Major Leslie G. Gruber, sketch by James O. Burnley

Maj. Leslie Gruber 8 Sept. 1945, sketch by James O. Burnley

SNAFU, by me; I jumped to a conclusion about Leslie’s unit! Correction coming coming soon courtesy of seven surviving members of the 1142nd. I’m going have to retract my conclusion the Leslie Gruber (and these officers [Harrison, Fry, Brady and Chapman] served with the 1142nd from Camp Crowder to August 1945. See this instead.

Artist, Lt. Col. James O. Burnley (1914-2009) served in the 1142nd Combat Engineers with Leslie Army Engineers and he made this sketch shortly after the end of World War II. He stored it along with images of five other officers who all served together in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1142nd Combat Engineers . “During his Army days Burnley painted as an avocation and while on leave. ”

Burnley held onto his paintings and drawings but after he passed away in 2009, the body of work went to his son. His daughter-in-law recently was researching these sketches of six Army officers on the Internet and she found my old genealogy blog with pictures of Leslie. Last week. she contacted me from the website and I just received the sketches today.

James O. Burnley was born in Kansas City, Mo. His high school art teacher recognized his talent and ‘to encourage his pursuit of art’  gave him art supplies. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1932 to 1936. Then he went to the Art Students League in New York, also on a scholarship. Burnley worked in New York City as a commercial artist until he was drafted on 18 June 1941. After his two decade Army career ended in 1966, he retired to Hudson, Wisconsin where he built his home and studio. His subjects included portraits, landscapes, still lifes, seascapes and modern art. He licensed the Riverside Studio Gallery to produce ‘high quality artist proof prints of selected paintings’ and they can still be ordered.

These are Burnley’s images of five other officers who served were sketched along with Leslie.
1142nd Combat Engineers

The 1142nd Combat Engineers unit was formed 15 October 1943 and Col. Frank Pethick, Jr. was the Commanding Officer. The group’s base was at Camp Crowder, Missouri. In early 1944, they participated in the Tennessee Maneuvers. Camp Campbell, Ky. was the Group’s base in June 1944. The 1142nd sailed for England August 29, 1944 and arrived at Liverpool, England on September 6th, 1944″ where they were temporarily assigned to the Ninth Army, VIII Corps. On 26 September 1944 the Group joined the war on the continent at Omaha Beach. On 8 October 1944 the 1142nd was assigned to the First Army XIX Corps to enter “Belgium (near Alebeek) to support operations against the Siegfried Line in the Siege of Aachen, Germany.” In 1945 the 1142nd was bridging rivers in Germany:

Bill Stephenson was a member of the unit from 1943 to 1946 and took many photographs (posted here). Willy Wilem(s) was a Dutch youth of 10 in Zichen, Belgium (a temporary base for the 1142nd) who befriended the unit. Willy’s photos of Zichen (now called Zichen Zussen Bolder) of the town ‘then and now’ are here.


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One Response to Major Leslie G. Gruber, sketch by James O. Burnley

  1. Nick Drahos says:

    I am sorry to say that neither the artist Col. James O. Burnley nor any of the officers he sketched other than Col. Pethick were part of the Hd. Qtrs Co., 1142 Combat Engineers. Someone has misinterpreted Col. Burnley’s memoirs. He may have served with Col Pethick and the others in another Company that Pethick ran prior to his promotion to head the 1142d Combat Engr Gp but not at Camp Crowder nor did any of them serve with Pethick and us overseas.

    None of Burnley’s men are listed on the roster of the 1142d except Pethick. I personally worked for Pethick in S-3 Operations from Nov 1943 -Aug 1945 and knew all of the officers. Please check the roster and photos of the men and officers listed in my memoir in the 1142d site. Also, I contacted the 6 remaining members of the 1142d and they concur with me that a mistake has been made. They also never heard of any of the officers sketched other than Col. Pethick.

    Nick D——

    Nick, thank you very much. I added edited this post and added another one splitting the sketches story from a brief history of the 1142nd.

    I hid your name for privacy.

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