Leonard Gonzales was born on August 30, 1929, in San Gabriel, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on November 9, 1950, and was trained as an aircraft radio mechanic. Gonzales entered the Aviation Cadet Program on March 12, 1952, and was commissioned a 2d Lt on January 14, 1953. He completed B-29 Superfortress Combat Crew Training in April 1953, and Aircraft Observer School in June 1953. Lt Gonzales entered Undergraduate Pilot Training in February 1954, and was awarded his Pilot Wings in February 1955. He then completed Fighter Interceptor Training before serving with the 4750th Air Defense Squadron in Yuma, Arizona, from October 1955 to January 1957, followed by service with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Misawa AB, Japan, from February 1957 to July 1960. After completing the Ground Electronics Officer Course, Capt Gonzales served at Griffiss AFB, New York, from November 1961 to July 1963, and then at Wiesbaden AB and Lindsey AS, West Germany, from July 1963 to July 1966. His next assignment was with the 2750th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where he served from August 1966 to December 1967. Maj Gonzales then completed Helicopter Conversion Pilot Training in February 1968, and was assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Nha Trang AB in the Republic of Vietnam from April 1968 to April 1969. His final assignment was as a Helicopter Pilot and Chief of the Missile Support Aircraft Branch of the 4392nd Aerospace Support Group at Vandenberg AFB, California, where he served from May 1969 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 30, 1971.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Major Leonard A. Gonzales for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F gunship helicopter near Duc Co, Republic of Vietnam, on 26 November 1968. On that date, Major Gonzales went to the aid of a six-man Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol that was in danger of being overrun by a large, well-armed hostile force. Major Gonzales made continued minigun and rocket passes at treetop level, even after his wingman had been hit. His aggressive attacks sufficiently quelled the hostile fire to allow a transport helicopter to pick up the beleaguered patrol. Through his suburb airmanship, aggressiveness, and extraordinary heroism, Major Gonzales reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.