USS SLC...Enlisted Navy...Rex Ilo Leist, S1c
Rex passed away on May 18th, 2006. Information from surviving spouse, Edele Leist
Jan. 17, 2002
I am Rex "Ilo" Leist from Iowa. In the Navy I was known by "Leist, R. I.
About Nov., 1942, I went aboard the Salt Lake when she was in dry-dock at
Pearl Harbor being patched up and repaired and getting 40mm guns. I did
not sleep or stay aboard her, but worked aboard in all kinds of ways.
I stood many fire watches for the welders that were putting her back
I was a general duty sailor chipping barnacles, paint, cleaning
things in general to get her back "ship shape" and "sea worthy".
I was not in any battles until the Battle of the Komandorski Islands and
I would imagine by this time you have heard that story lots of times.
The picture above is one I sent my hometown newspaper along with the
story of some of my experiences during WWII.
I was never wounded in the war, but I and about 29 or 30 others had a very
close call in the cold water in the Aleutians. The whole Pacific Fleet
was in Adak, which was a good thing when the word was passed, "Men in the
Water". When we were on our way to the supply ship, the water was very
rough and capsized our boat and dumped us. We all had life jackets on and
secured, which was another good thing. Even though the life jacket helped
hold us up, the water, wind, waves and the cold really made you work to
stay with your head above water......good swimmer or not. Never the less,
the motor launches from a fleet in alert put down 40 boats in the water in
short order and saved all of us. I'll never forget the chaplain welcomed
us aboard with a glass of brandy each and said "This will warm your
insides" and we said "We are glad to be aboard sir" and thanked him.
Hoping to make it to Branson, MO. this September.
SLC Deck Log Dec. 1942
Tidbits Aug. 8th, 1943
Attended the following SLC Reunions:
Article from Iowa Newspaper
Ilo Leist served honorable in the US Navy from Oct. 6, 1942 to Oct. 27, 1945. S1c Leist was a crew member aboard the heavy cruiser USS Salt lake City in the Pacific-Asiatic Theater. The Salt lake City was 565 feet long and had around 1300 crew members.
S1c Leist came aboard the SLC in Nov. of 1942 in Pearl Harbor and was assigned to a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun located on the fantail. He experienced combat for the first time during the Battle of the Komandorski, March 26, 1943. This naval battle in the Bering Sea assured US supremacy in the North Pacific.
S1c Leist participated in the following well-known battles the next two and a half years:
Tarawa, Kwajalein, Palau, Saipan, Ulithi, Luzon and Leyte Gulf (Philippines), Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Leist departed the SLC in late Sept., 1945. All told, he logged 238,000 miles while serving aboard the SLC.
The following citations were awarded to S1c Rex Ilo Leist:
Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon(Five Battle Stars), Philippine Liberation Ribbon (Two Battle Stars), American Theater Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Combat Action Ribbon and the Good Conduct Medal.
Edele Petersen and Ilo Leist were married April 5, 1942. Their three children are Marty Jo, Collin and Charles. They have four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They farmed in Audubon County near Exira before and after WWII, selling their farm in 1978 and moving to Atlantic. Ilo then worked for Cass Inc. and drove a SWIPCO bus for 18 years.