Seven Sons of Leeder Family Give Military Service
Researched and Written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
From 1942 to 1958, seven of the eight Leeder brothers, children of William F. and Gladys Courtier Leeder,
served in the United States Army and Navy. Their service covered two wars, World War II and the Korean Conflict.
The first to enlist was the oldest son, Elwyn James Leeder. Elwyn entered the United States Navy on November
16, 1942. He was 18 years old.
Many of Evansville’s young men were ready to serve their country at the start of World War II and their
enlistments occurred in pairs or groups. Each week The Evansville Review reported the enlistments or
The notice of Elwyn’s enlistment said that he went into the Navy at the same time as another Evansville resident,
Franklin Hunt. The two young men were sent to the Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago, Illinois for basic
After finishing the training at Great Lakes, Elwyn returned home on leave in January 1943. A notice of his visit
appeared in the January 21, 1943 issue of the Evansville Review.
During his leave, Elwyn visited with his parents and siblings and undoubtedly gave advice to his younger brother,
Fred Franklin (nicknamed Frank), who had enlisted in the Navy. Frank was sent to Milwaukee on January 18th,
1943 to finalize his enlistment.
A headline in the same issue of the Review that announced Elwyn’s visit and Frank’s enlistment said: “Evansville
Now Has 235 in Armed Forces.” The local military family support group, Evansville’s Wives and Mothers Club,
asked parents and relatives to provide names and address of the men and women so that they could be added to
the registry and to the honor roll board placed in front of Evansville’s City Hall.
After finishing basic training at Great Lakes, Elwyn was sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for additional training.
Before he could complete his tour of duty, Elwyn was hospitalized with rheumatic fever and suffered heart valve
damage. Twelve months after he entered the Navy, Elwyn was released from active duty on November 26, 1943,
and returned home to Evansville.
Frank Leeder began his training at Farragut, Idaho. He later recalled the extreme cold and 40-mile-per-hour
wind, with a temperature of minus forty degrees as he traveled by the Great Northern Railroad through Billings,
Montana. In May 1943, he was selected for a 16-week course for mechanics at the University of Kansas, in
Lawrence, Kansas. After the training he was promoted to mechanics mate and was eligible for petty officer’s
He later was stationed at locations from coast to coast, including Montauk, Long Island, New York where he
served on a torpedo testing range from the fall of 1943 to the spring of 1945; Pier 92, New York; Camp
Pendleton, California; Camp Shoemaker, California; Hunter’s Point, California and Treasure Island, California.
When Frank was stationed at Treasure Island, California, he worked in a Navy garage teaching and guarding
German prisoners of war. He achieved the rank of Machinist Mate Second Class and served in the Navy for
twenty-four months. Fred Franklin Leeder ended his years of service on December 11, 1945.
On March 6, 1945, a third son of William and Gladys Leeder entered the United States Navy. Dale Dean Leeder
was inducted into the U. S. Navy in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Great Lakes, Illinois was Dale’s training base and then
he was sent to the Puget Sound Navy Yards at Bremerton, Washington. He served aboard the U.S.S. Pittsburg, U.
S.S. Greyhound, U.S. S. Santa Fe and the U.S.S. Canberra.
Dale’s years of service began just as World War II was coming to an end. Although he seldom talked about his
tour in the Navy, he once joked to his son-in-law that he was a hero and kept the United States out of war. He
said “Remember this. When I joined the Navy, the fighting in World War II stopped and we were at peace. The
fighting in Korea didn’t break out until after I was discharged from the Navy.” His enlistment ended on January 5,
The fourth Leeder son to enter the service was Rodney Jean. He joined the U. S. Army on October 16, 1951. He
was inducted at Milwaukee, Wisconsin and served his basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He
remained at Fort Jackson for training as a radio operator until April 18, 1952 when he was shipped to Korea.
Rodney was serving as a radio operator in the 35th Infantry Regiment in Korea on the night of June 10, 1953,
when he was wounded. In a recent interview with Korea War Veterans, Rodney described his ordeal. “Well, the
Chinese came in there that night. They were shooting mortars in there and it was about midnight. The Colonel
and I, we were in our bunker, the command post, and they knocked our wires out and everything, our
communications. So, I and the Korean went out to run a new wire through. And that’s when we got it. I heard the
shell coming in and everything. I dove for the ground, but I didn’t get there.”
