $4.00 balance. My 1930 Model A was a good running car. Since I had a car, a school friend asked if I wanted a job delivering packages. He introduced me to the supervisor and I was hired. Little did I realize that the knowledge, experience, etc., that I would gain here would qualify me for future positions that would become my profession for the rest of my life. The company name was Industrial Stationery and Printing. Their product was office supplies, office furniture and printing. I soon became so embued in my job driving my car making deliveries I forgot about the certificate and my high school major, etc. My delivery territory was the west side of Long Beach. After working the delivery job for a few months, I was offered a promotion. It involved filling the orders, preparing them for the delivery men. This position required driving from Long Beach to Huntington Park each day to pick up merchandise that we needed to replenish our stock at Long Beach.
After being on this job for a while I was offered another promotion that required transferring to Huntington Park and working as a phone order salesman; then later I was promoted to the warehouse as manager of order filling, shipping, receiving, etc.
PREPARING FOR THE WAR
It was at this time that the United States was drawn into the war and I became classified as One A, which meant I was soon to be called for military duty. On March 17, 1943, Mother accompanied me to the bus station for my trip to begin service. (A portion of Leslie's story regarding his basic training is edited out here for lack of space.) After completion of basic training, then finishing parachute school, I was soon on board a liberty ship destined for North Africa. There were 500 soldiers on board, an assortment of men from all branches of the Army. We were part of a seventy-six ship convoy, not including the Navy ships that were protecting us from German navy ships. The ships were traveling at a speed of seven knots per hour. The route of travel was south toward the West Indies, then across to Africa. The trip took twenty-eight days. It seemed like a long time. We slept below deck in bunks six high. We were quite happy when we finally could see the coastline of North Africa, then passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and anchored off shore at Oran. The ship had to wait off shore until there was room to tie up at the dock and disembark. During that time our Navy ships were required to drop depth explosives to keep the German submarines away. After two days we finally were able to disembark and were transferred to a camp near Oran.
The next morning I woke up very sick and spent seven days in the hospital. The doctors never did find out what was wrong with me, but after a week my temperature dropped and they released me. I was then sent to the airborne training center located near Oudja, French Morocco. While there the training was intense, including running five miles each day before breakfast, night jumps, lots of maneuvers, etc. The weather was windy and cold. After training at Oudja, I was told that it was time to join a unit that would be my permanent assignment. I was loaded in a French railroad box car along with others. We traveled for six days from Morocco through Algeria to Berzerte in Tunisia. The railroad box cars were identified and painted on their sides in the French language "forty men or eight horses". That meant just what it said -- no seats or windows; we either stood or sat on the floor.
ASSIGNMENT -- 509TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY BATTALION
From Tunisia we traveled by boat to Naples, Italy. At Naples I was assigned to the 509th parachute infantry battalion. The 509 had already established a fine combat record in North Africa. They flew the longest distance to their mission of any airborne unit of all of World War II from England to North Africa and finished their part of the war as the most decorated parachute battalion, including the first paratrooper to win the medal of honor. Their morale was high and it was a very proud unit. A battalion is a unit of approximately 600 men commanded by a lieutenant colonel. It usually is part of a division including approximately 16,000 men; however, the 509 was assigned a special designation and operated as an independent unit.
“After being absorbed into the 509, I was assigned to “B” Company as a rifleman. However, I was trained earlier as a mortar gunner. The 509 at the time was at the front line. Upon their return, training as a combat unit soon began. The training was interesting and very intense and since we were replacements joining hardened veterans we soon learned what our future was to be. As the training became more specialized, we learned that the upcoming mission was to be an invasion from the sea. On February 18, 1944, we loaded aboard a British ship and headed for the beachhead at Anzio-Nettunio, Italy. In the morning hours we climbed off the ship down rope ladders into landing crafts holding approximately thirty men each and headed for the shore. Some distance from the shore, the British naval officer steering the craft stopped and lowered the ramp; we walked off into water that was deep, getting wet to our chests. As we waded to the beach, we realized that our landing was a surprise to the Germans. We continued to the beach, on through Anzio ready for anything, and proceeded on to a wooded area. Our presence was soon noticed, and the area received a severe bombing attack. We continued on in our water soaked clothing, which slowly dried after a day or two.
