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Collection Title: Leech (Andrew Candler) World War II Diary

Collection Number: M285

Dates: April 1943 - November 1945

Volume: .45 cubic feet

Provenance: Donated by Dr. William McCain and Dewey C. Leech, brother of Andrew Leech, in February 1990.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Andrew Candler Leech, son of Andrew Caloway and Melvenie Clementine Cantrel Leech, was born on August 2, 1908, and reared in Itawamba County, Mississippi. In 1931, shortly after graduating from Smithville High School, he attended Mississippi State University (MSU) for one year. After leaving MSU, he enrolled at Jones County Junior College (JCJC) for two semesters. Upon completing his course work at JCJC, he was offered a teaching position in Greenwood Springs, Mississippi, where he remained until 1941, when he accepted a position at Runnelstown High School in Perry County.

He taught at Runnelstown until he was inducted into the United States Army in October of 1942, and reported for nine months of basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Afterwards, he was assigned to the 83rd Chemical Battalion, Company B, which was attached to the Seventh Army under the command of General George Smith Patton. As a member of the 83rd, Leech served in five World War II campaigns: The Sicilian Campaign (1943), The Italian Campaign (1943), The Italian Campaign (1944), The Invasion of France (1944), and The Campaign into Germany and Austria (1945).

After the Germans surrendered on May 7, 1945, Leech was hospitalized for two months in the 98th General Hospital in Germany due to battle fatigue. Following his release from the hospital, he returned to the United States, and received an honorable discharge with the rank of Private First Class on November 11, 1945, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

On March 8, 1946, Leech married Millie Earline Kuykendall of Smithville, Mississippi, and the couple had two children, Alice and Douglas. Shortly after his marriage, Leech accepted a position at the Kist Bottling Company in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he remained for three years. During that time, he attended the University of Southern Mississippi and earned certification in teaching. He then served as principal and social studies instructor at Hamilton High School, in Hamilton, Mississippi, from September 1948 through January 1951. In 1951, he became Monroe County Welfare Director, a position which he held until his retirement in August 1973. As of 1985, Leech resided in Aberdeen, (Monroe County) Mississippi.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of the handwritten and published versions of Andrew Candler Leech's World War II diary, along with two transcripts, notes on the introductory chapter of the published version, and a German medallion.

Folder one contains Leech's hand-written diary of his World War II career in the 83rd Chemical Battalion, Company B, from his embarkation from Staten Island in April 1943, to his discharge at Camp Shelby in November 1945. Leech begins his diary by stating that this is his second attempt to write a journal since the first one was destroyed on his transport ship, a Navy LST, when the vessel struck a mine and sunk off the coast of Anzio, Italy, in January of 1944. The journal details Leech's service in five operations: The Sicilian Campaign (1943), The Italian Campaign (1943), The Italian Campaign (1944), The Invasion of Southern France (1945), and the Campaign into Germany and Austria (1945). It should be noted that Leech presents the campaigns from two different perspectives: (1) from the standpoint of an observer, describing the performances of other units during the invasions, and (2) from a participant's view, relating personal experiences in battles. The two perspectives are intertwined throughout the journal. Since entries in the journal are not dated, it is impossible to determine whether it was written during or after the war. Attached to the diary is a German medallion with the inscription, "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer" dated March 3, 1938. However, there is no reference to the medal in the journal.

Folder two contains the typescript copy of Leech's diary, prepared for publication, with the title "The World War II Experiences of Andrew Candler Leech." It includes notations for the publisher's point and font sizes, as well as corrections of copy mistakes. Folder three includes a mimeographed copy of the diary entitled The Extraordinary War Diary of PFC Andy Leech, which is a replica of the original journal, but the title is different.

Folder four consists of notes on chapter one, "The Man and the War", which is the editor's introduction to the book. The chapter gives a brief biographical sketch of Andrew Leech and an overview of his military career, including a detailed account of the landing at Anzio; Operation Shingle; and the campaign to seize Rome.

The final item, located in folder five, is the published version of Leech's War Diary entitled The World War II Experiences of Andrew Candler Leech. The book was edited by Dr. William D. McCain, former president of the University of Southern Mississippi, and Mr. Dewey C. Leech, brother of Andrew Leech. It was published in 1985, and with the exception of the first chapter, it is an exact replica of the diary.

This collection provides insight into the war in North Africa and Europe. More especially, there are valuable details and descriptions of the Italian Campaigns of 1943 and 1944. For those interested in either World War II fighting in Europe, or Mortar Battalions in Italy, this collection will be useful.

Related Collections:

Dewey C. Leech Oral History Interview, transcript call number F341.5 .M57x vol. 86.

Chester W. Hill Memoirs, M 281


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Revised: December 16, 2004