Technician 5th Grade Leon Bush (1917–1943)

Leon Bush in a detail from a July 3, 1942, group photo of Company “C,” 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (Courtesy of the Newton family)
ResidencesCivilian Occupation
Georgia, FloridaPlasterer
BranchService Number
U.S. Army34051569
TheaterUnit
MediterraneanCompany “C,” 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Silver Star Medal, Purple HeartKasserine Pass, El Guettar

Author’s note: Delaware’s World War II Fallen occasionally highlights men and women without any known connection to the First State. This article is part of a series on men of the 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

Early Life & Family

Leon Bush was born on March 26, 1917, in Miller County, Georgia, the son of Burrell Benjamin Bush (a farmer, 1892–1980) and Beulah C. Bush (née Hodges, 1895–1933). The family was living in Colquitt, Georgia, when Bush’s father registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.

On January 10, 1920, he was recorded under the name Lossie L. Bush, living with his parents and younger brother on the family farm in Miller County. By the time he was recorded again on the census on April 12, 1930, the family had expanded. Leon now had two younger brothers and a younger sister. They were recorded as living on the family farm in Miller County, located along the road between Donalsonville and Colquitt.

Bush dropped out of school after he completed two years of high school. By April 1, 1940, he was living with his brother, Lester, at the home of his aunt and uncle, at 2340 Northwest 52nd Street in Miami, Florida. It was a crowded household, with a total of six adults and eight children living there. Bush and his brother were all plasterers, though both been unemployed for the past 11 weeks as of April 1, 1940.

When Bush registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, his employer was listed as “Larson Builder (Nothrup Lumber Co)” and the registrar described him as standing six feet tall and weighing 185 lbs., with black hair and blue eyes. At some point, he became engaged to Ruth Elizabeth Englund (1923–2015), a bookkeeper living in Miami.


Military Career

Bush was drafted before the U.S. entered World War II and joined the U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, Florida, on April 11, 1941. By December 25, 1941, Bush, now a private 1st class, was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was a member of Company “C,” 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion. By July 3, 1942, when he was photographed with his company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he had been promoted to technician 5th grade.

July 3, 1942, photo of Company “C”, 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Note the M3 tank destroyers. (Courtesy of the Newton family)

It is unclear what Bush’s duty was. Based on a change of duty roster dated September 4, 1943, many Company “C” technician 5th grades were vehicle drivers. A few had different duties including armorer, mechanic, rifleman, and gunner.

Technician 5th Grade Bush went overseas to England with the unit in August 1942 and arrived in North Africa in January 1943. The battalion, equipped with the M3 Gun Motor Carriage (a halftrack with a 75 mm gun), first saw combat at Kasserine Pass during the Tunisian campaign.

Company “C” under bombardment by German artillery at El Guettar (Courtesy of the Newton family)

On April 3, 1943, during the Battle of El Guettar in Tunisia, Technician 5th Grade Bush was one of four men who performed what his company commander, 1st Lieutenant Baker D. Newton (1918–1961), later referred to as “a particularly hazardous job, for which I recommended a citation.”

According to an account (possibly the text of his Silver Star citation) quoted in The Miami Herald on November 20, 1943, Bush 

was sent with a portable radio and three men to establish a post from which to observe [an] enemy artillery battery which was subjecting his company to heavy fire.  Despite intense artillery, mortar and small arms fire, Bush maintained his post on a bare ridge without cover and relayed the sendings of the observer by radio to his company commander who in turn passed them on to a friendly artillery unit which fired on the enemy battery and silenced it.

According to the article, Bush “was ordered to come down but asked his company commander to be allowed to stay at his post and direct the firing, knowing it was almost certain death.” He was struck in the head by fragments from a mortar shell and killed.

Company morning reports from early April 1943 mentioning Technician 5th Grade Bush’s death (National Personnel Records Center)

Technician 5th Grade Bush was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal, which was presented to his father by Major General William Bryden at Bainbridge Army Airfield, Georgia, on October 9, 1943. Bush was initially buried overseas. However, in May 1948, Bush’s body was returned to the United States. He was buried at Union Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Colquitt, Georgia. Bush’s fiancée, Ruth E. Englund, married Johan V. Anderson in 1952, with whom she raised three children.


Notes

Hair Color/Company Photo

Curiously, though the registrar described Bush’s hair color as black, it looks much lighter in the company photograph. Registrars sometimes made errors in recording physical descriptions. It isn’t really a surprise considering virtually every adult male in the country had register on a single day: R-Day, October 16, 1940. Although it is possible that Bush was misidentified on the back of the photo, I’ve been able to confirm multiple identities for other men in the photo with no errors noted other than the spelling of some names. A photo (admittedly a low quality one) of Bush printed in a contemporary newspaper also closely resembles the man identified as Bush in the company photograph.

Final Battle

Hazel Fowler Nelson’s November 20, 1943, article in The Miami Herald stated that while setting up the observation post, “Two of the men assigned to the mission were killed starting up the hill, but Bush and one other got to the top and carried out their work.” However, that account is contradicted by Company “C” morning reports, which indicated that the only casualties that day were Bush and a Sergeant Murphy who was slightly wounded. Indeed, a May 17, 1943, letter by Bush’s company commander, Baker D. Newton, stated that “four of them did a particularly hazardous job, for which I recommended a citation. (one post-humously)[.]”

Excerpt of Baker D. Newton’s letter, dated May 17, 1943, that alluded to Technician 5th Grade Bush’s actions (Courtesy of the Newton family)

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the family of Technician 5th Grade Bush’s company commander, Baker D. Newton, for the use of a photo and letter that were important in telling this story.


Bibliography

“58 Georgia War Dead En Route From Africa.” The Atlanta Constitution, May 14, 1948. Pg. 6. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67163759/leon-bush-58-georgia-war-dead/

Applications for Headstones, compiled 1/1/1925–6/30/1970, documenting the period c. 1776–1970. Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_2421401755_0399-01417

Company morning reports for Company “C,” 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion, December 1942 to April 1943. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

“Gen. Bryden Will Make 2 Posthumous Awards.” The Atlanta Constitution, October 9, 1943. Pg. 11. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67163553/bush-silver-star/

“Leon Bush.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/46662449/leon-bush

“Merry Christmas Company ‘C’ 894th Tank Destroyer Bn.” December 25, 1941. Courtesy of the Newton family.

Nelson, Hazel Fowler. “Silver Star Awarded Miamian Posthumously.” The Miami Herald, November 20, 1943. Page 9-A. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/44213164/leon-bush-894th-tank-destroyer/

Newton, Baker D. May 17, 1943, letter to his family. Courtesy of the Newton family.

“Ruth Elizabeth Anderson.” U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847–Current. Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/431175735:2190?indiv=try&o_vc=Record%3aOtherRecord&rhSource=8784

“Swedish Tradition Revived At Nuptials.” Miami Daily News, June 8, 1952. Pg. 3-B. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67164865/leon-bushs-fiancee/

“Two Georgians Get Silver Star.” The Atlanta Constitution, October 15, 1943. Pg. 21. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/44081760/t5-leon-bush-co-c-894th-tank/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4300126_00561

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531992_00189

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00581-00647

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942–1954. Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994. National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.fold3.com/record/701762628/u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954-bush-leon, https://www.fold3.com/record/702464800/u-s-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954-bush-leon

World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6482/images/005150614_01576

World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789–2007. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/87688083/world-war-ii-army-enlistment-records-leon-bush

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Florida, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44005_07_00003-01308


Last updated on January 14, 2022

More stories of World War II fallen:

To have new profiles of fallen soldiers delivered to your inbox, please subscribe below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s