Leroy Pond Drive on the campus of the University of Arkansas is named after a hero from World War II who first saw combat on his 27th birthday on June 6, 1944.
That was 75 years ago.
Pond graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1933 and the University of Arkansas in 1938.
Seventy-five years ago he was a U.S. Army captain who led a company on Utah Beach during the D-Day landings, the day in which the Allies began the liberation of German-controlled France.
In the weeks that followed, Pond became a highly decorated officer for his battlefield heroics. He was wounded in Germany in December of that year and was taken to England for further medical attention. He died of his wounds in January of 1945.
Leroy Pond Drive--just south of Bud Walton Arena on campus--is named after him. In a bit of historic irony, Leroy Pond Drive is being extended toward the west as a part of a summer construction project, 75 years after Pond and thousands of others fought their way across the northern shores of France in the largest invasion in history.
D-Day featured an Allied armada in the English Channel of more than 6,000 naval vessels and a multinational invading force of almost 160,000 men.
In his book The Second World Wars, historian and columnist Victor Davis Hanson wrote about the massive accomplishment of the Allied landing on the mainland of Europe.
"The D-Day invasion of Normandy," he wrote, "was the largest combined land and sea operation conducted since the invasion of Greece by King Xerxes of Persia in spring 480 B.C."
Hanson said there had never been a more powerful fleet put together to support such an operation than there was in June of 1944. He wrote, "The sailors--nearly 200,000--were more numerous than the troops who landed the first day."
Captain Pond, as an Arkansas alum, was one of those first-day troops.
An exhibit in the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale tells a part of his story: "Captain Pond saw his very first combat that day while commanding a rifle company. Their troopship hit a mine and sank, forcing Pond and other survivors to ditch their equipment and swim to Utah Beach. Under enemy fire, they scrounged for weapons and helmets, and then fought their way inland. In letters to his family, Pond's only mention of D-Day was a remark about going swimming on his birthday."
Today Leroy Pond Drive connects Stadium Drive with Razorback Road, but the construction project that is underway will extend Leroy Pond across Razorback and through a parking area known as Lot 46E. The new part of Leroy Pond Drive will then curve to the north and join Graham Avenue.
Once the work is done, a traffic light will coordinate vehicle movement at the new intersection of Leroy Pond and Razorback, and bus stops will make Lot 46E a good place for students to park and ride.
The target date for completion of the work is mid- to late-August.
Today--as the 75th Anniversary of D-Day--will be commemorated throughout the country and around the world.
It will also be a day in which work continues on Leroy Pond Drive.
David Wilson, Ed.D., is the transit and parking communications director at the University of Arkansas and author of Learning Every Day.
Editorial on 06/06/2019
Print Headline: DAVID WILSON: Hometown hero