A LOCAL LIFE: FRANK LEIMBACH, 88
Battle turned D.C. soldier Frank Leimbach into a prolific letter writer
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Frank Leimbach was a man of letters. One of them, to his mother, began like this:
Hello Momer, By the time you receive this you'll probably know I'm in a hospital somewhere in England due to wounds received on the invasion.
As it happened, Anna Leimbach knew nothing about her son's injuries. The official Western Union telegram wouldn't arrive at her Northeast Washington home for at least two more weeks.
Received two separate wounds, 22-year-old Pvt. Leimbach wrote, the first one being a machine gun bullet wound in the right leg just below the knee as I was getting off the invasion barge. . . . Didn't know I was hit at first . . . . All I wanted to do then was get up on the beach.
That was Omaha Beach. On June 23, 1944, the two-page letter on American Red Cross stationery that Pvt. Leimbach sent to his "Momer" appeared on the front page of an early edition of The Washington Post. As far as was known at the time, The Post reported, it was "the first personal letter received in Washington from one of the District's D-Day heroes."
Frank Leimbach, 88, died June 29 at Montgomery General Hospital of pneumonia. His life was all about delivering messages.
He was a paperboy when The Post bore news of the Great Depression.
After graduating from Eastern High School, he followed his affinity for the written word to Acme Printing, where he rose from pressman to owner.
A lineman and switchboard operator in the Army, Pvt. Leimbach was carrying more than 40 pounds of telephone wire, in addition to his regular pack, when he landed in Normandy.
And battle turned the young soldier into a prolific writer. War has a way of doing that. Letters are soldiers' link "back to civilization or the world or a happier time," said D-Day historian and Vietnam War veteran Ronald Drez.
Pvt. Leimbach showered his family in Washington with letters -- pages and pages of them, now worn and thin, about arriving in North Africa, fighting the cold and exhaustion and enjoying the relative sweet life of KP duty in England. In one letter, he dropped the news that he planned to marry his sweetheart, Harriette Brice, when he came home.
Golly Mom, he wrote, I'm just about the happiest guy on earth. . . . Looks like you got yourself another daughter.