“Later, after traveling some distance, we attempted to cross an open field. When we were approximately half-way across, three German machine gunners opened fire upon us, and we became pinned down by the fire. After gradually moving on, the guns were silenced. This was my first experience under enemy fire and a scary and sobering feeling, to say the least. I heard the screaming cries from the wounded calling the medics for help and saw the first ones to be killed; among them was our platoon leader.
“After the battalion was relieved from Anzio, we returned to Naples for more training and also had opportunity to visit the city on occasions. Then we relocated to south Italy in the area of Salerno. It was here that we prepared for a jump behind the lines in the area of Monte Cassino. On two occasions we prepared and even boarded the planes for take-off, but the jump was canceled both times. In June 1944 the battalion relocated north of Rome at an area called Lido De Roma. We continued training and had opportunities to visit Rome, etc. We then moved to an airport further north near Grosseto. This was to be our last location in Italy. On August 15, 1944 we boarded planes and took off for the invasion of Southern France. It was to be a flight time of four hours, taking two hours for all the planes taking off from other airfields to assemble in formation, then two hours to the drop zone at Lemuy, France. The element of three planes that I was in became separated from the rest. In place of dropping us at Lemuy, we were dropped right on the water front at St. Tropez, causing one planeload of men to be dropped in the ocean and lost. My planeload was approximately five seconds from the same fate.
“I landed in a grape vineyard just a short distance from the ocean. It was not yet daylight and I was alone, not knowing why I was where I was. I soon found some of the other troopers, and we learned that we were lost, not yet knowing the fate of the lost planeload carrying all of our company officers. We soon learned we were in trouble and in the path of our own naval artillery fire, which was beginning to give supporting fire to our regular infantry that was taking part in the seaborne landing. We learned that we were twenty miles from where the rest of the battalion was. We soon made connection, then were off to the mission of clearing the French Riviera of all the Germans. This took until late November. The action consisted of many patrols of scattered fighting high in the maritime alps. The battalion was responsible for liberating the French people beginning at the town of Lemuy all the way through Antibes, Cannes, Nice, etc. to Eze at the border between France and Monaco. Then from there north through many small towns, even crossing over the border into Italy. Our supplies and ammunition, etc., were sometimes brought up to us by pack mules.
THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
“In early December 1944 the battalion was relieved from the front and relocated to a base camp near Nice for rest. After a few days we were moved out via railroad car to a location approximately forty miles east of Paris. Upon arrival and after we were settled in, one half of the battalion was allowed a pass to visit Paris. Those going to Paris had not been gone more than a few hours when the remainder of the unit, including me, were told to prepare and draw rations and ammo. We were told that there was a serious problem and to prepare to move out immediately. We were loaded in open trucks and off we went, not knowing our destination. After traveling ten hours, and as morning daylight was approaching, we stopped near a farm house in Belgium. It was there we were advised that the Germans had begun a huge counter-attack and had broken through and overrun the Allied front lines. This was the beginning of what was to be the Battle of the Bulge. It was here that we spent from December 18 to the end of February of the worst fighting and weather conditions of the war. We lost many men to hypothermia, not to mention those wounded, killed or captured. The last few days when the battalion was finally relieved, there were only thirty men remaining. From “B” Company, of two hundred men there were only nine remaining. I was one of the nine. On February 8 we were notified by our commanding officer that the battalion was to be deactivated. The remaining men of the 509 were to be absorbed into other units. I was transferred to the 508th Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division for continuation of their assignment at the front at the Bulge.
