Liebgott, Joseph David. “Joe” “The Barber”.

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Liebgott, Joseph David. “Joe”, “The Barber”  born 17-05-1915, in Lansing, Michigan. the oldest of six children of Joseph Liebgott Sr. and Mary, born Zimmermann, Liebgott, here with her son.  Joe’s parents had immigrated to the U.S 4 yrs previously from Austria, so Joe spoke fluent German. They moved to California when Joe was young + he worked in the family salon, attending college to train as a barber parents. His family moved to San Francisco, California, before the War. He worked mainly as a barber.

He was drafted into the Army and enlisted 09-09-1942. He volunteered for the paratroopers and was sent to Camp Toccoa and placed in Easy Company, 506th PIR. under command of Colonel Robert Frederick “Bounding Bob”.

Liebgott’s fellow soldiers often assumed he was Jewish based on his name, his appearance, and his general hatred of Germans and Nazis in particular. He also spoke an Austrian dialect of German, which was confused with Yiddish. Liebgott generally didn’t bother to refute this assumption, finding it amusing and occasionally to his advantage.

As they prepared to jump for the invasion of Normandy, Liebgott and Forrest Leroy “Goody” Guth   gave haircuts to the men of the 101st for $0.15 per head. Many of the men either had their heads shaved or got Mohawks.

Liebgott participated in the Brécourt Manor Assault, manning a machine gun with Cleveland O’Neille Petty. For this action Lieutenant General Robert Sink   awarded both men the Bronze Star. On D-Day+4 Liebgott showed Roderick Strohl a ring that he had cut off the finger of a dead German whom he had killed with his bayonet. Cleveland O’Neill Petty survived the war and died 06-03-1961, age 36 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.

During the attack on Carentan he was clearing a house with Private First Class Edward Joseph Tipper when an explosion wounded Tipper, breaking both of his legs. Liebgott and Harry Francis “Welshy” Welsh dragged Tipper to safety. Edward Joseph Tipper survived the war and died 01-02-2017 (aged 95) in Lakewood, Colorado.

Joseph received minor wounds on 05-10-1944, at about 0330, when Easy was on line on “The Island”, in the Netherlands, on the south side of the Rhine. While on patrol, the group that he was with encountered a German patrol, and an incoming grenade wounded him (in the arm and Roderick Strohl slightly, while Staff Sergeant James ‘Moe’ Alley Jr. and Private First Class Joseph Lesniewski were wounded more severely. Alley had thirty-two wounds in his left side, face, neck, and arm, while Lesniewski got hit in the neck by shrapnel. Later after Easy Company commanding officer Richard “Dick” Winters led the charge up on the dike, the German artillery opened up on the crossroads and in return American artillery returned fire. One of the American’ shells exploded near Liebgott, wounding his elbow. Sergeant James ‘Moe’ Alley Jr. survived the war and died 14-03-2008, aged 85 in Mount Ida, Arkansas and Private First Class Joseph Lesniewski also survived the war and died 23-05-2012, age 91 in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Joseph was noted by Winters as being an extremely good combat soldier and loyal friend. However, Liebgott had a rather rough attitude towards prisoners. After the battle at the crossroads on “The Island”, in October 1944, Winters handed over 11 German prisoners to Liebgott to be taken back to the battalion command post. Liebgott was ordered to drop all his ammunition but one round, as to ensure that the German prisoners made it back.

Liebgott was described by fellow comrade David Kenyon Webster as being “120-pound Liebgott, ex-San Francisco cabby, was the skinniest and, at non-financial moments, one of the funniest men in E Company. He had the added distinction of being one of the few Jews in the paratroops”. After being sent to England to the hospital, Liebgott wanted to get back to the men; he requested and received a discharge from the hospital and returned to France. David Kenyon Webster disappeared 09-09-1961, On 09-09-1961, Webster embarked on a fishing trip in a twelve-foot sailboat, leaving in the morning and planning to come back in the afternoon. When he failed to return, the Coast Guard embarked on a search. Early the following day, commercial fishermen recovered his boat five miles offshore. One oar and a tiller were missing. His wife told the press that Webster went shark-fishing in the small craft and did not use a life preserver. At the time of his death he was employed as a technical writer with System Development Corp

After fighting in Normandy and the Netherlands, Liebgott was nearing a breaking point at Bastogne, during the Battle of the Bulge. Winters pulled him off the line and made him his Command Post (CP) runner. After a few days he returned to the line to be with his buddies, but Liebgott’s feelings of stress and tension also returned. This time Winters assigned him to 101st Division Headquarters S-2 (intelligence), due to his ability to speak German and interrogate the prisoners. This move Winters would regret because Winters thought that Liebgott was Jewish and his hatred for the Germans came through when he questioned the prisoners. At Noville, while patrolling with Sergeant Earl Preston Hale, the two men went into a barn and captured six German SS officers. Sergeant Hale survived the war and 29-09-2011, age 88, in Ada, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma. When a shell exploded outside the barn one of the SS officers pulled a knife from his boot and slit Hale’s throat, although not fatally. Liebgott shot the officer, killing him. (Later General George Patton berated Hale for not wearing a necktie, until Hale produced a letter from the doctor who treated him that exempted him from wearing one.

While on occupation duty in Austria, Easy Company commander Ronald Speirs assigned Liebgott, along with John Christopher Lynch, Don Moone here with Alton More on the left,  and Wayne “Skinny”. Sisk, to “eliminate” a German who had been the head of a labor camp. When they found the man, Liebgott interrogated him for about 30 minutes, confirming that he was the man they wanted. They drove him to a ravine and Liebgott shot him twice. Wounded, the German ran up a hill and Lynch ordered Moone to shoot him. Moone refused, and Sisk killed the man with a fatal rifle shot. Ronals Speirs passed away on 11-04-2007 at the age of 86. John Christopher Lynch survived the war and died 20-07-2000, age 79) in Pemberton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey.

After the war Joseph married Francis Small (Lomas). Together they had David Liebgott and then Joseph married Peggy Bentley and they divorced in April 1969 in Los Angeles. Together they had Ila Kuns (Bentley).  

Death and burial ground of Liebgott, Joseph David “Joe” “The Barber”.

After the war Liebgott went missing for 3 years after his discharge. His parents didn’t know if he had survived the war or not. It is thought this absence was due to the PTSD he suffered. When he returned to his old life, he married, raised a family, and worked as a barber.

Joe never attended the reunions and didn’t like to talk of his time in the war. Joe never told his 8 children about being in the war  His family only found out after he passed in 1992, when they found his jump wings and Currahee scrapbook in his belongings. Liebgott, Joseph D. “Joe” “The Barber”.died 28-06-1992, age 77 in San Bernardino, California and was cremated. Ashes given to family or friend.

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