|James Herbert (Jimmie) Leach|
Colonel James H Leach at Arracourt, France, in 2009
April 7, 1922|
|Died||December 17, 2009
Beaufort, South Carolina
|Buried at||Beaufort National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1938–1972|
|Commands held||WWII: Company B, 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division
Vietnam: 11th Armored Cavalry
|Battles/wars||World War II
Silver Star (3)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star (2) with "V"
Purple Heart (5)
James Herbert Leach (April 7, 1922 – December 17, 2009) was a United States Army colonel who served as a tank company commander in World War II and an armored regiment commander in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II and three Silver Stars in Vietnam.
During World War II, in July 1944 and 1945, Leach (then a captain) served in combat under Lieutenant Colonel Creighton Abrams (Abrams tank) who commanded the 37th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division, which beginning on August 1, 1944, joined and spearheaded for General George Patton and his Third Army. On June 28, after landing in Normandy on June 11 after D-Day (June 6) at Utah Beach, the 4th AD participated in Operation Cobra, which began the offensive out of Normandy and subsequent rapid advance across France, through the Lorraine Campaign and the Battle of the Bulge.
From May to September, 1948, Leach served as U.S. Army liaison to the government of South Korea on Jeju island at the beginning of the insurrection that has been termed the Jeju Uprising. Col. Leach later commanded the 11th Armored Cavalry as the 40th "Colonel of the Regiment" in South Vietnam from April–December, 1969 having taken command from Col. George Patton IV, son of his Third Army World War commander. As Chief of Armor Branch of the US Army in 1970-1972 he oversaw the careers of 3500 field-grade Army officers. As Chief, Col. Leach paid particular attention to the desire of battle-wounded officers to remain active in the Army. General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. credits Col. Leach with the critical role in maintaining his Army career and the career of other officers after Franks lost a foot in combat in Vietnam. Franks later led elements of Operation Desert Storm in the first Gulf War.
Col. Leach received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism at Bigonville, Luxembourg on Dec 24, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, and earned five Purple Hearts for wounds in the European campaigns. He also was awarded the Croix de Guerre of Luxembourg, Virtuti Militarie – Poland, two Legion of Merits, three Silver Stars during Vietnam, and two Bronze Star Medals for heroism. Other honors include: Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame, Ft. Benning, GA; First recipient of the Gold Medal of the Order of St. George, US Armor Association in 1986; Professor of Military History, Ft. Knox, Kentucky; President of Military Officers of America Association; and President of the Veterans Cemetery Committee of Beaufort (VCCOB).
After retirement from the U.S. Army in 1974, Col. Leach worked for defense contractor Teledyne for 14 years before retiring to Beaufort, SC. Col. Leach led successful efforts to expand the National Cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina. a resting place for war dead since the Civil War. He last visited France in September 2009, celebrating the 65th anniversary of the American liberation of the Province of Lorraine. At Chancenay, the memorial for the Battle of Arracourt and three other celebrations, Col. Leach offered remarks honoring the French and the soldiers who participated in his battles.
Lt. Colonel Abrams, who became U.S. commander in Vietnam and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described young Capt. Leach at 22: "The placid, modest, friendly exterior of this Officer disguises the fighting heart of a lion and the tenaciousness of a bulldog, all seasoned with an engaging personality. - Lt. Colonel Creighton W. Abrams, Dec. 31, 1944."
- Sorley, Lewis. Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the army of his time. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992. ISBN 0-671-70115-0
- The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, Hugh M. Cole,Chapter XXI, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1965 http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/7-8/7-8_21.htm
- Into the Storm, Tom Clancy, Fred M Franks, Tony Koltz, Penguin, 2007, p.51.
- Letter, Fred Franks to Jimmie Leach, 2009,courtesy of Col. Leach: "Just a couple of things. Recently I had opportunity to meet with Ric Shinseki just before he was confirmed as Pres. Obama’s VA Secretary. We both recounted how you were the sole champion to allow many of us in Armor to remain on active duty and how much all of us were grateful you did that. Now of course many can continue. You were our champion in those Vietnam days. Forever thanks."
- Battle at Bigonville, The Legacy of the 4th Armored Division, Turner Publishing, 1990 http://www.bigonville.info
- United States Cavalry and Armor Association, Gold Medallion Winner Hall of Fame https://netforum.avectra.com/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=USAA&WebCode=052
- The Patton Saber, Winter 2010 Remembering a Legendary Leader: James (Jimmie) Leach (1922-2009)http://www.generalpatton.org/Patton_Saber/PattonSaber_Winter10.htm
- The Island Packet, Aug 22,2010, by Patrick Donohue, France Bestows Legion of Honor to Beaufort's Jimmie Leach http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/08/22/1346429/france-to-bestoy-legion-of-honor.html
- The Island Packet, Dec. 17, 2009, by Patrick Donohue Heart attack claims James Leach, decorated veteran, advocate for military' 'http://www.islandpacket.com/2009/12/17/1074124/heart-attack-claims-james-leach.html
- The Late Col. James Leach at Chancenay Celebrates the 65th Anniversary of its Liberation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtJpoSi4viY
- The Late Col James H Leach at Arracourt, Celebrating the 65th Anniversary of the WW2 Tank Battles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVPsVzeppFw&feature=related
- Tanker Leach: One of Patton's Last WWII Tank Commanders Tells his Story of War and Service, Matthew E. Hermes, PhD, 2010, http://jimmieleach.us from Col. James H Leach, Efficiency Report, Dec 31, 1944