One of the most celebrated Canadian soldiers, Leo Major served in World War II as well as the Korean War. His actions earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal, a prestigious award only two other Canadians have received yet he has achieved this honor twice. Born in Massachusetts on January 23, 1921, his family soon relocated to Montreal, Canada. Suffering a tempestuous relationship with his father, Leo ran away from home to live with his aunt. Once he completed high school, the lack of career opportunities prompted him to enlist in the Canadian army. He was placed in the Regiment de la Chaudiere, sent to Scotland to train as a sniper and was selected as a member of the elite squadrons to engage D-Day operations.
|Leo writing a letter after being hospitalized|
He now wore an eye patch over his left eye, chuckling that he appeared like a pirate. Instead of wallowing over his loss, he cheerfully stated that he only required one eye to serve his country. The man’s steeled resolve allowed his skill to flourish despite his marred vision and after healing sufficiently, he resumed combat. Shortly following the summer of 1944, forces clashed in the Battle of Scheldt, wherein Leo captured ninety three German soldiers in Holland. Scouting the location of a missing Canadian infantry unit during a reconnaissance mission, Leo came across his captured compatriots. Swiftly he ambushed two German troops with the intent to make them his prisoners. Successfully doing so, a nearby garrison witnessed the activity. Believing their commander had surrendered, they followed suit, allowing Leo to march roughly one hundred prisoners back into the Allied camp.
A video homage to the French-Canadian war hero
February 1945 rumbled through as did the Padre. Leo assisted by loading corpses from a destroyed Tiger Tank onto the vehicle, and as just as the driver ignited the engine, the carrier struck a tank mine. Leo’s body collided with the ground, causing him to instantly black-out. He was loaded onto a stretcher, driven thirty miles away to a field hospital and yet again instructed to return home. The doctor’s report revealed that three portions of his back were broken along with four ribs and both ankles. Not daunted in the slightest, Major devised an escape route during his week-long recovery. He hitched a ride onto a jeep which drove him to Nijmegen where he stayed with a family for a month before returning to his regiment in March. Precisely during this time, his unit approached Zwolle, a resisting Belgian city enduring German occupation. Volunteering along with his close friend Willy Arseneault, the men desired to contact the Dutch Resistance and overrun the city despite the fact that their orders were to only calculate the amount of Germans stationed within Zwolle. Accidentally giving his position away, Willy was gunned down by machine fire which sent Leo into a rage. Major slung Arsenault’s weapon and his own rifle onto his back, grabbed a German machine gun from the now-dead sentry who had shot Willy then crept into town under the cover of darkness.
|Willy & Leo|
|DCM Award Ceremony|
Leo had quietly resumed civilian life but returned to war when Canadian commander Dextrase asked him to serve as his Corporal in 1951. By this point, the Americans appeared surrounded. Fortunately, Leo Major’s sniper division crept up and recaptured the hill. Success was not easily won for the Canadian force bravely mustered a three day counter-assault until reinforcements arrived although Leo had been ordered to retreat. According to General Dextrase, Leo ought to have received at least eleven DCM’s for his actions in WWII alone for he viewed the one-man army as the epitome of the Allied soldier.
|Zwolle celebrating one of Leo's visits|
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