We're grateful this week at the Lucas County Historical Society Museum to Daniel Montgomery, of Des Moines, who drove down Tuesday to donate to the military collection this framed display devoted to his uncle, Ben N. Lenig (1916-2009), a World War II veteran.
I mentioned Ben in a post here during late February ("McCollough and Lenig Report from Camp Bowie, Texas"), noting how he and a buddy, Don McCollough, had gone into Des Moines during January of 1941 to enlist. The men's unit was the 113th Cavalry Regiment, an Iowa National Guard outfit that had been inducted into federal service on Jan. 13, 1941, and moved to Camp Bowie, Texas, on Jan. 25, a few days after Ben and Don enlisted.
The 113th Cavalry Regiment served stateside for three years, then during January of 1944 sailed for England where it was converted to the 113th Cavalry Group (Mechanized), with the 1st Squadron becoming the 113th Cavalry Squadron (Mechanized) and the 2nd Squadron becoming the 125th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized), both subordinated to the 113th Cavalry Group. Ben's squadron was the 125th and he was assigned as a tank commander.
The 113th Cavalry Group landed on Omaha Beach on June 16, 1944, then fought its way across Europe as the mechanized cavalry group for the U.S. XIX Corps, in Normandy, the Netherlands and the conquest of Germany.
Dan mentioned an incident involving Ben that had been included in a report to Iowans by Gordon Gammack, The Des Moines Register's veteran reporter and war correspondent. I thought I might be able to find that article, but couldn't. Another version of it, however, was published in The Herald-Patriot of March 29, 1945, under the headline, "Chariton Sergeant Goes Under Water." Here it is:
With the 9th U.S. Army on the Western Front --- Staff Sergeant Ben N. Lenig, North Grand street, Chariton, Iowa, learned the value of water as camouflage recently while on a patrol with his company of the 125th Cavalry Reconnaissance squadron along the Roer river in Germany.
Assigned the task of checking a stake which indicated the rise and fall of the river during the recent flood period, the patrol had waded out more than 20 feet from the bank and was moving the stake to a new location when a German plane came over.
An American anti-aircraft searchlight, spotting the plane, lighted the area, and the entire patrol went under water to avoid the searching enemy ship and consequent strafing.
According to S-Sgt. Lenig, who usually travels on land in a tank, the Roer is too cold for swimming.
The centerpiece of the Lenig display is Ben's Bronze Star Medal, awarded during 1945 as the result of his part in military operations in France on July 9, 1944. That incident was reported as follows in The Chariton Leader of April 3, 1945, under the headline, "Chariton Sergeant Wins Bronze Star."
With the Ninth United States Army in France --- The Ninth United States Army, under the command of Lieutenant General Simpson, has paid tribute to Staff Sergeant Ben N. Lenig for heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy on July 9, 1944. S. Sgt. Lenig is the son of Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Lenig, North Grand Street, Chariton, Iowa.
S. Sgt Lenig, 125th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized, with his tank covered the withdrawal of the Squadron from the vicinity of Le Mesnil-Veneron, France. Though subjected to heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire for thirty minutes, he remained behind and successfully maneuvered his tank and delivered effective fire against the enemy.
S. Sgt. Lenig's courage and unflinching devotion to duty allowed the Squadron the necessary time to withdraw with a minimum of loss and, as such, reflects high credit upon himself and the forces of the United States.
The other medals in the display are (counterclockwise from upper left) American Defense Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Army of Occupation (Germany) Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, and, at the top, another Good Conduct Medal.
Ben, who was a 1933 graduate of Chariton High School, returned to the United States with his unit and was discharged during October of 1945, having served overseas for 22 months. He returned to Chariton, where he married Lois Moore. She had a daughter, Martha, but the couple had no children together.
The family located in Des Moines where he devoted 30 years of service to the U.S. Postal Service. He died at the age of 93 on Dec. 13, 2009, and is buried with Lois in the Chariton Cemetery.