"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
The Regiment and our Association is sad to announce the passing of retired Army Colonel, and South Carolina militia Brigadier General James Herbert "Jimmie" Leach. Colonel Leach was the former Regimental S-3, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment under William F. Eckles 40th Colonel June 1952-August 53 and John C. F. Tillson III 41st Colonel September 1953-June 54. He passed away on 18 December 2009.
Officials say Leach, 87, lost consciousness while driving on Pleasant Point Drive near Picadilly Circle [on Lady Island] at about 2:30 p.m. and veered off the road, striking landscaping rocks. He was taken by ambulance to Beaufort Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Beaufort County [South Carolina] Coroner Ed Allen. A heart attack, and not the crash, is believed to be the cause of death, Allen said. Leach is survived by Marion, his wife of 58 years, and his son, Jamie.
Born in Houston, Texas, on April 7, 1922, Leach joined the Texas National Guard at 16 and, after Officer Candidate School, at 22 became the platoon commander in a tank company under later General Creighton Abrams during World War II. Subsequently Captain Leach commanded Company B 37th Armor 4th Armored Division during much of the combat across France. Leach was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism at Bigonville, Luxembourg on 24 December 1944 as part of the Battle of the Bulge. Three days later, his company captured the entry into Bastogne in relief of the 101st Airborne Division and held the area open for the rest of his battalion.
Between World War II and Vietnam, "Jimmie served in Korea on the island of Cheju, moderating the angry wrath among island natives, off-island Koreans and returning Koreans who had served in the hated Japanese Army. Subsequently Colonel Leach served with the 2nd Cavalry and in the late 1960’s served as the senior advisor, 5th Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Infantry Division before becoming the 40th Colonel, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, succeeding the late Major General George S. Patton III. According to one web source: "His aggressive leadership of the 11th is still remembered with awesome respect by his subordinates and his peers. For the second time, in his second war, he heard the report that, ‘Jimmie Leach is the bravest man I ever knew.’ "
Following Vietnam Colonel Leach "led the Army’s Armor Branch with skill and compassion in the early 1970’s, managing the portfolios of some 6,000 Army officers. Men like General Fred Franks and the current Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, report Jimmie was responsible for their very careers as he fought to keep these future General Officers in the Army although each had lost a limb to wounds in Vietnam." After all, Colonel Leach had his own five Purple Hearts for wounds he received in combat and understood what wounds could not affect in a career. And that was not the only way Leach showed his leadership and loyalty to those he served with:
"His defense of one young officer earned him the enmity of General William Westmoreland [Army Chief of Staff at the time] and he was passed over for promotion to General Officer. His son describes the scene at his home, with great friend General Creighton Abrams on hand offering support, but not interfering with this final decison, as a wake."
"Leach retired from the Army in 1972, and went to work with Teledyne until 1985. "…Eventually settled in Beaufort, where he was active in veterans’ affairs and served as an adviser to the Adjutant General of the S.C. Military. State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said the former Army officer was her go-to source for military and veterans’ affairs information.
‘He was this area’s most knowledgeable person when it came to veterans’ issues,’ Erickson said Thursday, fighting back tears. ‘He lived an incredible life of devotion to his country, his family and his God. Fighting back tears she went on to say. ‘He lived an incredible life of devotion to his country, his family and his God. We should all be proud to have had him as a member of our community.’ "
Lois Hurt, wife of a former tank company commander with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam remembers Colonel Leach:
"In 1971, as a new Army wife and en route to Germany for a tour in Schwabach, my husband, Bob Hurt, wanted to stop by Armor Branch to say hello to his former Blackhorse commander and to chat with the Armor Branch Chief. I went along never have been to such a prestigious place. Bob went in to see Col. Jimmie Leach while I waited outside the door. "Bob, where is your bride?" "She is just outside the door, Sir." "Bring her in here too. I want to meet her." I was called in and was blown away by the warmth and sincerity of this Chief of Armor. He made me feel so very much at ease in this auspicious office. He then pointed to a chair in the corner. "Lois, do you know the significance of that chair?" "No, Sir. I don’t." "That is the chair of the first Armor Branch Chief. Would you like to sit in it?" I cannot tell you how honored I was first to be in the Colonel’s presence and secondly to be allowed to sit in that chair. Jimmie, as I called him after he retired, made me think I was the most important person in the world. Bob had told me of his demeanor and he was so correct. What a Gentleman!
Since that time, we have had to pleasure of visiting Jimmie and Marion a few times in their Lady’s Island home. Three years ago they invited us to dinner along with some friends, Joan and Glenn Snodgrass. We were back in the real Army. Jimmie and Marion treated us as though we were royalty. Such charm. Such class. Such warmth. Such kindness. Such Old Army. Such Southern hospitality. What gems."
One retired senior NCO wrote: "Colonel Leach never forgot his enlisted roots. He probably had almost as many friends in the senior NCO Corps before he retired as he did in the senior officer’s corps." Yet the final word belongs to Jimmie Leach himself.
"Ken Burns got the sounds all wrong in "The War." Our 50 Cal machine guns went rat-a-tat just like he had it. But the German machine guns, they went brrrp, like canvas ripping."
Rest in Peace Old Friend
Sources: Multiple published sources from the world wide web.