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Leonard Klima
Leonard Klima

Gender: male
Current City: Ottoville
Current State: Ohio
Honored by Michael Ford

My War Stories
1950 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). The mountainous terrain of the South Pacific provided America’s enemies with fortresses very difficult to overcome. This was because indigenous fighting forces carved away a mountain’s interior and attacked from within. Not only was this the case at Iwo Jima during World War II, but also in Korea. During that peninsula’s infamous war, Hill 266 was fired on so fiercely by American forces that it became known as it looked “bald.” Ottoville resident Leonard Klima, 79, had been drafted into the United States Army in 1950. He remembers “Old Baldy.” “I’ll tell you why that hill was so popular. That thing was fired on so much that all that was left was four feet of a chimney. There was no grass, trees, weeds or anything. It was fired on so much because the enemy was inside the mountain and had these big doors built into it that was on tracks. They had these three guns that would come out and they would fire three rounds and go back in, he said. “We couldn’t knock that outfit out; the Air Force couldn’t get them with air strikes because they were dug down in there and the doors were three feet thick. Well, our observers watched them for days and figured them out. So, one night they moved up close and when they came out the next day, they shot shells right in there and blew that all to hell. That ended that business.” Klima had been sent to basic training in Alabama before making his overseas voyage across the North Pacific from Washington State. After further training to fix guns, which he never did in the field, he was sent to the front. “At first, I was with an artillery unit that fired the 105mm self-propelled Howitzer. Well, we got pushed back to Old Baldy and when that happened, I was on the ground. I hadn’t even been issued a weapon yet, so I didn’t have to shoot anybody. Our outfit fired right in there; I don’t like to talk about it but that first five days was hell. That was the only real rough time I saw. The infantry was in front of us and we could see people at a distance. They’d just run right out and start shootin’ so they had to be doped up. You can’t hardly believe that a guy would stand there with a gun and shoot another guy like that but it happened,” he said. After that incident, Klima was transferred to a unit which operated a handful of M1 155mm Howitzers. This cannon was widely used and did an untold amount of damage across the peninsula. “I was transferred and I had it made as far as being in combat was concerned. We were about six miles back and set up bunkers that we lived in. We’d get missions when they wanted to knock somebody out or something. So, we took the 155 out with a truck and set it up — it had a cannon about a foot wide and 12-15 feet long. It was big and had its own wheels; we would jack it up and it was loud when we fired it, so we had to where protection we called ‘Mickey Mouses.’ We were given coordinates in degrees and elevation and we’d fire —that thing would recoil about 3 or 4 feet. We could fire more than nine miles if we had to, so we never even saw the target. Some missions would take 2 or 3 hours and we might do that 2 or 3 times,” he said. According to the Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Army by Jerold E. Brown, the M1 155 Howitzer could fire a 95-pound shell 16,355 yards; including armor-piercing shells, steel-shrapnel and high explosives. It was in use from World War II until the early 1960s. Klima served the time in combat which was required of him. However, as his memory fades, how long he was there is unclear because of Communist activities during the war.