History in Focus: Leon Strausborger and the Forgotten Front
Leon Strausborger lived a classic, rollicking, rough and tumble Moffat County life. Born in 1913 in Kansas City, Missouri, Leon came to Moffat County with his parents when his father took up a homestead near Sunbeam. The oldest of nine children, Leon was always found himself around and in the midst of the action on the Strausborger ranch.
On Wednesday Sept. 28, 1927, a short blurb in the Craig Empire Courier reported 13-year old Leon had “left for the field to work Saturday morning and has not been seen since.” Twelve days later on Oct. 5, he was still missing. “The family believes he went toward Utah.” Wherever young Leon sauntered off to and when he returned from his epic adventure was not reported.
In 1930, at age 19, Leon was living at home and working on the ranch 8 miles north of Sunbeam. On Sept. 10, Leon’s playful little 4-year-old sister picked up a loaded .22 rifle and squeezed the trigger. “The tiny shot, fired at about a distance of four feet, entered the boy’s shoulder,” reported the Craig Empire Courier. Leon made a full recovery.
By 1935, 22-year-old Leon was ready to hit the road and head to Oregon and Washington. On Feb. 10, the Craig Empire Courier mentioned, “He and a friend from Steamboat are driving out. Leon hopes to locate some place in either state.”
Leon’s wandering didn’t last long. He was back on the ranch in Sunbeam when his father passed away from a massive heart attack in 1939. In September of 1941, Leon and Mary Self wedded and hosted a reception at the Waddle Creek School house. A son, Albert, was born, and on or near the couple’s first anniversary Leon left for the army.
Like millions before and the millions after Leon entered the army of the masses taking him to Africa and into the Italian Peninsula. By April of 1945, the world was focused on the drive into Germany and the rocky volcanic islands of the South Pacific. The Italian Front had become the “Forgotten Front.”
The 473rd Infantry was a newly organized regiment, created from various regiments that had seen action up and down the Italian Peninsula. It was a conglomeration of hard edged veterans to make the final push into Northern Italy and finally collapse and defeat the faltering and failing Nazi war machine. The end was in sight.
Nearing Genoa, the 473rd, as part of the 5th Army, slashed its way through vineyards, fields, rock walls all the while routing out Germans from dugouts and foxholes. The fighting was up close and personal. On the 15th of April, in the desperate fighting of the end days of the war, Sergeant Strausborger’s rollicking and adventurous life was cut short.
Soon the 473rd entered Genoa, its last action of the war. On May 8, the Nazis surrendered, but in the hills of Northern Italy, Leon Strausborger was left behind and is now buried in the American Cemetery near Florence. His name is finally remembered back in Craig on the brand new World War II Memorial near the VFW in City Park. Check it out and view the names of all 30 of our men who died in World War II.
James Neton teaches history at Moffat County High School.James Neton teaches history at Moffat County High School. James Neton teaches history at Moffat County High School.
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