• newark
  • Essex
  • January 15, 1944
  • August 16, 1968
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • 1LT
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Stephen W. Leonardis was born on January 15, 1944, to William and Mary Leonardis.  His home of record is Newark, NJ.  He had an older sister, Rochelle.

Stephen attended St. James Grammar School in Newark and graduated from Archbishop Walsh High School in Irvington.  He went on to attend Seton Hall University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.  While at Seton Hall, he joined the ROTC and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army. 

In October 1966, Leonardis became a member of the US Army Intelligence.  On December 11, 1967, he left the United States for Vietnam as First Lieutenant (1LT) of Advisory Team #65.  He served in the Mekong Delta area until his death on August 16, 1968, as a result of hostile fire.

He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medals.

The following letter dated, March 1, 1993, was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Leonardis from Maurice Sponcler, Jr.  Sponcler was Stephen's best friend and coworker in Vietnam.

It was certainly my pleasure, after so many years of attempting to locate you, to talk to you, Mr. Leonardis on Friday.  As I related, Steve was my best friend and co-worker in Vietnam, and I have continued to think of him often and regularly over the years.

I enclose the certificate where a flag has been flown for the last several years in his honor before our courthouse here in Dalton, Georgia.  We have an "Avenue of Flags" to honor our deceased comrades, and it is quite a sight to see several hundred American Flags being positioned around our courthouse.  I guess that is what started me again to attempt to locate you.

I enclose a copy of various correspondences I have forwarded to Senator Sam Nunn who eventually put me in touch with the "In Touch" program which got us together in a very short period of time.  I have had two or three Congressmen and at least two Senators, over the years, attempt to locate your home address for me.

I have a picture album of where Steve and I worked in Sadec with numerous pictures of Steve and I that you might enjoy seeing.  I did not want to reopen wounds that might be healing, but these are very pleasant pictures where you can see how happy Steve was during those months in Vietnam despite the combat conditions we lived under.

As I told you on the phone, Mr. Leonardis, Steve was very religious and attended all of the Catholic Church masses in our area during the nine months we worked together, sometimes at great inconvenience.

Steve was very brave having never turned down any assignment given to him, and volunteered, at night, including volunteering me, who was not quite as brave, to go out and defend small fortified areas where Vietnamese who had changed from being Viet Cong to supporting the government had lived.  For some reason these people were afraid at night, and felt much better if at least one American was with them as they felt like other Americans would come if there were problems.

As I related, I was injured myself in a mortar attack one night having lost several teeth and getting several pieces of shrapnel in my legs.  I was in the hospital for two to three weeks and Steve essentially took over my assignment as the Intelligence officer of Sadec Province.  When I returned from the hospital, I almost immediately went up and began my new assignment with the Vietnamese Ninth Division Headquarters, which was co-located with the Province Headquarters or vice versa.

I had breakfast with Steve the morning of the tragic incident that took his life, and as I further discussed with you, he drove my former jeep with my former interpreter, and my Lieutenant Colonel from what I was told an hour or so later.  Undoubtedly, had I not been injured myself, and changed jobs, it would have been me going down the road that day, at least that is what I have always felt, which give me very strong personal feelings about Steve and his death.  I might add that the Lieutenant that had the job Steve and I held before me was critically wounded and was sent to Italy.  Therefore, for a pretty "safe job," it really appears that everyone that had the job was injured one way or another.

I indeed hope that I will have the opportunity to meet you personally at some point either when my wife and I come to New York or the two of you go to Florida and hopefully come and spend a night or so with us here in Georgia.  Steve had pictures of both of you and his sister all around his room in the "hotel" where we lived.  The structure where we lived was the tallest building in town (four story) and was pretty much open air, and was hardly an inn or hotel along the lines all of us know about.  However, we were very satisfied with it and had several guards who took care of the building.

As you can tell, I could go on and on with many, many memories.  Whenever I watched the North - South television series and enjoyed the friendship of the Hazards and the Mains, I again thought of Steve and my friendship.

He was an example of the best our country had to offer, and hopefully no one else in the future will have to suffer the severe loss both of you, and some of the rest of us, encountered on Steve's death.

Sources: William Leonardis (father) and NJVVMF.


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