The Arrowhead Club

Leonard Wood Opie, Update

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding Leonard Wood Opie, flexible/waist gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. 

To view my original post and other information about Leonard Wood Opie, please see the links at the end of this post.

Entry into World War II

Leonard Wood Opie registered for the WWII draft on 16 February 1942. He indicated that he lived in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois at the time of registration. Leonard’s draft card also notes he was twenty years old and his birthdate was 14 September 1921.

His father, Chester A. Opie of Trivoli, Illinois is the person who would always know his address. Leonard was 5’8” tall, weighed 158 pounds, had brown eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.

At the time of his draft registration, Leonard’s employer was Altorfer Bros. & Co. in East Peoria, Tazewell County, Illinois. For an interesting WWII side story, please see the story about Leonard’s employer, Altorfer Bros. & Co., below.

A month after his twenty-first birthday, on 17 October 1942, Leonard enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Peoria, Illinois. He resided in Peoria County, Illinois at the time of enlistment.

Combat/Overseas Duty

After his training in the States, Leonard Wood Opie served his combat duty with the 8th Army Air Forces and the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England.

Leonard’s 384th Bomb Group Sortie record notes that his initial rank was Corporal, his duty was Arm-Gunner, and his pay was $140.40 per month. His sortie record also notes his home address as Mrs. Annie Opie (Leonard’s mother), Trivoli, Ill.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Leonard Wood Opie:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Leonard Wood Opie was assigned to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944.
  • On 2 August 1944, Leonard Opie was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155.
  • On 8 September 1944, Leonard Opie was transferred in grade to the Casual Pool, 8th AFRD, AAF Station 594.

According to “Army Air Forces Stations,” AAF Station 594 was “594 Stone Staffordshire 8, 14, 16, and 18, (Jefferson Hall) Replacement Control Ctrs.” “Army Air Forces Stations” was “A Guide to the Stations Where U.S. Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II.”

Being transferred to the casual pool likely meant that Leonard left Grafton Underwood and continued his WWII service elsewhere, although I have no information on where he served or what his new role in the war was. Leonard Opie served on only three missions with the 384th Bomb Group, all three in August 1944 and all three with the Brodie crew.

Return Home

Leonard Opie married and continued his military career after WWII.

On 13 May 1946, Leonard Opie married Ellen Hise in Pulaski County, Arkansas. Leonard was twenty-four years old and Ellen was twenty-three and lived in North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas.

The 1950 Federal Census notes that Leonard W. Opie was twenty-eight years old, married to Ellen T. Opie, who was twenty-seven years old, and living in Riverside, Riverside County, California. The kind of work he was doing was listed as Armed Forces.

The 1951 city directory for Riverside California lists Leonard W. and Ellen T. Opie living at 2643 Lime in Riverside. Leonard’s occupation was United States Air Force. Ellen’s occupation was listed as waitress at The Owl Cafe.

Leonard’s occupation for most of his working life, as noted on his death certificate, was Barber – Tech Sgt. and Kind of Business was U.S. Air Force – Retired. Leonard retired from the US Air Force in 1964 with a discharge date of 29 February 1964 according to his Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File.

Leonard and Ellen Opie moved to Longview, Gregg County, Texas in 1966, two years after he retired from the Air Force.

Leonard Wood Opie died on 20 May 1974 at the age of 52 of prostate cancer. Other information included on his death certificate notes his residence at the time of his death as Longview, Gregg County, Texas. His father was listed as Arthur Opie, mother as Annie Depperman, and wife as Ellen Opie.

Leonard’s obituary published on 21 May 1974 in the Longview (TX) News-Journal states,

L.W. Opie, 52, of Longview died Monday in a Longview hospital and funeral services are pending at Welch Funeral Home.

Opie was a retired U.S. Air Force technical sergeant and he was a native of Illinois. He had been a resident of Longview since 1966 and was a member of the First Lutheran Church.

Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Ellen T. Opie; a son, Allen Hise of Tatum; and two daughters, Mrs. Sue Reeves of Longview and Mrs. Sue Hill of West Point, Iowa.

Also surviving are two sisters, Mrs. Marion Stewart of Pekin, Ill. and Mrs. Barbara Quick of Peoria, Ill.; the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Opie of Peoria, Ill.; and five grandchildren.

Welch Funeral Home is in charge.

Family Connections

I would love to connect with relatives of Leonard Wood Opie, especially to learn the nature of his WWII service after he left the 384th Bomb Group. Please e-mail me if you have more information to share about Leonard.

About Altorfer Bros. & Co.

When I performed an internet search to discover what type of employment Leonard was working in at the time of his draft registration, I discovered an interesting newspaper article from the Peoria Journal Star. To get all the details, please refer to the article, but I’ll summarize it here.

Before and at the beginning of World War II, Altorfer Bros. & Co. made appliances, including washing machines. This would have been their primary business at the time Leonard Wood Opie worked for the company.

However, due to shortages from war production, companies like Altorfer could no longer obtain steel to build their products. On 15 May 1943, Altorfer produced its last household appliances for the rest of the war. The company was forced to turn its production lines toward making armaments for the war effort.

At the time, one of the biggest challenges to the Allies military effort was the strength of the steel the Nazis had developed to use to build their tanks. The Allies’ shells would just bounce off the Nazi tanks. According to the article, “Gen. George Patton sent out a plea to the military to have a shell made that would pierce the Nazi tanks.”

Altorfer, and many of the country’s largest manufacturers like John Deere and General Motors, gathered for a brainstorming meeting in southern Indiana. They were tasked with the challenge to make an anti-tank shell, an armored piercing shell.

Clyde Ulrich, director of manufacturing of Altorfer Bros., took back a piece of German tank steel from that meeting to his plant and began work to produce a shell for our anti-tank guns that could pierce that steel.

It took him nine months, but Clyde Ulrich was successful in making a shell that could pierce the Nazi tanks. Altofer Bros. & Co., the company for which Leonard Wood Opie worked shortly before he enlisted in WWII, and Clyde Ulrich would go down in history for creating and producing the shell that could beat the German tanks.


© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

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