Photo of the Month

Senior officers of the 359th Infantry Regiment, 1944

From left: Col. Robert Bacon, Lt. Col. Leroy "Fireball" Pond, Lt. Col. J.F. Smith, Lt. Col. D.G. Gorton, Major Leonard Dull, Europe, circa 1944. Pond and Smith are wearing Silver Star medals. Gertrude Pond Collection (S-95-42-43)

 

Lt. Col. Leroy Pond
By Tristan Rondeau

Note: Tristan Rondeau is from Argentan, France. He is keenly interested in World War II history, specifically, the 90th Division of the U. S. Army and the Battle of Normandy. Tristan has been researching the story of Fayetteville native Leroy Pond, who served with the 90th Division.

Leroy Pond was born in Fayetteville, Washington County, Arkansas, on June 6th, 1917, to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Pond. In 1933, he graduated from Fayetteville High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas and his R.O.T.C. commission as second lieutenant on June 6, 1938.

In 1943 Pond became commanding officer of A Company, 1st Battalion, 359th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Division of the U. S. Army. He landed with his unit on Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 (his 27th birthday). He was immediately involved in the Battle of Normandy. In early July 1944, when the fierce battle of Mont Castres raged, Pond took command of the whole 1st Battalion and managed to drive the German soldiers back, even when he and his troops were surrounded and without contact with the rear.

Pond was promoted to the rank of Major and became the official commander of the 1st Battalion. In late August 1944, at the Battle of Le Bourg Saint Leonard at Falaise Gap, he fought with his men and led the counter-attack to re-take the town.  There he received the nickname “Fireball,” because of his blond-reddish hair and his fearless behavior during battles.

On December 14, 1944 he was wounded in action, at Dillingen, in Germany. The medics saved his life and he was evacuated to a hospital in England, but he died January 15th, 1945, as a result of wounds received a month earlier. On February 3, 1945, his parents received a telegram announcing the tragic loss.

At the age of 27, he became one of the most famous and respected officers in the whole 90th Division. His death was a tragedy for both his soldiers and his officers. Col. Raymond Bell, commander of Pond’s regiment said, “He had become a legend in the 1st battalion of my regiment. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of all of the men.” Another officer, D. Gordon, describes him as “one of the most active and fearless commanders I have ever known and loved by all his men and associates.” 

For all he did, Lt. Col. Leroy Pond was awarded, among others, the Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster (twice), the Silver Star, the Bronze Star (twice), the Purple Heart (twice), and the French Croix de Guerre with silver star.

To commemorate Lt. Col. Pond’s service during World War II, two military installations were named after him: Pond Barracks, near Amberg, Germany, and the LeRoy Pond Army Reserve Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Pond also had a student housing center on the University of Arkansas campus named after him. Those surplus barracks that housed single men no longer exists, but the street where the barracks were located (just south of today's Bud Walton Arena) bears the name of "Leroy Pond Drive."

Lt. Col. Leroy Pond's uniform and medals

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