The 508th Regiment was moved to the rear area and alerted to prepare for the final phase of the war as part of a parachute jump across the Rhine River. However, the 508th Regiment’s part was canceled and we remained in the rear area. The regiment then was assigned duty as guards at the Supreme Headquarters located in Frankfurt on Main, Germany. The duty consisted of protecting the headquarters of General Eisenhower and his staff. I volunteered and was accepted to participate in a special honor guard platoon. We were responsible to meet foreign heads of state, high command officers, the President of the United States, etc., upon their arrival. In addition to our regular uniform, our uniform included a white scarf, white gloves, white boot laces.
"At the outset of the occupation of Germany we were not permitted to speak to the German people; also, there was some trouble and unrest against the Allied soldiers. This precipitated a search of every home in the city of Frankfurt. During my part of the search I came upon and confiscated a nice German officer's sword. I wanted to send it home, but I knew the censors would not permit it in the mail. However, I took two 1" x 6" boards, carved out space in each one, placed the sword inside, and took it to the mail room. The clerk said it was too big to mail, but if it would fit inside a mailbag he could accept it. It did. I still have it in my possession.
"The duty at Frankfurt was light -- six hours on and twenty-four hours off. It was somewhat more formal, being a part of the 82nd Airborne division. Coming from a small, independent battalion where the men were more informal, joining and becoming a part of the new division took some getting used to.
GERMANY SURRENDERS! THE WAR IS OVER!
“It was during our stay at Frankfurt that Germany surrendered and the European war was declared over. The news of the surrender had an indescribable effect of relief. Just to realize that I had survived was almost too much to accept. Thinking of home, letters from home, prayers, etc., during the almost impossible periods of combat did a lot to help keep the morale and hope for the future. Mother and my sisters were very regular in writing to me. I wrote home when I could. Mother saved all the letters I wrote to her. I still have them.
“Bad weather interfered with our schedule to fly home, but finally we took off for California. After arriving in California, I was transported by bus to Fort MacArthur near Long Beach. There I was presented my discharge from the Army. From there it was just a short way to home -- the same home I had left over thirty months earlier.
RETURN TO PERSONAL CAREER (Portion edited out.)
“One day in December 1952 when arriving home from work, there was a telegram to call a sales representative that I knew where I had worked at Industrial Stationers. I called; he asked if I was happy with my present job and if I would consider a change. He said he had recommended me to the president of Home Savings. They were looking for someone to organize a central purchasing department. I met with the Home Savings president later. He told me that Home was preparing for dynamic growth. They needed someone with my background. If I was interested, I should think it over and call him back. My answer was, “I have thought it over and I would like to have the job.” He said, “OK, report and start to work on Monday, December 26, 1952. In three months I will give you a raise or fire you.” Those words had quite an impact. Thanks to what I had learned at Industrial Stationers I moved into the function of organizing the department. The end of three months soon arrived, and without a reminder from me the raise was included in my next paycheck. I could not have asked for a better employer with the opportunity that was offered to me. The future raises in pay were always generous and timely.
“After 34 years on the job, changes in management, my age, the new computerized systems, stress, etc., plus a gall bladder infection that required two back-to-back surgeries to correct, I began to be motivated to consider retiring. I loved my job. I had the best support staff that anyone could want. Management had always been supportive. I gave it much thought and did much soul-searching, but with mixed feelings I wrote a letter of notice to retire.
“On March 9, 1947 I became married to Ruth Ann Wenrick at Redeemer Lutheran Church located at South Gate, California. I took the instructions of the Lutheran religion and became a member. Since Ruth was already a member, we attended the church in South Gate until we moved to Whittier, then transferred to Trinity Lutheran there.
"And on December 3, 1958 we became the parents of a healthy baby boy, whom we gave the name Roger Matthew. On May 18, 1963, we again became the parents of another healthy baby boy whom we named Mark Eric. The addition of two boys brought much joy and happiness to our lives, resulting in a lifetime of wonderful memories. Ruth was a good mother. She was very positive in her effort by teaching a loving and Christian way of life.
“After approximately 45 years of marriage, our life together was becoming difficult. In August 1985 I moved from the home we shared and relocated to property that we had purchased earlier for a vacation home in Mariposa, California.
