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Leisey's encounter with a corporal suffering from PTSD

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Leisey was born in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania May 10th, 1923. He moved to Honey Brook, Pennsylvania where he ended up meeting his future wife. He characterizes his life as being a rural existence. He was active in all sorts of organizations in high school. Leisey went to Penn State [Annotator’ Note: Pennsylvania State University] in 1941 upon graduation from high school. He tried out for football at Penn State and made the team. He wanted to earn his meals there by playing on a team. He was at Penn State from September to December. On December 7th, Leisey was hanging out with a high school friend and he learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. he knew his days at college were going to be numbered and he knew that they were going to be in a long war. One of Leisey's buddies, Paul, was in the NAVY ROTC program at Penn State. He was killed before Leisey finished his first year there. Leisey did not go to Penn State for his second year; he and some friends joined the Marine Corps. He felt they were the best trained organization at the time. He also did not want to be fighting in Europe in the cold. Leisey went to Parris Island in November of 1942. When he graduated from boot camp he was an honor guard for President Franklin Roosevelt. He was told that he was not going on with his fellow boot camp graduates, but that he was going to stay back and play baseball. Leisey felt he did not join the Marine Corps to play baseball. Colonel Gene Tunney had found out that Leisey played baseball at Penn State so he had him stay and play. Leisey pitched in some games and things went well, but he wanted to go with his friends. After about a month and a half of playing baseball Leisey was sent to Camp Lejeune. He received his combat training at Camp Lejeune. Leisey was sent to Guadalcanal in May of 1943. He joined in the mop up operations. War was tough to him. He recalls a ship carrying nothing but powdered eggs coming to Guadalcanal. Another ship had nothing but prune bars. The real irritation was the way that you had to live in the tropics dealing with tropical diseases. Leisey was then shipped up to Samoa to join up with the 22nd Marines [Annotator’s Note: 22nd Marine Regiment]. He recalls people coming down with elephantitis [Annotator’s Note: also known as elephantiasis]. Leisey learned how to live in those conditions. They got their training in Pago Pago Samoa. He was then sent to radio school.  

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Leisey was told before he deployed that he was going to go to Officer Candidate School, yet that never developed. He went to radio school and became a radio operator. They communicated with Honolulu and encoded messages that were being sent back and forth to Washington D.C. Leisey then became a part of the 3rd Battalion Headquarters division of the 22nd Marine Regiment. They were then put in reserve for the Battle of Tarawa. They did not go there and then ended up back in Maui in Hawaii. The big training there involved climbing mountains. The training was tough and it made them think they were going to take on Mt. Fuji [Annotator’s Note: invade Japan]. Christmas Eve of 1943 they had their church service in Maui, the next morning they boarded a ship to go to battle. They did not know where they were going. It turned out that they were going to the Marshall Islands.Leisey landed on Kwajalein. The Marshall Islands were Japanese held territories. He was in three more invasions. He helped to take various islands that were a part of the Kwajalein atoll. Leisey was scared to death. There was firing going on everywhere. The battleship Pennsylvania [Annotator’s Note: USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)] provided support. Leisey recalls 28 guys being killed by short rounds from the Pennsylvania. Communication was tough. The second night he was there, Leisey dug in. His job was protecting the radio operations. He was also put on scout duty. The second night was very dark. Leisey recalls a man jumping in his foxhole, it turned out to be his corporal and this man had "lost it." It was the first time Leisey saw someone suffering from shell shock [Annotator’s Note: today known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)]. They were attacked that night but not where Leisey was. He was shot by a Japanese man in a tree, Leisey saw him first but did not shoot first. The Japanese man shot the rifle out of his hand. Leisey dove back in his hole. Leisey was taken to the beach by a corpsman. The corpsman told him he would be evacuated, but then a mortar shell landed and blew Leisey in the air. He had shrapnel embedded in his lower back. He was put in a Higgins boat that took him to the hospital ship. He was lifted onto the ship’s deck by a crane on the hospital ship. In his haste he chewed up a sulfa pill but had no water to wash it down, this caused a kidney problem. 

