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Home > Family History > USS Neosho > The Pearl Harbor Attack > Bill Leu's Early Years



Bill Leu's Early Years



My father, Don Leu, and his older brother Bill grew up in the 1920s in a middle-class household in Ballard, Washington, just north of Seattle.  As youngsters, they were best friends, a bond they shared throughout their lives.  Throughout the 1920s, their father, George Leu, ran a successful grocery store in Seattle.  George's wife, Minnie May Leu, was a devoted mother to her six children including her two youngest, Bill and Don.


Like many other families in America, the Leus suffered hard times when the Great Depression hit in the early 1930s.  Many of George's customers had bought their groceries on credit and couldn't pay their debts, and although George worked extremely hard to feed his family, he was eventually forced out of business.  In desperation, and now nearly impoverished, the Leus moved to the logging town of Skykomish, Washington, in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle where George opened a small grocery store.  George struggled mightily but somehow he managed to put food on the table each night, and he was a good father and husband.


As teenagers, Don and Bill enjoyed the rural atmosphere of Skykomish, spending their summers working in the woods and on the Great Northern railroad, while spending their winters playing basketball.  In the late 1930s, they both starred on Skykomish High School's basketball team, the Skyrockets, one of the best small-town basketball teams in the state of Washington.  Bill graduated from high school in 1940, a year ahead of his brother Don, and enlisted with the U.S. Navy in May of 1941.  In July, he signed aboard a new tanker, the U.S.S. Neosho.  Although World War II had started two years earlier with Germany's invasion of Poland, the U.S. was still neutral when Bill began serving on the Neosho.  That would soon change, however.


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Above left:  That's Bill on the far left in 1924, being held by his father, George Leu, in Ballard, Washington.  Bill's grandfather, also named George Leu, is in the middle.  The elder George grew up in Switzerland and reputedly stole $400 from his father when he was a young man and stowed away on a ship bound for America (don't I come from good stock?).  On the left is Bill's uncle, Cliff Lee.  Why Lee instead of Leu?  That's a whole 'nother story!

Above center:  My father, Don Leu (right) and his older brother Bill, around 1927.

Above right:  The Leus took their first plane ride in 1931.  Bill and Don, dressed alike as they often did, are in the front.  This was before George Leu (left) lost his grocery store in the Great Depression.


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Above left:  Bill in downtown Seattle during the summer of 1938, when he was 16.

Above center:  Best buddies:  Bill and Don in Skykomish, Washington in 1939.

Above right:  Bill's high school graduation photo in 1940.


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Above left:  A mug shot?

Above center:  Fireman, 3rd Class, Bill Leu, just before he embarked on the Neosho in July 1941.

Above right:  Bill with his parents, Minnie May and George Leu, in Skykomish, Washington.



Table of Contents:

U.S.S. Neosho  (AO-23)

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) Home Page


Specifications of the U.S.S. Neosho

The Four U.S.S. Neoshos


Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho


The Pearl Harbor Attack  (December 7, 1941)

Prelude to War:  Conflict in the Far East

Bill Leu's Early Years

The U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor

Bill Leu Interview:  Pearl Harbor Attack

U.S. Navy Action Report:  U.S.S. Neosho


The Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942)

The Battle of the Coral Sea:  Summary

Battle Action:  April 30 - May 4, 1942 

Battle Action:  May 5 - May 7, 1942

Battle Action:  May 8, 1942

The U.S.S. Neosho at Coral Sea

May 7, 1942:  The Attack

May 8, 1942:  Waiting For Rescue

May 9, 1942:  Fading Hope

May 10, 1942:  Neosho Sighted

May 11, 1942:  Rescue

List of Survivors & Casualties

The Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942 - cont.)

Bill Leu Interview:  Battle of the Coral Sea

U.S. Navy Action Reports:  Coral Sea

Action Report of the U.S.S. Neosho

Action Report of the U.S.S. Sims

U.S.S. Helm Report

Other Ships at Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Sims (Neosho's Escort)

The U.S.S. Henley (Neosho's Rescuer)

The U.S.S. Helm (Rescued Life Raft)

Coral Sea Scrapbook

S.F. Examiner Article, July 10, 1942



President Bush's Speech at Pearl Harbor

Seattle Times:  Bill Leu at Pearl Harbor

Obituary of Captain John S. Phillips


U.S.S. Neosho Veteran's Forum


Sources & Further Information

The current page is shown in bold.