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Joe Laky


Date and Place of Birth: October 14, 1917 Ottawa, IL
Date and Place of Death:    October 1, 1944 Wylerbaan, Holland
Baseball Experience: Amateur
Position: Unknown
Rank: Private
Military Unit: 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Joe Laky was born Joseph L. Leki Jr., in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1917. He worked at the LOF Glass Company before entering military service on June 11, 1942.

Laky served with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 82nd Airborne Division. In March 1944, as part of the invasion build-up the 508th PIR was posted overseas. They were based in Nottingham, England, where Laky had the chance to play baseball before going into combat. On Sunday, May 28, 1944, an enthusiastic crowd of 7,000 fans gathered at Meadow Lane soccer ground to see the 508th Red Devils play an exhibition game against the locally based 505th PIR Panthers. The Red Devils were far superior to the Panthers, winning 18-0.

Eight days later, as night fell on June 5th, Laky and the men of the 508th - faces blackened and hearts racing - boarded transport planes for the flight across the English Channel. That night over France, 24,000 Allied paratroopers ascended through the darkness as part of the initial phase of the D-Day landings. Private Laky was part of an 81mm mortar crew.

On September 17, 1944, Laky landed with the 508th PIR in Holland. On October 1, during the enemy's last attack in the area, Private Laky was killed.

Joe Laky is buried at the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery in Ottawa, Illinois.

Thanks to Paul DePaoli, Research Assistant at Reddick Library in Ottawa, Illinois and Dave Berry at www.pathfinderhistoricalconsultants.com for help with this biography. Thanks also to Astrid van Erp for help with this biography.

Date Added February 7, 2013. Updated August 5, 2017

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