Borough Park’s wartime correspondent
“Badge, National Maritime Union, Gold Union Badge and Torpedoed Pin,” dittybag, accessed May 29, 2023.
I was in the Torpedo Club. They gave me a medal to wear on my jacket. I don’t have it anymore, it’s gone the way of all things. That would be a collectible.
I went to LIFE magazine with my roll of film and said — I don’t know whether these will still be good. After the second sinking, I was in the water about a half hour before I got on a raft, but the film was wrapped in electrical tape. They developed the pictures, and they came out with sort of a faint glow, like 1880s pictures. I was going to be on the cover of LIFE magazine, “The Torpedoed Seaman,” standing on a lifeboat, stripped down wearing shorts, with a bandage over my eye. But then they decided that two girls with big breasts, wearing what they call Johnny Jeep hats, would sell more magazines than Leon Schneider.
“The Torpedoed Seaman”
A ten-dollar camera, it was called a Kodak Vigilante [Editor’s Note: That’s what Leon called the Vigilant]. They didn’t want you to have cameras on the ship, because cameras take pictures and Germans can get a hold of the pictures. It was one of the rules, no cameras. I didn’t give a shit. Nobody gave me shit for it. Who gives a shit for rules?
A ten-dollar camera, that got me 300 dollars. That was a fortune. Of course, I became a local hero in Borough Park. My mother used to write in Yiddish to the Daily Forward, letters to the editor called “The Bintel Brief.” They always published her letters. When I got torpedoed, she wrote to them, and it was in the Daily Forward, a Jewish boy from Borough Park in LIFE magazine.
I decided — no more shit, I want to become an officer. I’m as smart as my brothers are.
I wanted to go to Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy.
Excerpt from LEON: A LIFE (Old Convincer Publishing, 2019).