“On October 10, 1989 while living at Mariposa, Shirley Lorita Garrett and I were married at Reno, Nevada. On February 15, 1990 we moved to Selma, California.
D-DAY 50TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE PARACHUTE JUMP IN FRANCE
“During 1993 I received word that the Airborne Veterans were considering a commemorative parachute jump in France on the 50th anniversary of “D” Day and that all World War II paratroopers were invited to participate. I considered but did not prepare soon enough and missed out for the jump at Normandy. However, I did get involved and was prepared for the jump in honor of the deceased 509 men in Southern France. To qualify, it was required that I make three jumps and get a medical clearance from my doctor... I made the jumps and on August 12, 1994 was on my way to France. There I joined other veterans from the 509. Of those that were there, only four of us had intentions of making the actual jump on August 15... There was a huge crowd of spectators cheering us after the jump, also a multitude of news reporters recording the action. There were aerial fireworks and a flyover of military aircraft. It was a very exciting and proud experience to have been a part of. We were presented a bronze medallion from General Sullivan, Chief of Staff, United States Army, other awards, and a bronze medallion from the people of France... It was an honor, considering the thousands of men that made the original parachute jump in 1944, I was one of only four to make the 50th anniversary jump.
“I am very thankful that I have been blessed with a happy and healthy lifestyle. I have a loving wife who also is a good friend and companion. My main desire in life was to have a home with a loving family and friends. I enjoy these things now and the additional pleasure of being with and seeing my grandchildren develop."
THE BLESSING OF FOUR GRANDCHILDREN!
Leslie's two sons are grown, married and living in Whittier, California with their families. His oldest son, Roger Matthew Green, born December 3, 1958, married Sandra Alimente in February 1997; they had twin girls on December 6, 1997 whom they named Gabrielle Paulina and Danielle Leslie. Son, Mark Eric Green, born May 18, 1963, married Dorene Zubillaga on May 3, 1988; they are the parents of Amanda Danielle, born October 25, 1989, and Justin Eric, born March 6, 1992.
Eventually in their older retirement years, Leslie and Shirley Green moved into a zero-lot home in a gated community in Kingsburg, CA just a few miles from Selma where he and Shirley had lived. It was a lovely home with a low-maintenance grassless yard landscaped with native plants, and they spent many happy years there. Shirley opened her own internet-based business selling antiques, and Leslie became her "Shipping Department", helping her by packaging items sold and delivering them to the post office for shipment. Serious health problems for both of them began to surface in the late 1990s and early 21st century. In 2010 Leslie began a decline into Alzheimer's dementia and Shirley suffered a stroke which robbed her of her ability to write. In 2011 caregivers were engaged to help them at home, and Shirley's daughter Donna eventually quit her job to free her up to help them and stay nights to care for them. Donna had learned to love Leslie like a father and described him as the most gentle, sweet, caring and appreciative man she had ever known.
Leslie died on February 11, 2011 and was cremated. His wife Shirley plans to keep his ashes with her unless one of his sons indicates they would like to bury him somewhere. Shirley will move into her daughter's home in Selma, CA where Donna can continue to care for her with the help of their wonderful caregivers.
Being the only son in the Green family, Leslie became the only maternal uncle to his nieces and nephews who adored him. One of his nieces, Patti Stephens, wrote the following anecdote about her Uncle Leslie after his death: "I am so glad to hear that he maintained his wonderful sweet, loving, caring, and gentle personality through his severe trial. I hold dear all my wonderful memories of him. When Marlene and I were just little girls, he gave each of us a special easter egg made out of molded sugar with a peep hole in the end to look through and see a small village. The outside of the egg was decorated with fancy designs made out of colored cake frosting. We were so very happy with his gift. When he left for military service, he left his car in my mother's care. I remember well riding with my mother and sister all over town in this car. My! life goes by so quickly. Thanks again!!! Bye for now - Pat".