SSgt. Leslie Cecil “Dickie” Abbott (ASN 20363621) was born on October 7, 1921 in Bedford, Bedford, Virginia. His father, Leslie Comer Abbott, was born and raised in Bedford County, Virginia. His mother, Margaret Lillian Clinebell, was a native of West Virginia and raised in Virginia. His father was a farmer and also worked odd jobs as needed. Leslie was his parent’s youngest child and he had an older sister, Florence Lillian.
Leslie was raised in Bedford County, Virginia. His mother died when he was ten years old and he grew up with his grandmother and her family. Growing up he loved riding horses and working in the wheat fields. After graduating high school in Bedford County he worked at a textile mill. On February 3, 1941 he enlisted in the Army National Guard in Bedford, Virginia.
After Pearl Harbor Leslie was called into service as part of Company A, based in Bedford, Virginia, and part of the 116th Infantry Regiment. In January 1942 the 116th Regiment participated in amphibious exercises at Cape Henry. In April they moved to Fort A.P. Hill for exercises and maneuvers in the Carolinas. In September 1942 the regiment left for England where they trained at Tidworth Camp in England. In May 1943 the 116th moved to Devon, England where they relieved a British regiment and assumed the responsibility of coast defense in Plymouth, England. From September 1943 through May 1944 the regiment was attached to the 29th Infantry Division and did extensive training in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.
The 116th Infantry was selected to lead the assault on the west of Omaha Beach while the 16th Infantry would lead the assault on the east of Omaha Beach. On June 5, 1944 the 116th regiment left for Normandy from Weymouth, England. Company A, Leslie’s company, was aboard the SS Empire Javelin and they were to assault the westernmost sector of the beach near Vierville, France. Prior to their assault, naval and aerial bombardment was to pound German defenses and leave shell holes on the beach for cover for the infantry. The men in Company A would learn that the bombardment was not as effective as planned at either goal.
At 04:00 on June 6, 1944 the men of Company A started climbing into the landing craft that hung over the sides of the Empire Javelin, which was about 12 miles from the coast. At 05:00 the naval and aerial bombardment began. The landing crafts had reached their assembly point at 06:00. At 06:38 the men from Company A were supposed to hit the beach. As the landing craft assault (LCAs) approached the beach they were under heavy fire from the Germans and several were hit or sunk. Men were in the sea, but the LCAs were ordered not to pick them up. Once the LCAs hit bottom, Company A troops made a mad dash for the beach. Many were either killed by enemy fire in the scramble for the beach, or drowned in the surf. The ones that reached the beach found there was little or no cover from the onslaught of enemy fire. SSgt Leslie C. Abbott was in a group of 29 men who made it to the beach where they were hit with a mass of enemy mortars and machine gun fire that killed everyone in the group.
Of the approximately 220 men in Company A, 103 were killed and another 100 wounded. By the end of the day, only 18 members of the company had avoided becoming casualties. Company A had 32 Virginia Guard soldiers from Bedford, Virginia, including SSgt Abbott. By the end of the day 19 were killed in action. The small town of Bedford (3,200) had proportionally suffered the nation's most severe losses on D-Day, as well as all of World War II.
In December 1947 the body of SSgt Leslie Cecil Abbott was laid to rest at Oakwood Cemetery in Bedford, Virginia. At the time of his death he was survived by his father and older sister. Leslie’s father had died about a year after his son’s death.
- 1930 United States Federal Census
- 1940 United States Federal Census
- U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
- Virginia, U.S., Birth Records, 1912-2015, Delayed Birth Records, 1721-1911
- U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current
- U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1970
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.