Old soldier updating the memorial He seeks to add the names of veterans who have moved to N. Carroll since '89 CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

August 11, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Hampstead resident Charles G. Leppo, who manned a howitzer during World War II at Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa and elsewhere, is now working to keep alive the memory of those who fought beside him, and those who followed in his footsteps.

In 1989, Mr. Leppo was master of ceremonies at the dedication of the rebuilt Hampstead veterans memorial. At that time, names that had been omitted from the list of World War I and World War II veterans were added, as were the names of men and women who had served their country in Korea and in Vietnam.

Mr. Leppo, 72, is working on another project to update the memorial, collecting the names of veterans who have moved to the North Carroll area since 1989 and those who have served in the U.S. armed forces since then.

Mr. Leppo said two new plaques are to be hung on the memorial, on Main Street near the old Hampstead Elementary School. They will include the names of men and women who served in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf, as well as names left off previous plaques.

"I've got 80-some names in my file cabinet," he said, names collected over the past year. About 100 more have been collected by members of the Hampstead American Legion post.

Those names will be added to the 1,200 to 1,300 on plaques on the wall, he said. In addition, two 81-mm mortars will be placed on the lawn near the memorial.

Mr. Leppo said he hopes the updated memorial will be ready for dedication on Memorial Day.

Why has he spent the past 18 months on this project?

"I love military history," he said.

"Besides that, I knew a lot of the fellows, and that makes a difference, too."

At one veterans' reunion, Mr. Leppo learned that his division -- the 77th Division of the 304th Field Artillery Battalion -- was inadvertently omitted from the account of the 1945 occupation of the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

He also learned that the official history of his division has omitted the names of at least 15 men -- including his own.

He said he hopes to write some letters and get these discrepancies fixed.

"We called ourselves the 'Guinea Pig Division,' " he said, because the men were trained for regular fighting, swamp fighting, desert fighting and mountain fighting. Much of what they learned was incorporated in later training manuals.

"My name will never be in the history books," he said. But compared with some whose names are in the books, "us guys made as much history."

His eyes grew misty.

"Most of us don't talk too much about the bad things," he said.

Mr. Leppo said he became involved with the 1989 redesign of the Hampstead veterans memorial as a representative of his American Legion post.

He said his position as adjutant of the post has given him access to military records that have added some names to his list.

Other names were contributed by people who have seen the project advertised in local newspapers.

The search for names is complicated by the fact that many veterans didn't register their discharge in the local county courthouse, as they are supposed to do, Mr. Leppo said.

"I'm surprised how many guys from World War II didn't do it," he said.

Does he get depressed by the fact that the memorial must be updated every few years, to add new names from new wars?

"There will be wars until the end of the Earth, is what the Bible says," Mr. Leppo said.

He said anyone from northeastern Carroll who has served in the armed forces, in the United States or overseas, may be listed on the monument. The deadline for submission of names is Sept. 30.

Information: 848-5718.

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