William J. Ledward

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • WW II


William “Bill” John Ledward was born on 10 July 1908 in Westerly, Rhode Island. He was the oldest son of William H. and Elizabeth Ledward. William was a 1925 graduate of Westerly High School where he was an outstanding student and a member of the football team. William entered Rhode Island State College (RISC) in September 1925 with the class of 1929 majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of Delta Alpha Fraternity, as well as a member of the football and boxing teams. He participated in the Army ROTC program during his freshman and sophomore years. William received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering after three-and-a-half-years.

During his senior year at RISC, he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. He entered West Point after graduating from RISC in 1929. William was commissioned a second lieutenant upon his graduation from West Point in 1933. He served in the Army Air Corps, earning his pilots wings, and served as an artillery observer. Lieutenant Ledward completed the Officer’s Field Artillery course at Fort Sill, OK. After being promoted to Captain, he assumed command of the 76th Field Artillery Battery at Fort Ord, CA.

After being promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel at Fort Campbell, KY, he commanded the motorized Field Artillery Unit and later assumed command of the 27th Armored Field Artillery (FA) Battalion, 1st Armored Division at Fort Knox, KY. The 1st Armored Division was ordered to Fort Dix on 11 April 1942 to await their deployment overseas. The division’s port call required them to board the RMS Queen Mary at the New York Port of Embarkation at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on 11 May 1942. They arrived at Northern Ireland on 16 May 1942 and trained on the moors until they moved on to England on 29 October 1942.

The 27th Field Artillery Battalion’s first contact with an enemy was as part of the Allied invasion of Northwest Africa, Operation Torch, on 8 November 1942. Elements of the 1st Armored Division were part of the Northern Task Force and became the first American armored division to see combat in World War II. The division fought numerous actions in North Africa and engaged in the final campaign to reduce enemy resistance in Tunisia, occupying Mateur on 3 May 1943.

Elements took part in the initial landings at Salerno and Paestum, Italy on 9 September 1943, while other elements took part in the fighting near the Rapido River in mid-December 1943. Units under a Task Force Allen attacked and seized Mount Porchia, 4-9 January 1944, suffering heavy casualties. The Division was then switched to the Anzio beachhead, first elements landing 24 January 1944, where they repulsed heavy counterattacks and maintained defensive positions for four months, building up for the final break-through on 23 May 1944.

LTC Ledward’s Artillery Battalion was part of the allied force that attacked the Germans in order to breakout from Anzio. This action proved costly to American and German units. The 1st Armored Division lost 100 armored vehicles in the first day alone, while the entire force took over 4,000 casualties in the first five days of the offensive. Allied troops, however, counted 4,838 enemy prisoners, including 1,000 in Cisterna, and destroyed or damaged 2,700 enemy vehicles. Sadly, Lieutenant Colonel William John Ledward was killed in action on 4 June 1944. The same day, American forces liberated Rome.

LTC Ledward was awarded the Purple Heart (Posthumously). He was buried with full military honors at River Bend Cemetery, Westerly, Rhode Island. In 1945, the United States Army assumed control of the Panzer Kaserne in Schweinfurt, Germany. The Kaserne was renamed Ledward Barracks in 1951 in honor of Lieutenant Colonel William J. Ledward. As a result of the drawdown of American units in Germany during 2014, the Schweinfurt Garrison was returned to the German government. A ceremony marking the end of U.S. Army presence in Schweinfurt was held that day, and members of LTC Ledward’s family were present as our flag was lowered one last time in honor of LTC William Ledward.

Lieutenant Colonel William John Ledward, U.S. Army, was a son of Rhode Island who answered the call to service during World War II and gave his life in service to Rhode Island and America. He was another member of the “Greatest Generation”.