Thursday, August 6, 2009

Around Town:Capt. Patrick G. Leonard


The Leonards of Flintridge were good Catholics. The father, Bernard Sr., was an accountant with the Southern California Telephone Company. When his first wife, Mary, died, leaving three small children, Bernard remarried a woman named Margaret.

During the 1930s, the family lived in the 4400 block of Commonwealth Avenue in Flintridge. They attended Holy Redeemer Church in Montrose. The older children had jobs. Bernard Jr. (“Barney”) worked as a bank clerk and played amateur golf. Margaret Josephine was a registered nurse. John W. (“Jack”) was a building supervisor for the Los Angeles Times. The youngest children, Robert and Patrick (“Pat”) attended grade school in Pasadena and high schools in Phoenix and San Jose.

This all changed on June 15, 1938, when Bernard Sr., died unexpectedly. It happened on a trip to San Jose. The next year, Patrick Leonard enrolled in Santa Clara University.

Suddenly, it was Dec. 7, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor. America was at war. Like so many others of his generation, young Patrick Leonard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was commissioned as a young second lieutenant in July 1942, just in time for two of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Campaign — Guadalcanal and Tarawa.

The Battle of Guadalcanal raged between Aug. 7, 1942 and Feb. 9, 1943. It began with an amphibious landing of 16,000 Allied troops, mostly Marines. Pat Leonard led his company and survived the battle. He also fought in the battle of Tarawa in late November 1943. Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret.), a former director of Marine Corps History and Museums, describes the battle:

Among the long list of U.S. Marine Corps battles, Tarawa has a special resonance. Even to those who know very little of Marine Corps history, it evokes images of a small sandy island in a coral atoll somewhere in the Central Pacific; amphibian tractors grinding their way across a barrier reef; dead Marines floating face down in the surf; an incredible maze of fortifications of concrete and coconut logs [an] enemy absolutely determined to fight to the death; and three days of soul-searing, flesh-rending, unabated violence.

Patrick Leonard was promoted to the rank of captain. The war continued.

The end came on June 27, 1944, when Capt. Patrick G. Leonard, USMC, was killed in action “in the Central Pacific.” A full month would pass before the family was notified.

In 1949, Capt. Leonard was reinterred, with his comrades, at the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii, plot C, grave 889.

Next year, on Memorial Day, we hope to include Pat Leonard’s name, and the names of other fallen heroes, on plaques in Memorial Park, La Cañada Flintridge.

Published Thursday, August 6, 2009 4:11 AM PDT
La Canada Valley Sun


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

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