An article in the June 24, 1953 Janesville Gazette also described the incident, “Pfc. Leeder said he was on a pole
installing radio equipment when the enemy swarmed over a hill and opened fire.” The wounding occurred on the
birthday of his wife, the former Alice Sperry.
Rodney was transferred to field hospitals and then flown by ambulance plane to Osaka, Japan, where he spent
two months in recovery. Nearly a year after he was wounded, His parents received a visit from Major James E.
Perry, commanding officer of a Madison reserve unit and presented them with the Bronze Star. Rodney also
received the Purple Heart for his shrapnel wound received in combat in Korea.
The citation read: “Private First Class Rodney J. Leeder, United States Army. Private Leeder, a member of the
United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea, is cited for meritorious service in connection with
military operations against an armed enemy in Korea during the period 8 July 1952 to 10 June 1953. As radio
operator in the 35th Infantry Regiment, 5th Republic of Korea Army Division, Private Leeder exhibited superior
qualities of aggressiveness, diligence, and loyalty. His outstanding performance in combat was largely
responsible for keeping communications open at all times, thereby assuring the accurate and expeditious
receiving and transmitting of information. His diligent application to every phase of his assignment and his
willingness to assume additional duties regardless of the risks involved were instrumental in the smooth and
efficient functioning for the regiment. His loyalty, initiative, and devotion to duty earned him the respect and
admiration of all those with whom he served. The meritorious service rendered by Private Leeder throughout his
period reflects great credit on himself and the military service.”
In addition to the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, Rodney also received the Korean Service Medal with 2 Bronze
Stars, the U. N. Service Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.
He was returned to the United States at Camp Carson, Colorado for about two weeks before being discharged.
Rodney’s brother Dean was also stationed there at the time.
Dean Arden Leeder had joined the U. S. Army on February 23, 1953 and was sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois for
induction. Dean’s basic training was received at Camp Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
For nearly a year, while at Camp Carson, Dean was trained as an armored track vehicle mechanic. He was later
assigned to Fort Knox, Kentucky where he served until he was discharged on February 22, 1955.
The March 3, 1955 Evansville Review announced Dean’s arrival in Evansville: “Dean Leeder, son of Mrs. William
Leeder, arrived home Thursday after receiving his discharge from the armed forces at Fort Knox, Ky.,
A month later, the sixth member of the William and Gladys Leeder family entered the military service. Jackie Burr
Leeder joined the U. S. Army as a draftee after 3 deferments for farming. He was inducted into the service on
March 9, 1955 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin and taken to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for his basic training.
From June through August 1955, Jack received additional training at Fort Lee, Virginia as a supply clerk. Then
he was once again sent to Fort Leonard Wood to serve with the 82nd Combat Engineers Battalion.
The group did maneuvers in Shreveport, Louisiana where they built, repaired and tore down bridges. Jack
remembered Louisiana as cold and rainy. He slept on the hood of a deuce-and-a-half truck and in a tent. When
the mess hall couldn’t catch up with the group, they ate C-Rations. Civilian vendors followed the soldiers and sold
the hungry men sandwiches from their vehicles.
When he returned to Fort Leonard Wood, Jack served in the Company Supply Headquarters. Jack was
discharged from the Army on March 8, 1957.
Lee Daniel Leeder was the seventh son of the William and Gladys Leeder family to serve in the U. S. Military.
Like several of his older brothers, Lee joined the U. S. Navy. He was inducted on March 8, 1956 and received his
basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. He was chosen as one of the top twenty-four men to put on
the exhibition drill work for graduation exercises. Following graduation and a fourteen-day leave to visit his
mother, Lee went to Norfolk, Virginia and was assigned to serve on the U.S.S. Randolph, an aircraft carrier with
3,200 men and 80 planes on board. Lee finished his tour of duty on March 7, 1958.
Only two of the nine children of the William and Gladys Leeder family did not serve in the U. S. Military, the oldest
son Daryl, and his sister Janice.
The strong tradition of military service continues through the generations of Evansville’s Leeder family.
Special thanks to Jack and Marita Leeder for providing information and photographs about the Leeder family’s
service. At Traxler Park Veterans Plaza there are bricks with the names and dates of service of the Leeder
brothers, a gift to the Leeder family from Jack and Marita.