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Leisey was sent to Pearl Harbor [Annotator’s Note: Hawaii] for surgery. They operated on his hand and back. It was a rough experience. He describes what happened on a daily basis.He was then put on a ship and sent to Oakland, California for some more treatment. Leisey then went down to San Diego and spent a few months in a hospital. Eventually they let him go home. The Red Cross helped out Leisey, he had no money to get back home. The Red Cross gave him the money and he caught a train to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Leisey feels that the entire war experience was horrible. He felt tough after his first landing, but after subsequent landings he realized that his number would eventually be up. Fortunately his number came up in a way that he survived.Leisey was the only marine from Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. The war ended for him on July 21st, 1945. The war ended in August, Mary Helen [Annotator’s Note: his wife] and Leisey were married by this point. They felt incredibly lucky that the war had ended. He and his wife went to Penn State [Annotator’s Note: Pennsylvania State University] right away after the war. They had one child while they were at Penn State. They graduated in January of 1948. Leisey ended up working at a number of places after the war, finding success in all of his jobs. His last job was Chief Financial officer of Minolta Company, a Japanese camera company. He worked for Minolta for fifteen years.Leisey had a feeling when he was in combat that the Japanes he was fighting had the same concerns about their family and country. He had no idea if he could work for a Japanese company. He was worried about his former status as a marine. He was photographed climbing aboard a ship after the battle of Parry Island. He was climbing up the net to get to the top of the ship. He had a 65 pound radio on his back and the boats were going up and down. Leisey was worn out and exhausted. He got to the top of the railing and could not go any further. People had to come over and help pull him over the rail. The picture has been displayed all over the place, including bags used at the National World War II Museum.

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The picture of Leisey is on half a dozen things that he can think of. He has copies of the picture that go back to 1944. The picture was in Time and Life magazines. He cannot say with authority that the picture is actually him. He remembers the taking of the picture very well, but does not want to take one hundred percent claim but he is pretty sure it is him. When he came back to Honey Brook everyone had seen the picture and assumed that it was him. It brings back memories for Leisey when he sees the picture.Leisey recalls climbing onto the ship as being one of the scariest things he did. He had to crawl down that same net at two in the morning. He relives the incident constantly. He was a combat radioman. His first purpose was to communicate between battalion headquarters and let them know what their position was. The other purpose was to remain in contact with the companies that were in the vicinity. Leisey learned how to take code at approximately sixty words per minute. During combat, very little code was used. Sometimes he had to get in contact personally with different companies. He recalls people cranking the radio so that it had power. His main job was to keep contact with everyone. It was always a scary job, particularly when a lot of firing was going on. Leisey never turned down his job but he was scared doing it. The radio was a backpack radio.Leisey carried an M-1 Garand rifle. He was also qualified to carry and operate a .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun. He recalls running off his landing craft one time and he fell into an eight foot hole. While he was in the hole a shell landed near him and concussed him. Leisey was carrying the tripod for the machine gun at that time and it was very important that he had the tripod. He has had hearing problems throughout his life. He got back into baseball after the war but was not able to play like normal because of the injury he sustained to his hand. He still has therapy on his hand. Today, Leisey can barely write his own name. He has had numerous surgeries on his hand. His first surgery was in Pearl Harbor. They operated on the hand and put all sorts of bones back in place.

