An Interview with Leo Major

Some time ago I asked Jocelyn Major if I could email him some questions to ask his father, Leo Major. He kindly did so and I present the answers here. This is an interview with a living Canadian war hero.

How do you define the word “hero”?

For me a hero is someone that will stop at nothing to save another’s life even if he might lose his own. A great singer or business man is not a hero. He or she is simply someone with talents. A surgeon that saves lives is not a hero. He is someone that save lives without risking is own. Firefighters and some policemen are heroes. Some soldiers were during WW2 because they where fighting to help people regain their freedom. Presently they are the invaders of two helpless countries. As such they cannot be seen as heroes.

Do you think of yourself as a hero?

This is what some people are saying about me. If I am a hero then I am a hero. I did what I did because I had to do it. If I didn’t do it probably thousand of innocent civilians would have either been killed or injured.

Who were your heroes when you were growing up in Canada?

Really I do not think I had a hero when I was young. I didn’t really have time to find a hero.

Who are your heroes now?

The greatest hero I had was Willy. It is because of him that I became what I am now. He never hesitated risking his life to save others. I simply did what he did. Another hero I have today is my son Jocelyn. When he was 20 he noticed a kid drowning in the Richelieu river near Montreal. Jocelyn was not, and is still not a great swimmer (He was even afraid of water). But he jumped in the cold water without thinking and rescued the little kid. So he is a hero for me. Also any firefighter are heroes for me. They risk their lives everyday to save others

19 Responses to An Interview with Leo Major

  1. Denis M Lavoie November 12, 2007 at 12:46 pm #

    I watched a special documentary yesterday(Nov.11th) on the history channel entitled “The Canadian Liberator”. It was really interesting and I was immediately drawn into it once I discovered that the hero being highlighted, Private Leo Major, was a member of the Chaudiere Regiment. I say this because my father was also a member of the Chaudiere Regiment and spent time in France,Belgium and Holland. I have a photograph of my father, taken in June of 1945 in Amersfoort. His name is Marcial Joseph Lavoie. He signed up at age 18, spent six months in basic training and was shipped overseas. I wonder if Mr. Major was ever in Amersfoort or if he might remember my father. I realize there were other soldiers with the last name of Lavoie but you never know, perhaps Mr. Major may bumped into him along the way. My dad did not speak much about the war and he passed away in 1994. I realize this is a shot in the dark but I thought I would try anyway. Thank you !

  2. Matt Langdon November 12, 2007 at 12:51 pm #

    Hello Denis,

    I have alerted Leo’s son of your comment so hopefully he will be in touch.

  3. Jocelyn Major November 12, 2007 at 2:58 pm #

    I asked my father and he remember several Lavoie in the La Chaudiere. He was also in Amersfoort in June 45. He ask if Denis’s Father was there on D-Day or if he began the fight after D-Day. Also was him present in Zwolle. Is it possible to send a copy of this picture by email so I can showed it to my father. Also is Denis Lavoie from Montreal, QC area? If so, If he would like to see my father, I could arrange something (my father would be glad to meet a old comrade’s son).

    Take care

    Jocelyn Major
    Proud son of Leo Major DCM & Bar

  4. Mike Kennelly May 31, 2008 at 10:34 pm #

    I too watched the episode “The Canadian Liberator” and was also drawn to it as a result of my Grand Father being a member of Le Regiment de la Chaudiere. My Grand Father’s name was Yvon J. Allain and he was from Richibucto New Brunswick. Regretably he died at the young age of 41 in 1959 so his entire contribution during the Second World War has gone unknown to our family. I sent away last year for his Service Records from the National Archives and have been able to piece together some of his Service but of course these documents are very limited in their scope and lack the oral history of those that may have known him.

