Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Largo man, D-day is like yesterday


Leonard Schroeder will never forget watching the sun rise off the coast of France the morning of June 6, 1944.

Schroeder, who was 25 and an Army company commander, spent the night before the D-day invasion with the 219 soldiers from Company F in small, flat-bottomed boats.

"We were a little nervous, hoping we were going to hit the place we were supposed to hit," said Schroeder, who is now 89 and lives in Largo.

At about 6:30 a.m., Schroeder's company began wading toward shore in waist-high water. He held up his .45-caliber pistol to keep it from getting wet.

Amid a flurry of smoke and gunfire, they stormed Utah Beach. Schroeder is believed to be the first American solider to step foot on the beach during the battle considered the turning point of World War II.

"We prayed and prayed that everyone got the right signal," said Schroeder, who retired from the Army in 1971 as a colonel.

It's been 64 years since that fateful day. But Schroeder said the images from that morning remain etched in his mind forever.

For the next eight hours, Schroeder led his men in battle. By noon, half of them were either killed or injured.

Relatives thousands of miles away in America were desperate for details.

Schroeder's wife, Margaret, 91, said she received a call from her mother-in-law that morning.

"She said, 'My son and your husband landed safely on the beach,' " Margaret said, laughing. "I thank God over and over that he made it back safely to his family."

During the fight, a machine gun round ripped open Schroeder's left forearm. The next thing he remembers, he was heading to a hospital in England.

"I lost some time after that, and don't remember what happened or how long," Schroeder said. "The decision was whether they could save my arm." Schroeder's forearm still bears the long scar from his five surgeries.

From Glen Burnie, Md., Schroeder graduated from the University of Maryland.

After World War II, he went on to fight in the Korean War and worked logistics during Vietnam.

He believes he is the only remaining survivor among his college classmates who participated in World II. Two of those classmates died last year.

Schroeder, who earned a Silver Star and a Bronze Star during World War II, now surrounds himself with memories of his Army service. Two ball caps with his unit's name are proudly displayed in his living room. In his office are framed military ribbons and certificates.

The black leather boots Schroeder wore when he landed on Utah Beach are in the garage. There is also a huge poster of him on the front of a French magazine that proclaimed him the first man to land on a beach in Normandy during D-day. He and his wife of 66 years were flown to France in 1984 in honor of D-day's 50th anniversary.

Though he turns 90 on July 16, there's another date that's just as important.

"I say that June 6 is my second birthday," he said.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or

For Largo man, D-day is like yesterday 06/05/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 7, 2008 8:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  4. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  5. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.