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Leisey recalls having to do sponge ball therapy so he could build up the strength up in his hand. He has problems writing to this day and he misses the ability to write. His worst experience in combat was when a corporal jumped in his foxhole and he almost killed him. He recalls the feeling of being ready to kill. The other scary moment for Leisey was when the 16 inch shell landed in between their lines. Twenty eight men were killed because of that shell. The noise and the violence of shells have stuck with him.Nighttime was also a scary time for Leisey. What scared him was the fact that he knew the Japanese knew every inch of the island they were landing on. The theory of warfare in those days created a scary environment. Leisey believes that the naval shore bombardment was not as useful as people may believe because of how the Japanese were able to dig in. He notes that every D-Day [Annotation: amphibious] operation in World War II was scary because they were constantly facing the unknown. He recalls an invasion when he was dumped offshore because of the tide. Leisey says that war is hell because of the amount of variables involved. He can confirm that war is hell.Leisey watched the Ken Burns special on World War II. Initially he did not want to watch it but as he did he found out things he had no idea about. He watched every single part of the documentary. He realized that people need to do a better job in resolving conflicts before they come to war. Leisey believes that negotiation could have solved a lot of problems. He believes that there has to be a better way to solve problems. Leisey is glad that he joined the Marine Corps. He believes it gave him an advantage in life that he could not have gotten any other way. He believes strongly in the ‘leave no man behind’ motto of the Marine Corps. He is proud to say that he is a Marine despite the terrible situations it put him in.

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Leisey's father was a railroad worker and his mother was a garment worker. They survived the Great Depression by working hard. Working hard was the key to surviving. The Marines instill the idea that there is always a solution and always a better way. Leisey believes that education and training are paramount to the success of the Marine Corps. Discipline reigns supreme in the Marine Corps as well. Leisey believes that the Marine Corps is a great place. He notes that if he had not been injured he may have made a career of it. The corporal who Leisey saw suffering from combat fatigue never rejoined the unit. He was deemed unfit for duty. The man just broke.During his time in the hospital Leisey saw a lot of men who were broken emotionally. He notes that wars are the type of event that makes people break. If he could do it all again he would enter the Marine Corps again no questions asked. The war changed him because he had plans for his family before the war started. The war made him change a lot of his plans. Education teaches self reliance, this was a virtue that was cultivated in the Marine Corps.When Leisey was in the naval hospital in Philadelphia he was sent on various types of duties. One duty was going out and making speeches for war bond drives. He went to a steel company in Pennsylvania and helped raise a million dollars. He was instrumental in helping companies decide to donate to the war effort. He also helped run some of the Marine funerals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.Leisey recalls that a lot of his good memories were of coming back to the United States. A lot of his friends joined the Marine Corps and he recalls various moments in time when he ran into them during his service.

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Leisey shook hands with Eleanor Roosevelt in Pago Pago [Annotator’s Note: Samoa] when she came through the hospital he was at. The Marine Corps helped to make him feel important. He believes that it is important for Americans to study what happened during and what led to World War II. He believes it is important for people to learn tolerance of other cultures and races. To Leisey's knowledge his parents never talked about being racist. He believes that liberal diplomacy has helped to show our strength. He feels that people need to be mindful of future dictators. Leisey understands that democracy sometimes does not have all of the answers. Democracy needs to help people, not harm them.World War II should teach people that war creates hell. Leisey believes it is important that we have institutions such as the National World War II Museum. It is important to remember the suffering that occurred during World War II on all levels, not just that of the soldiers. How to save people is still the trick that needs to be learned. Leisey did have problems with sleeping after the war; he still has problems to this day. The dreams make you feel that you’re in a situation you do not want to be in. It affected his patience. He spent a lot of his life in business teaching the principles of participating management. He wanted people to learn better ways to co-exist in the business world.

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Leisey believes that the Marine Corps teaches one to be a giver as well. He sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and remembers the bad times. He has to remind himself of the good times. Leisey was not able to talk about the war when he got home. He did not want to talk about it. He makes the point that outside of the veterans, people had a certain amount of innocence and could not believe the harsh realities of combat. Only six percent of the fifteen million people in the services saw actual combat. Sometimes the memory he has of World War II brings out the worst in him because it hurts so much to think of the friends he lost. Leisey notes that some things you just cannot forget. He only became comfortable talking about the war in the last 5 years; even his children have only recently been educated by Leisey on his combat experience. He feels good knowing he was able to provide his children with a good life. He believes in the power of education. He believes that people need to be educated in the subjects of peace. He took advantage of the G.I. Bill. Leisey believes that there is too much pain in war.

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