    Some highlights from his Records include: He had initially been with a R.C.A. unit in N.B. but transferred into the Chaudiere on November 15, 1941 when the Regiment arrived in Sussex N.B.; He was a Rifleman and Private in D Company: He was awarded the Good Conduct Badge Aug 4, 1942; In England in 1943 he was a Batman to Lt. Begin and attached to CMHQ; Also while in England was employed as a Barber for the Regiment; He disembarked in France on D-day with D Company as a Rifleman and saw action in every major encounter the Chaudiere experienced until V.E. Day; He returned to Canada June 20, 1945- this was quite early and must have been on one of the 1st ships to bring troops back- I figure his early departure had something to do with the 196 Points for Overseas Service he accumulated. He reported to a Military Depot in Halifax on June 27 and was granted 30 + 2 Days disembarkation leave; He was discharged on Aug. 13, 1945 in Fredericton New Brunswick with the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment R.C.A.. Not sure why he was not discharged with the Chaudiere. Interestingly the Chaudiere Musuem had no Record of him until I provided his Service Record to them last year… I wonder if this had something to do with him returning home so quickly and not being discharged out by the Chaudiere. I will be visiting the musuem this summer with my mother and hope to catch a glimpse of my Grand Father is some of their photographs.

    At the back of the book Le Regiment de la Chaudiere by Jacques Castonguay and Armand Ross, it has the pictures taken in June 1945 at Amersfoort with all the Chaudiere Companies that is referered to in the above posts. Unfortunately it does not have my Grand Father in them as he must have at that time already been on his way back to Canada, however I have a number of the photographs of my Grand Father in his Chaud Battle Dress that attest to his being a member.

    I too would like to take a shot in the dark and see if Mr. Major may have known my Grand Father or may know of some that might from D-Company.

    Best Regards,
    Mike Kennelly

    P.S. The website is a link to a Tribute Video I made for my Grand Father and the Chaudiere last year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQciIKa-dIM

    • Name January 4, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Do you know if I can find a book about Leo, if so can someone please inform me . Thanks 🙂

  5. Simon July 18, 2008 at 5:25 am #

    Hi everyone,

    Leo Major is probably the most effective fighter in history.
    Has he written any books or developed training around his tactics and knowledge?
    I think it is critical for the Canadian military.

    On a more silly note- I remember seeing this “ultimate badass” page on the Internet. And I’m looking at it thinking- NONE of these people even come close to Leo Major.

  6. eric boutin October 19, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    I want to give my condolences to Jocelyn and all the Leo Major family. Leo died last week-end at the age of 87. This person was a hero for Zwolle and for Canada. We are all proud of what he did. I know about him because my wife is also a Major. We will remember you LEO RIP.

  7. Daniel-Aimé Major October 21, 2008 at 7:32 pm #

    Léo was and still is a hero for Jocelyn, for me and for the citizens of Zwolla.
    He was not a hero for Canada, He was simply an unknown hero.
    Hope he will be remember By Canada, and especially Québec where, sadly, it went unnoticed in most French newspapers even if Léo was a French speaking Québécois. At least English newspaper noticed it.

    We’ll see.

  8. Chance Haxor October 21, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    Leo Major is amazing.

  9. Matt Langdon October 21, 2008 at 8:57 pm #

    Daniel, thanks for your comment. I have heard from a number of Canadians who know Leo as a hero. I can understand your frustration at the media, but be assured you father’s story is out there.

  10. Henry Lunshof October 28, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    Leo Major was and still is a foundly regarding hero to the city of Zwolle, The Netherlands. Just yesterday, I received a newspaper clipping from an aunt there. It speaks about his actions and that he is a honorary citizen of the city. The city fathers even have a book of condolense set up in the city hall with the flag of the city beside it at half staff. The people of The Netherlands will never forget their Canadian Liberators. The actions there for Private Leo Major in the last number of days testify loudly to that committment. My late father and mother often spoke about very highly thier Canadian liberators while I was growing up. It’s one of the big reasons we came to this country after the war in Europe.

    I would be happy to share this clipping with anyone who is interested in see it.

  11. Jocelyn Vachon November 8, 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    Several years ago, my wife invited over a colleague, Helene, for dinner along with her husband, son and young daughter. Another friend of mine, who had been in the Canadian Army in the late 80’s was there as well.

    The subject of life in the military came about. Helene mentioned that her father had been with the ”Chauds” in WWII and the VanDoos (Royal 22nd French-Canadian Regiment) in Korea. I replied half-joking, “I bet your father’s name is Leo?”, knowing her family name was Major. Her reply was: “Yes, how did you guess?” To say that my mouth dropped is no exageration!

    Helene, just like her father, was very humble about the whole thing. She mentioned that her father did not like to talk about the war at all. I understood the situation and never tried to meet with him, although I would have had 1000 questions, trying to grasp the essence of what makes such unique characters like Mr Major!

