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Leopoldville Memorial Association Secretary Roger Baker Lives on!

December 3, 2014

I browsed a Duluth bookstore where I found the book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General.”
It caught my eye because Roger Baker, SS Leopoldville survivor and secretary for the Leopoldville Memorial Association, said Mr. O’Reilly mentioned the Leo disaster in his book. Mr. Baker must be at least 90. He urged us to communicate with Mr. O’Reilly to ask him to dedicate a segment of his Fox News show to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the sinking.
I care about the tragedy because I lost my only maternal uncle Dec. 24, 1944 when he and hundreds of others died after being shipped to France aboard the SS Leopoldville. My wife and I in 2007 went by boat to the location of the SS Leopoldville for prayers and to place a wreath on the water.
Back to the book in Duluth: I found the mention in the O’Reilly book by checking the index. On page 139 a paragraph incorrectly stated “800 soldiers went to the bottom of the Atlantic,” after being hit by the torpedo from U-boat 486. In fact 763 soldiers died as a result of the attack in the English Channel, but about 300, or so, went down with the ship. Most died in the icy English Channel water because of a botched rescue. I spoke with men who survived the tragedy in Sarasota, Florida, in 2006. Some of their friends reported that bodies washed ashore near Cherbourg, France, for days. Truly horrifying.
I was damned disappointed by the sloppiness of Mr. O’Reilly’s writing. Certainly, one could make a case that a ship sunk in the English Channel went down into “the Atlantic,” or at least an arm of the Atlantic, but they didn’t “go to the bottom.” The number of U.S. soldiers lost has been well documented. So why be so frivolous with the truth? Am I quibbling about things that don’t matter? They matter to me! I wanted to be certain to know how my heroic uncle PFC Carl Ralph Bonde, Jr. died.

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