Léo Major, the Zwolle savior


Noémie Collin


Léo Major, a 24-year-old Canadian military, has single-handedly saved a city of 50 000 people during World War II.

He was born on January 23rd, 1921, in Massachusetts and grew up in Montreal. At age 14, Léo moved with his aunt and uncle, because his father was abusing him. Five years later, he joined the Canadian Army where he did a 3-year training. After, he went to study at an English school.

Léo Major and his friend Willie Arsenault tried to save a city of 50 000 people named Zwolle by themselves. Around midnight, Arsenault was killed by a German who was keeping an eye on the city. He was angry by the death of his friend, but he decides to continue alone.

He fooled the Germans into thinking that the Canadian army was attacking a city near Zwolle and he captured many soldiers that night. The next morning, all the German officers had left the city. Léo Major had saved the city all by himself.“He is a symbol of our freedom,” the mayor of Zwolle said. “It’s very important that our children still remember that it’s not easy to be free.’’

He lost the use of his left eye when a soldier managed to throw a grenade at him. Even if his doctor forbidden him to continue the war, he kept up fighting with an eye-patch.“He went to fight because he was perhaps a bit of a hothead. He wanted to see action.” said his son.

He had a wife named Pauline de Croiselle, four children and also five grandchildren. Unfortunately, Léo died on October 12, 2008, at the age of 87. Major went to fight in Korea as well. He is now remembered as a hero to Canadians because he’s the only Canadian to win the Distinguished Conduct Medal in two different wars.

Written by: Noémie Collin

Edited by: Julia Labbé