By Christine Baldwin | Librarian
Leonard King was born in Maryland. He was an only child. He quit school in the 9th grade and worked unloading products for the local A&P store. Not liking it, Leonard decided to join the U.S. Army, but his letter got intercepted by his mother and she canceled his enlistment. But when he became seventeen in 1946, Leonard was able to join without a signature. He thought the service was a good deal with the incentive of being able to retire in 20 years. He went to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where since he was the biggest recruit, he was put in charge of weekend duty. This ended one day, when he woke up his platoon sergeant with a concern. Leonard had to pull KP for the next month!
His first tour was in Korea (before the war), where he was a truck driver, getting bread for the mess halls. When his truck failed to pass inspection, his CO had Leonard pulling weeds in the camp. He decided to see if he could transfer, so went to the mess sergeant and asked if he could work for him. Yes! So Leonard worked each 30 day shifts; one month potatoes, one month vegetables, one month meat and one month baking. Since the area was a replacement depot, there were up to 5,000 men at one time; lots of work!
He was sent to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas next, where he made E-6. The camp was closing and Leonard was told that he would be sent to Fort Hood, Texas; not a place he wanted to go. So Leonard left the service and went back to Maryland. But soon, he decided to reenlist for six years, which made his mother happy. Going to Fort Knox, Kentucky, Leonard was with an armored battalion heading to Korea for the war. But since he had already been there, Leonard was not sent. Instead in 1952, he was off to Germany, where he met his future wife. In fact while he was dating her, Leonard bought her a nice red skirt and white blouse from the PX. She was so thrilled that she tried them on in their car! It was also here that he made mess sergeant. It was back to New York to a Nike missile site and then a quick relocation to Winsor Locks, Connecticut. At this time, his wife was pregnant and Leonard was told that no children were allowed. So he requested a transfer to Manchester, Connecticut, which allowed quarters and families. One funny story from this time is when Leonard was picked to be Santa Claus, arriving on a very windy day on a helicopter. When he stumbled off, his pants fell down!
Another tale is when he was in Germany, Leonard bartered for a pig. When an inspection came up, he hid the pig in the boiler room. Unfortunately, it was found and he was told to get rid of it. He gave it to his wife and she took it to her family. When he went to visit them, they told him the pig was in the basement, but he couldn’t find it. His wife took him down and there, in several cans, was his precious pig! At one of his stations in Germany, Leonard was asked to cook for the 7th Corps General. Loving a challenge, Leonard said yes. The general was a tea drinker unlike everyone else, so Leonard learned how to brew a perfect cup of tea. Next, he was off to Vietnam, but while aboard the ship, Leonard severely hurt his hand and was sent to Hawaii for surgery. While there, his wife wrote a letter to the commanding general asking that her husband be stationed at Walter Reed, since she was due to have a baby. So, Leonard was able to be at Walter Reed to see his new daughter. His next tour was at Bedesbach, Germany, where he was asked to take a six bedroom house. This worked out well since his wife’s family could come a stay on the weekends! Leonard finished his military career at Fort Holabird, Maryland.
Leonard spent the next 24 years driving a bus. When his wife passed away, he came to AFRH-W in 2015. He is an avid Washington Capitol fan and likes to wear his 2018 Stanley Cup champion hat and carry his Ovi O’s cereal (Alex Ovechkin)! He also enjoys European soccer, so you may see him wearing this jersey also. Leonard will be celebrating his 90th birthday here in November with many friends and family!