World War II veteran and French Legion of Honor recipient dies at age 91


World War II hero Leonard dies months after receiving final medal

Earlier this year, Davis B. Leonard was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his actions and service during World War II. Unfortunately, this week, Leonard died at the age of 91.

During the award ceremony, Leonard’s actions were said to be gallantry during the Allied Normandy invasion which led to France’s liberation from Nazi Germany. The ceremony was held in Southern Nevada and given by Eric Auger, the honorary consul of France.

Leonard and Gaetano R. Benza were two US servicemen honored by the French Government at the ceremony, marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion.

Davis was born in 1923 in Washington. He joined the Army Air Force Reserves in 1942 and was sent to fight in Europe in 1943.

In total, Davis flew 64 missions as an Army 8th Air Force bombardier-navigator in B-26 Martin Marauders between 1944 and 1945. Davis took part in the Battle of the Bulge, and his missions flew over German occupied territories, central Europe and northern France. His targets included German weapon storage facilities, transport links such as bridges and roads and other military targets.

Leonard’s last mission was in spring 1945 after which he was dispatched back to the US. In 1953 he was discharged from the US Army as a master sergeant and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Davis’s local veterans club says that he always reminded them of how great America was and that he was a man of principles who fought for freedom during World War II, the Variety reports.

Leonard is survived by his wife, three daughters, a stepdaughter, seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Marilyn Leonard, Leonard’s wife of 17 years, recalls how even though her husband’s day job after he left the army was for the Pacific Telephone Company, he was also a singer with a wonderful voice. Leonard performed as a Shriner for Nancy Reagan at venues such as the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

A memorial service will be held for Davis in January at the Sun City Anthem Community Center in Henderson, Nevada.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE