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Leonard Dunn « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

Leonard Dunn

Hometown: Wake Forest, NC
Branch of Service:
Army, 525 Port Battalion
Location of Service:

I was drafted in 1943 when I was 18 yrs. old. I took my basic Training in Wichita Falls, TX followed by training at Langley Field and Camp Stewart, GA then back to Camp Patrick Henry, VA for overseas movement. I first served overseas in Casablanca then Oran, Morocco and served in a Port Battalion as a stevedore to load and unload supply ships.

From Casablanca to Oran, my battalion was transported in the 40 and 8s; these French rail boxcars designed for 40 horses and 8 men. The 525th Port Battalion travelled from Casablanca to Oran at night. They actually had horses in there before us and the boxcar hadn’t been cleaned out before they had us get in. We made hammocks out of blankets connected to each side of the boxcars from tent ropes to make more space.

Eventually, my battalion was sent to Italy stopping in Naples to discharge stevedores that wanted to fight and pick up infantrymen in the 92nd Division who were older, in their 40s or so. They were hoping to get sent home. Then we moved on to Marseilles and ended up in Alsace Lorraine. We crossed the Rhine river and loaded and unloaded boxcars into the trucks of the Red Ball Express.

I went to Germany when the war ended in Europe as a guard for German POWs in a schoolhouse and actually learned that the war had ended from a prisoner we were guarding. Then I returned to Marseilles to load ships going to the Pacific and stayed until the Japanese surrender.

My war experience was a blessing in disguise. I was in college struggling to make it when I was drafted. The GI bill made it more convenient to get my college education past my first year. It gave me the opportunity to travel. All our unit leaders were white but we were treated well even though everything was segregated.

When I came home, I returned to school to study architecture and engineering but couldn’t continue since I had glaucoma, and instead studied education. I became a math teacher and ended up in education administration for 39 years.