Leonard Treherne “Max” Schroeder Jr, the first American to set foot on Utah Beach from a landing craft.
Schroeder was born in the Baltimore suburb of Linthicum Heights, Maryland, on July 16, 1918. Although bullied as a child, Schroeder became an outstanding athlete in high school, graduating in 1937 from nearby Glen Burnie High School where he played soccer and baseball. While captain of his high school’s soccer team in 1936, they won the Maryland state championship. He then attended the University of Maryland, College Park, on a full athletic scholarship. While there, he was enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). In June, 1941, Schroeder graduated from the University of Maryland and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army at the age of 22. In December, 1941, he married the former Margaret Nicholson, whom he had met while in high school. The couple’s first child, a son, was born the following year. They would later have two more children (a daughter and another son
If we think of the D-day invasion it is important to remember the men and women who were there and reflect on what they went through that day. One of those men was retired Army Colonel Leonard “Max” Schroeder then a 25-year-old Captain. Colonel. Schroeder and his wife, Margaret, moved to Largo, Florida when he retired from the Army in 1971.
During his 30-year career he received many awards including a Silver Star , Bronze Star , and a Purple Heart for his wounds at Normandy but he is perhaps best known for being credited as the first American to set foot on Utah Beach from a landing craft. That day Captain Schroeder was the tip of the spear for the Americans. As the story goes he and his men left the USS Barnett
at 2:30 am in their landing crafts headed for the beaches. Schroeder’s landing craft carried 22 men towards the beaches including 56-year-old Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. , President Franklin Roosevelt’s son. Roosevelt would die about a month later in France and would receive the Medal of Honor posthumously.
As they sailed to France from England on the night of June 5 aboard the navy’s USS Barnett on the rough English channel, they heard Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s
exhortation to the troops over the radio, “Together, we shall achieve victory”. Afterwards, the company commanders were summoned by the 2nd Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Carlton MacNeely, to Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s quarters for a final briefing before the invasion. When the meeting ended near midnight, Schroeder later recounted, the officers “wished each other well and shook hands”, and MacNeely put his arm around Schroeder’s shoulders. Addressing the young captain by his nickname, “Moose”, MacNeely said, “Well, Moose, this is it. Give ’em hell!” Schroeder said they both “choked up” and he replied, “Well, colonel, I’ll see you on the beach!” Roosevelt said, “Moose, take me in your boat when you go ashore”. At 2:30 a.m. on June 6, Schroeder’s company left the Barnett to board their LCVP landing craft. Before departing the Barnett to face the enemy, Schroeder wrote a letter to his wife: “I told her where I was, what I was about to do, and how much I loved her”
They finally arrived on shore in their landing crafts at 6:28 am with an order to liberate a local village a few miles beyond the shore. Nearly half of the men were killed and Schroeder was shot multiple times in the arm requiring hospitalization and nearly an amputation.
It is important that we remember him as the hero that he is and what he did for our country that day. At the 50-year anniversary in Normandy, France he was honored and recognized for his efforts on D-day. Colonel Schroeder’s uniform and the boots he was wearing from that day are displayed at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, Florida along with a recording of his voice narrating his account of D-day. Colonel Schroeder and his wife lived only miles away from us at Veterans Funeral Care and we feel very proud to have had such a hero right in our backyard.
According to the Veteran’s Administration, approximately 492 WWII veterans die every day. That being said there will come a day when they are all gone. If you come across a WWII vet or are fortunate enough to know one make sure you tell them thank you for what they did for us.
After World War II, Schroeder remained in the army as a career officer, serving on active duty for 30 years. In the late 1940s, Schroeder lived with his family in Japan, where he was part of the occupation forces with the rank of Major. Upon the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, he was an Air Operations Officer, coordinating air support for ground forces and planning bombing strikes. After the Korean War ended in 1953, he participated in a British Staff College critique of World War II battle strategies. One of his fellow students was Israeli military leader and future prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Later, Schroeder served during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. He had frequent overseas assignments during the 1950s–1960s, including England, Greece, and Turkey. In the U.S., he was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Meade, Maryland (very near his boyhood home in Linthicum Heights).
Shortly before his death from emphysema early on the morning of May 26, 2009, old age 90, Schroeder reflected on his 30 years of military service to the nation, saying he still missed the comradeship and family-like brotherhood of army life. At televised ceremonies on June 6, 2009, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the Armed Forces Military Museum presented Schroeder’s family with a plaque in his memory. The plaque displayed the insignia of the 19 Army divisions that landed on the Normandy beaches. He is interred at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, alongside his wife, Margaret, who died on January 8, 2010.
On D-Day, 4,414 Allied troops lost their lives, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.
German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were documented for at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.
72,000 Americans US soldiers are still missing from ww2?