Leon Kreida


I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1930. My childhood was easy. I came from a middle-class family. We lived reasonably wen, not wealthy, but comfortable. My father was a salesman. We lived in rented apartments until I was twelve years old. That's when my father bought our own home.

I started working part time when I was fourteen years old. I worked in a drug store, then in a shoe store, and in this way contributed to the family income.

When we moved to Tucson, I attended Tucson High School. Then I dropped out in my junior year. I was an average student, nothing exceptional. At sixteen years of age, I thought I could do better out of school. I was selling shoes for Montgomery Wards when I joined "Easy" Company on November 20th, 1947, a month after my seventeenth birthday. I attended three summer camps with the Marine Reserves. At the last one, just prior to being activated, we practiced amphibious landings.

Once we were told we were needed for the Korean "police action", things moved fast and furious. Being the company clerk, I put a lot of time at the Reserve Armory doing whatever had to be done. I was involved in cutting the orders and wrapping up the last payroll. I had already quit my job with Farmers Insurance.

It's hard to imagine: July 21st, they ordered us to active duty; July 31st, we left Tucson; September 15th, we stormed ashore at Inchon. That's what I remember; six weeks from Tucson to Inchon.

Because my M.O.S. was 0143, clerk typist, I was assigned to headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. I was a buck sergeant by then. After docking in Kobe Japan, I went by train with the 2nd Battalion to Camp Otsu for more training. Two things impressed me about my new surroundings: First, the still-visible destruction of World War II and second, how deferential the Japanese were to us.

After two weeks training at Otsu, I was making the Inchon Landing with the fourth wave. We fought our way past Kimpo Airport, crossed the Han River and secured Seoul.

We regrouped at Inchon and boarded ship for the Wonsan Landing. The weather got bitterly cold. Our cold-weather gear was slow catching up with us. The only thing warm we had was our down sleeping bag. We were up north at Koto-ri when I contacted pneumonia. I was evacuated to Wonsan and then put on board the hospital ship, Consolation, finally winding up in Yokuska, Japan. After recuperating, I was sent back to Camp Otsu for reassignment to duty. I kept running into Tucsonans all along the way. I'd say, we were quite well represented out there; a lot of Purple Hearts.

I was interviewed by a board to determine my disposition. Although I asked to be sent back to Korea, they decided my propensity for pneumonia was such that if they sent me back to that cold weather, it could kill me. So I was shipped back to the states in December of 1950.

Shortly after my arrival in San Francisco, I was given a thirty-day leave, plus a choice of duty stations. I asked for duty in Camp Pendleton. I spent the rest of my active duty time there and when that was done, I took an extension on through 1952. During that time, I was promoted to staff sergeant.

In the meantime, I kept running back and forth to Tucson to see my girl friend. Finally, I asked her to marry me. The date was set for October, just after my twenty-first birthday. Then a monkey wrench was thrown into the works; I was ordered to report on board the U.S.S. Valley Forge for duty with the marine detachment on board. I told personnel at Camp Pendleton that they couldn't send me back to Korea - that I was a Korean returnee. They said, "We're not sending you to Korea. The Valley Forge is tied up in San Francisco." I replied, "Yeah, but for how long?" They told me that was my problem, not theirs. This was interfering with my wedding plans, so I went to see my company commander. He went to bat for me and found another marine with the same M.O.S. in the replacement draft, who jumped at the choice of going on board the Valley Forge instead of Korea. My orders were changed and I got to stay at Camp Pendleton. We rescheduled the wedding and we were married a month later in November. I got my bride to come with me to Camp Pendleton.

I returned to Tucson upon my release from active duty and went to work for an insurance company for a couple of years. When the Korean War ended, the economy in Tucson took a slump and I was having trouble making a living, so I decided to go back to school. Now I could see where an education meant better chances of success in life. I had acquired a G.E.D. certificate while in the service so that gave me provisional acceptance at the University of Arizona. I was able to do the college-level work and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1957, and subsequently earned a master's degree. The strangest thing of all was that while I was attending the U of A, I was offered a 2nd lieutenant's commission in the National Guard. Figuring I could use the extra income, I accepted.

After graduation, I was hired by the Prudential Insurance Company and transferred to their Los Angeles office. I was there from 1957 to 1969. While in L.A., I was in the California National Guard. Then I switched to the Army Reserve. When Prudential transferred me to Phoenix, I continued in the Army Reserve until I had enough time in to retire. I concluded my service time as an army major. Even though I wore the Army uniform for more years than I did the Marine uniform, I feel that if it hadn't been for my Marine training, I wouldn't have been offered a commission in the Army. And you know, once a Marine, always a Marine!

Prudential then transferred me to New Jersey, where I lived for twenty years. When I retired in 1995, I moved back to Tucson because I consider this my home. My folks are buried here.

I had belonged to the Marine Corps League in New Jersey, so I naturally went looking for the Tucson Detachment when I arrived in Tucson. Renewing old friendships had been great!

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