    When I found out Mr Major had past away, I was not only sad, but felt the deep regret of never having the chance to know an extraordinary man, who let his actions “do the talking”.

    My sincere sympathy to the Major family.

    JV

  12. Hank Snethun March 3, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    I emailed Mr. Major’s (Leo Major DCM and BAR) wikipedia story to a friend tonight. At the beginning of the email this is what I wrote:
    Celebrities and Athletes heroes? I don’t think so. This guy is my kind of hero. All the Gold medals of the Olympics don’t shine as bright as the medals this guy earned. The stories of Leo Major borders on the supernatural.
    How about a WW2 movie tribute about this Canadian Hero sponsored by the federal government and all the provinces? Passchendaele was good to do and Alberta contributed 5million to it and Mr. Major’s story in WW2 and Korea would be the best Vignette story(movie) Canada could do.
    I recorded history channel’s documentary about Leo with Lloyd Robertson last fall and have watched it 4 times now. I watched it tonight and again I could not help but get a huge lump in my throat and tears filled my eyes until they fell(and I consider myself tough). The children of Zwolle singing a song dedicated to the Canadian liberators(Leo and Willy) is overwhelming. Mr. Major fought with infinite courage and for the finest and purest of reasons which of course was against brutal and evil tyranny and for the freedom and liberty of suppressed people in Europe. A gentleman of Zwolle in the documentary said Leo signed the same book that his father had signed just after the war. The gentleman loses his composure with sincerity because of his immense love for his father and Leo Major. This is such an overwhelming and profound emotional expression it hits me like an earthquake. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch this documentary without being overcome with tears and a runny nose because of the profound impact Mr Leo Major and Willy Arsenault have had on Zwolle. I would like to see a movie about Leo Major and his stories as a general tribute to the World War 2 veterans(and Korea) from a Canadian perspective(not Hollywood).
    My Grandfather, Harry Macbeth, was a professional soccer player in Scotland in the 1930’s and later went into the RAF when WW2 started. He initially trained men in aircraft recognition. He only spoke briefly a few times about the war and I can only guess after that. I know he met Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh and he knew the Dam Buster Scientist and other high ranking people. He also captained the RAF soccer team in WW2. Also, he said he was one of the very first of the allies to go into Germany near the end of the war. My mother said he was on a team that rushed into Germany to capture an aeronautical engineer named Kurt Tank. He was tough but soft spoken; fair and kind; and I respect him beyond words. A tribute movie to Mr. Leo Major by Canadian hands, would, in my mind, also be a tribute for my Grandfather who contributed to the War effort. And that’s all I have to contribute.
    A question: in the documentary, Leo’s buddy: Mr. Arsenault’s named is spelled: Welly. Is Mr. Arsenault’s name Willy or Welly?
    Thank you,
    Hank Snethun
    March 3, 2010

    • Matt March 3, 2010 at 10:13 am #

      Every time I’ve seen Mr. Arsenault’s name it has been spelled Willy. That’s through numerous email conversations with Joceyln, Leo’s son.

  13. Matt Arseneault March 4, 2010 at 5:07 am #

    I hope this man has a statue somewhere. Heroes of his caliber go down in history as legends akin to mythological heroes. It seems to me that who he was and what he did is the epitomy of what it is to be a hero. In a world where people like him seem to be lacking I hope his story continues to get told, so that hopefully we’ll all be inspired by him.

    I know this about two years after the fact, but I’m sorry to hear about his passing. Hopefully it was a peaceful one. Leo Majors certainly deserved it!

    Thanks Leo Majors!

    PS – I thought I should mention that I heard about him from a recent article from a website. Hopefully it means his story will be continued to be told, even if it’s done a little flamboyantly ;). http://badassoftheweek.com/leomajor.html

  14. Susan Major Conrad November 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    I am interested in Leo Major’s ancestry as I am quite certain that he is part of my vast family tree. Any help appreciated.
    Merci

  15. Venusius June 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    They should totally make a movie about Leo Majors – his life is legend and epic. He makes Rambo look like a punk. His heroism inspires me. He’s the real Superman – a Canadian superman!

  16. Margaret Stuart November 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    I was at a service today in Douglas, On and was my first time hearing about his hero. Thanks Mr. Dirk for telling Leo’s story.

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