Belgium / Other
A veteran of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, Private Léo Leblanc became a much-loved personality among the inhabitants of Bastogne, when he moved there from the USA in 1997. The former soldier would frequently talk about his past as a soldier from the division and his experiences there during the Battle of the Bulge.
Leblanc was a soldier of the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, which was a part of the 101st Airborne Division.
During his time as a soldier, Leblanc was tasked with several logistical duties, which included the development of roads for the transportation of troops, as well as the mining of strategic infrastructure.
Like the rest of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge, Leblanc was thrown into the perimeter defending Bastogne. Initially sent to Neffe on 19 December 1944, he then became embroiled in a fight for survival around the village of Marvie, spending a very lonely Christmas Eve isolated and under fire.
Narrowly escaping death on several occasions during the Ardennes fighting, Leblanc would end up following his division all the way into Germany, before he eventually returned to America towards the end of 1945.
Back in Maine, his native state in the USA, Leblanc wanted to end his military career. After leaving the army, he worked as an industrial designer in a large company. Despite his comfortable life in the USA, Leblanc could not forget the difficult days he had spent alongside his comrades of the 101st Airborne Division in Belgium.
Motivated by meetings with various enthusiasts in the United States and in Belgium, including at the anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Bulge, he decided to go and settle permanently in Belgium, on the land where he had previously fought.
In 1997, Leblanc packed his bags for a one-way trip to Bastogne, the ‘Nuts City.’ Once there, he moved into a retirement home (Sans Souci Residence), where he continued to go for walks on the battlefield and maintain contact with local history enthusiasts.
Over time his health deteriorated and in 2004, Leblanc sadly passed away.
He has remained dear to many inhabitants of the region who met him whilst he lived in Bastogne, between 1997 and 2004.
In accordance with his final wishes, Leblanc’s ashes were scattered in the middle of the Bois de la Paix (Peace Wood), at the foot of a tree bearing his name.