PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Leslie W. was born May 30, 1926 in Oakland, California to William H. and Frances Trager. He attended Fresno schools and graduated from Hamilton High School January 28, 1944. Les and his class were to go through the actual graduating ceremonies at Fresno High School in June, but World War II had broken out and May 29, 1944, Les enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserves in San Francisco, California. He attended boot camp and QM/SM School at Farragut, Idaho, completing his stateside training on March 3, 1945. On April 26, 1945, in San Francisco Bay, he boarded the new troop transport General MB Stewart, APl4O, bound for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, and the Philippine Islands. En route, the Stewart made a simultaneous crossing of the equator and International Date Line, thereby initiating the vast majority of the passengers and ship's crew into the realms of Neptunus Rex and the Golden Dragon, in one wild initiation ceremony.
Arriving at Guiuan, Samar, P.I., and then on to San Pedro Bay, Les was re-designated as a SM striker and assigned to the staff of COMLSTFLOT 22 aboard LST 632. He boarded the 632 at Morotai anchorage, Halmahera Island, N.E.I. forty-five minutes prior to leaving in convoy for the last major amphibious combat landing in WWII, at Balikpapan, Borneo, July 1, 1945. Les served with the flotilla staff during his entire overseas service.
While LST 632 was en route from Biak, New Guinea, to the Philippines for outfitting and cargo assignment for the invasion of Japan, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Empire of Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Powers. Occupation duties began immediately, and the LST Flotilla 22 staff was busy assigning the thirty-six LSTs under its command to various occupation duties in Japan, China, Korea, French Indochina, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other sectors of the far east. Les finally accumulated enough "points" to return home while his ship was stationed in Shanghai, China. On May 28, 1946, he boarded the USS Mount Olympus, AGC8, for return to the United States.
Les received an honorable discharge from the USNR with the rating of SM3/c on June 18, 1946, at Camp Shoemaker, California, and immediately enlisted in the USNR (inactive). During this four year enlistment, he participated in one fourteen day summer training cruise aboard USS Bremerton CA13O. His first and only previous time aboard the Bremerton had been in Tsingtao anchorage, Tsingtao, China, to deliver guard mail to Admiral Dan Barby, 7th Fleet commander. He was honorably discharged June 18, 1950, seven days before the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel to start the Korean War.
After WWII Les continued his education, enrolling at Fresno State College in 1946 as a pre-engineering major, and transferring, in 1949, to the University of Southern California, School of Architecture. In 1955 while they were both in the infirmary, Les met his future wife, Marcia Drummond. They were married in Bakersfield, California July 1, 1956. They have two sons, Kevin and Erik. After graduation, Les received his California State license to practice architecture, and pursued a career in that profession, in Fresno, California, until 1991.
Sometime in 1995 Leslie’s interest in WWII Japanese military weapons and equipment led him to the Legion of Valor museum. By coincidence, his first visit to the museum coincided with a visit by Legion of Valor member, and present National Commander, Gerry Eckenrod (DSC). Despite having known Gerry as a fellow yacht club member and teaching a class in the Business Department at Fresno City College under department chairman Eckenrod's supervision, Les had no idea of Gerry's outstanding war record, a testimonial to his modesty regarding his service record. With a highly favorable recommendation from Gerry to museum director Charles (Chuck) Monges, Les found himself appointed on the spot, and honored as a new member of the museum staff, a role he has enjoyed for over four years. Exchanging "war stories" with other veterans, and educating younger generations to the sacrifices and contributions made by military veterans of all wars is a highly interesting and rewarding experience, and one that Les hopes to continue into the future. Thank you, Legion of Valor Museum.