November 13, 2017 at 3:15 am #1313
My Dad, Allen E. Purtell, was a survivor. He finished his service in France and returned to the U.S. on June 4, 1946. I do not know any details of his rescue. On the Brilliant? Another ship? Am curious to know if there are any records that would fill in the details. I’m just learning more about the story and look forward to reading the book and seeing the National Geographic documentary.
Ray PurtellJune 2, 2018 at 2:12 pm #1544
My dad, Lester L. LeBlanc was a survivor. He was in Company K of the 264 Infantry. The 264th was not supposed to be on the Leopoldville, but due to confusion in boarding Company K was separated from the rest of the division.
He spoke little about his service, but he did mention that he was on a ship that sunk. When I was finally smart enough to want to know more of his story he had already passed away. I discovered the name of the ship and a book “A Night Before Christmas” by Jacquin Sanders, which proved to be pretty helpful (I do plan on reading the book on this website as soon as I can). From the description of how the survivors were rescued and knowing dad’s personality, my best guess is that he stayed on board until the last minute. I do know that he wound up in the water, and I can’t imagine that he would have jumped off earlier when the distance from ship to water was at it’s greatest and many lost their lives in the attempt. His sister confirmed that dad said that he swam ashore. My guess is he was overcome by the cold water and picked up by a rescue boat, but if he did swim all the way, wow. He did send a letter to his mom shortly after the sinking but made no mention of the sinking (all were under orders to not disclose such information), he only said how nicely he was being treated. It was only after he returned that he could finally tell his family the truth.June 2, 2018 at 10:57 pm #1546
My dad, Allen E. Purtell, was a survivor although he is not listed as one in survivor’s list in the book Leopoldville A Tragedy Too Long Secret by Alan Andrade. Although he did not often speak of the war, he did talk about being in the frigid water in the English Channel on Christmas Eve. The story was significant in our family because my older brother, my dad’s first child, was born in December 24,1950. I recall my dad saying that he felt that he only survived because he did not like what was being served for dinner and was up on deck when the torpedo struck. From that point on, he felt that someone was watching over him and that he was destined to return home safely. You are correct…the loading of the ships was chaotic and the passenger logs may not accurately reflect exactly who was on which ship. My dad also indicated that so many of his group did not survive that it took a while for them to regroup and be reassigned once in France.
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