Editor’s note: This letter was originally published by the Norborne Democrat in 1944. It was brought to us by Ruth Crum of Richmond, the niece of the late Lester Stroud. Lt. Stroud died in 1957 and is buried in the Memphis National Cemetery. The letter is being published again in tribute to the lieutenant and to other veterans. It begins with an introduction by the Norborne newspaper.
“It is a pleasure and a tribute to print a letter such as we received this week from Staff Sergeant Joseph Grass, a friend, admirer and fellow solider who fights alongside one of our own remarkable boys, known to everybody – Lt. Lester Stroud. Here is the letter:
Italy, Anzio beachhead,
April 7, 1944
I am writing this letter in regard to a young Army officer from your little town of Norborne, Mo. His name is Lt. Lester C. Stroud. I wish you would publish it in your paper so that the people of Norborne could know just what kind of boys they have fighting over here.
I am a sergeant in Lt. Stroud’s company and every man here will tell you exactly the same words I am.
I have been fighting for one year now and have seen a lot of officers, but none like him. He is our commander, our father, our mother … ALL at the same time.
There isn’t anything in the word he won’t do for us. And he never asks us to do anything he won’t do himself.
The night of March 1, 1944, we were all dug in along a creek bank about 300 yards from the enemy. The Germans were throwing in a lot of artillery shells on us.
All at once a German patrol of 25 men was right in front of us. They opened up with machine guns and hand grenades. They kept us down in our foxholes until we couldn’t fire back at them.
We finally killed five of them. The rest broke through our lines. They started straight for Lt. Stroud’s dug-out, which was about 50 yards down the creek.
He and his first sergeant were there alone. I called him on the phone and told him they were coming.
All at once an artillery shell landed right in front of his hole and the Germans were only about 20 yards away.
I saw Lt. Stroud crawl out of his hole with his Thompson sub-machine gun. The blood was running down his left arm and leg.
He had been hit with the artillery, but that didn’t stop him. He stood up in the open with the moon shining bright and opened up with his Tommy gun.
Well, we saw about 12 or 13 of those gunners fall over dead – then the rest surrendered.
After it was over Lt. Stroud said. ‘Boys, we sure cut those skunks down.’ He told me later what he meant by ‘we’.
He had his wife’s name cut in he stock of that gun. It seems as though her name is Joe, for he said he called the gun ‘Joe’.
Anyway, whoever Joe is, she and the people of Norborne should be mighty proud that they have a man named Stroud fighting for them.
– Staff Sergeant Joseph Grass”
According to a relative of Lt. Stroud’s, he served with the Army in Italy and France during World War II. He was wounded in France and discharged in 1947 with the rank of captain. As a paraplegic veteran, Lester passed away February 11, 1957 and was laid to rest in Memphis National Cemetery.