Col. Dale M. Leslie - WWII (posthumous)

Colonel Leslie is one of the most highly decorated Veterans of the World War II era, known as “the greatest generation.” He served two tours of duty in the Asiatic Pacific war and one tour in North China during the Chinese Civil War. For his heroic services, he was awarded The Navy Cross, which is the United States military’s second highest combat decoration, awarded for valor in combat. He received this award for extraordinary heroism demonstrated while saving the lives of a large number of Marines who were cut off from their unit and surrounded by Japanese forces. He was also awarded 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroic action while serving in aerial combat in 2 separate operations in the Pacific war. He was also the recipient of 5 air medals for aerial achievement while flying 125 combat missions.

Captain Leslie retired from active duty on December 16, 1946 and returned to his home in Madison, FL where he was hailed as a military hero for his valiant and heroic service in World War II. He remained in the Active Marine Corps Reserve after leaving active duty, serving in command positions at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL until his retirement in 1972 as a Colonel USMC (Ret).

In early 1948, he was elected as the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Madison County, FL, an office which he excelled in for the next 32 years. During this time, he was active in multiple civic organizations, striving tirelessly to improve life for the citizens of Madison County. As detailed in Section 6, Colonel Leslie was a champion advocate for Veterans, particularly in the area of legal issues, earning him a monument in his honor and the beloved title, “Veterans Best Friend.”

Education and Training Accomplishments:

  • 6/35: graduated from Madison High School, Madison, FL
  • 9/35: entered the LJniversity of Florida on scholarship, Gainesville, FL
  • 5/41: started Naval Aviation Training, Jacksonville, FL
  • 4/42: graduated from Naval Aviation Training, Jacksonville, FL
  • 5/42 to 6/42: Active duty training, San Diego, CA

Professional or Employment History:

  • 4/32 to 8/35: Part-time service attendant at Livingston’s Garage, Madison, FL
  • 8/38 to 2/40: Chief of Survey Crew in the state highway department, FL (He would work for six months and then attend college for six months on scholarship)
  • 10/41 to 12/46: Active Duty USMC
  • 7/42 to 7/43: Fighter/Bomber Pilot with 1st Marine Air Wing, South Pacific
  • 7/43 to 9/44: Fighter Pilot VMF 224 South Pacific
  • 11/44 to 12/45: Instructor, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL
  • 12/45 to 4/46: Instructor, Naval Air Station, Miami, FL
  • 5/46 to 10/46: Fighter Pilot, First Marine Air Wing, North China
  • 12/46 to 5/48: Civil Engineer with Florida State Highway Department
  • 6/48 to 5/80: Clerk of the Circuit Court, Madison County, FL

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:

After leaving active duty as a Marine fighter pilot in 1946, he continued to serve in the active Marine Corps Reserve where he advanced in rank from Captain to Colonel. Much of this time he served as the commanding officer of the Marine Corps Reserve Air Units assigned to the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. In his capacity as commanding offi cer, he was responsible for the welfare of all officers and enlisted personnel assigned to his command. He had a reputation as being a caring commander who sought better employment and educational opportunities for all of his reserve troops, in particular, his junior enlisted personnel. During this same period of time, he joined American Legion Post #68 of Madison County Florida. 

​He was very active as a member of the fundraising and membership committees. He also had the reputation while serving as the Clerk of the Circuit Court as being a special friend to all Veterans who were facing legal problems within Madison County. He was known as the “Veteran’s best friend.” He was so well respected by the Veteran’s community of Madison County that American Legion Post #68 was instrumental along with other citizens in having a monument installed on the grounds of the Madison County Courthouse after his death in 1998. A picture of this monument is in the attachments. (See Enclosure #2) Madison County has been so very fortunate in having two all American Veterans living in Madison County at the same time. Both were members of the “greatest generation.” Their names are Bernard Wilson, United States Air Force, WW II and Dale Leslie, United States Marine Corps, WW II. Mr. Wilson is a current member of the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame, class of 2017. These two Veterans were responsible for building a better life for thousands of our Veterans and their families in Madison County Florida, they were a tremendous “two- man team”.

Civic Activities and Contributions:

Member of the following Madison County Civic Organizations:

  • Madison County Historical Society
  • Lions Club International
  • American Legion Post #68
  • Secretary of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners
  • President of Tree Fanners of America of Madison County
  • President of the First United Method Church Society

Records available from the Madison County Courthouse indicate that Colonel Leslie performed his civic duties in a highly professional manner during his 32 years while serving as the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Madison County. It should be noted that Colonel Leslie was never defeated in 16 campaigns while running for office as Clerk of the Circuit Court. His accomplishments in office will long be remembered with pride, love and affection by the generations of citizens whose lives were made better by this All American official.

The citizens of Madison County were so impressed by the outstanding performance of Colonel Leslie that a street in Madison was approved to be named in his honor, “Dale Leslie Drive,” 

Awards or Honors:

  • The Navy Cross For Extraordinary Heroism
  • Distinguished Flying Cross, 3 awards
  • Air Medal, 5 awards
  • Presidential Unit Citation