Leech, Joe (P2, C3, L14)
Captain Joe Leech, 59, of Sedalia, Graves County, Kentucky, died 1 October 1945 while on federal active duty during World War II at the Kennedy General Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, of carcinoma of the stomach.
Leech served on active duty from October 1917 to December 1918 at Camp Taylor as a Sergeant with the 159th Depot Brigade, Quartermaster Corps at Camp Taylor, Louisville. Leech joined the Kentucky National Guard’s Company L, 149th Infantry, Mayfield, in February 1922 as a Second Lieutenant when it was formed. He was 36 and entered under an age waiver. Leech listed his civilian occupation as a farmer.
Leech was promoted to Captain and made commander of Company L in August 1928. A letter of resignation by Leech to leave the Kentucky Guard due to business reasons in December 1933 was found in file but Leech was still serving as the company commander in August 1934 when an efficiency board found that “Captain Leech has improved the efficiency of his company to a great degree during the past year in spite of serious handicap in the inadequacy and unfitness of armory at his home station and hostility of certain elements of the civilian population there.” The mentioned hostility may refer to a robbery at the armory about a year before where weapons, clothing and equipment were stolen. Four arrests were made and some property recovered but no record of the details or outcome has been found. In his report to the Adjutant General he stated that he was dealing with some very bad characters that are considered dangerous by local civil authorities and asked that a revolver be issued to him. There is no record showing if a weapon was indeed issued to him.
When Company L was called to federal active duty on 17 January 1941 Leech was the commander and continued in that role when they moved to Camp Shelby on federal active duty. He was part of the Louisiana Maneuvers serving as an umpire. The Louisiana Maneuvers were a series of military exercises held all over Northern and Western-Central Louisiana, in August and September 1941. The exercise was designed to evaluate U. S. troop training, logistics, doctrine, and commanders. The maneuvers involved half a million men, separated into 19 Army Divisions, taking place over 3400 square miles. Around 400,000 troops were divided into two equal armies of two made-up countries. Leech apparently became ill during this time and was hospitalized in New Orleans for a time. When he returned to duty he was sent to the Columbus, Mississippi Army Air Base to serve as the administrative officer.
Leech had undergone an operation on his stomach a few weeks before his death and never fully recovered. He was home on leave but his condition worsened and he was admitted to the hospital in Memphis where he died. One of Captain Leech’s lasts requests to his family, according to newspaper accounts, was to be buried in his Army uniform.