Veteran Memorial: Leon Nelson Harris

Contributed photo

Leon Nelson Harris 

Leon Nelson Harris was born November 21, 1925 in Cullman County. His parents were Ele Nelson and Bertha Harris. Leon graduated with the Class of 1944 from Cullman County High School. He registered for the draft the day after his 18th birthday in 1943.  

Soon after registering, Harris was enlisted at Ft. McPherson in Atlanta on May 13, 1944 and served during World War II with Charlie Company, 255th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division– The Blood and Fire Division.  

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The 63rd Infantry Division landed in Southern France in December 1944, some six months after the massive invasion of Western Europe on D-Day (June 6). The ‘Blood and Fire’ division advanced northward and eventually crossed the Saar River in Germany in early February 1945. At the end of the following month, on March 30, the unit took the town of Heidelberg, advanced southward into Bavaria and crossed the Danube River.” The 63rd Division would be credited for the liberation of the Kaufering concentration camp.  

Leon Harris was wounded on February 6, 1945 as the 255th Infantry Regiment pushed to cross the Saar River into Germany. On February 12, one day before the Dresden bombing raids began, Harris died from his wounds. He was awarded the Purple Heart. He was just 19 years old. 

Harris’s funeral was held at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in 1948, when his remains were returned to Cullman. He is now buried in the Cullman City Cemetery. He is memorialized at Cullman’s Veterans Memorial Park.  

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Christy Perry