|Birth name||Joseph D. Liebgott, Jr.|
|Nickname(s)||"Joe", "Sonny", "The Barber"|
May 17, 1915|
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||June 28, 1992
San Bernardino, California, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Rank||Technician Fifth Grade|
|Unit||Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division|
|Awards||World War II Victory Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (2OLC)
Bronze Star Medal
|Relations||Joseph III (son)|
Joseph D. Liebgott, Jr. (May 17, 1915 – June 28, 1992) was a United States Army soldier during World War II. During the war, he served as a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.
Liebgott was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Ross McCall. Liebgott's life story was featured in the 2010 book A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us.
Early life and education
Liebgott's parents moved from Austria to the United States. Liebgott was born in Lansing, Michigan in May 1915, the oldest of six children. The children were raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school. His family moved to San Francisco, California, before the War. He worked mainly as a barber.
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 did not 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 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 Petty. For this action 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.
He received minor wounds on October 5, 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 James Alley and 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 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.
He 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, so 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.
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 Hale, the two men went into a barn and captured six German S.S. officers. When a shell exploded outside the barn one of the S.S. 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 C. Lynch, Don Moone, and Wayne Sisk, to "eliminate" a Nazi who had been the head of a labor camp. When they found the man, Liebgott interrogated him for about thirty minutes, confirming that he was the man they wanted. They drove him to a ravine and Liebgott shot him twice. Wounded, the Nazi ran up a hill and Lynch ordered Moone to shoot him. Moone refused, and Sisk killed the man with a fatal rifle shot (the incident, when featured in the TV miniseries Band of Brothers, depicted only three men: Liebgott, Sisk and Webster, whereas, in reality, Webster was not part of the incident at all).
- Army Enlistment Record at the National Archives
- Winters, p. 174.
- Brotherton. - Chapter 10.
- Social Security Death Index record
- Guarnere and Heffron. p.44.
- Ambrose. p.64.
- Ambrose. p.79.
- Winters. p.90.
- Ambrose. p.85.
- Ambrose. p.91.
- Ambrose. pp.96-97.
- Ambrose. p.150.
- Ambrose. pp.144-145.
- Webster. p.166.
- Winters. p.143.
- Ambrose. p.169.
- Ambrose. p.170.
- Winters. pp.174-175.
- Ambrose. pp.186-187.
- Malarkey. p.193.
- Ambrose, p. 218
- Ambrose. pp.276-277.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1992). Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7434-6411-6.
- Winters, Richard D., with Cole C. Kingseed (2006). Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-425-20813-3.
- Guarnere, William J., and Edward J. Heffron, with Robyn Post (2007). Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-21970-6.
- Malarkey, Donald G., with Bob Welch (2008). Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's "Band of Brothers". St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-37849-3.
- Webster, David K. (1994 (posthumously)). Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich. Bantam Dell. ISBN 978-0-440-24090-7.
- Brotherton, Marcus (2010). A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-23420-4.