January 26, 1912|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||September 30, 1987
Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1940–47, ca. 1950–53|
|Unit||Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division|
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Herbert Jr. (son)
Herbert M. Sobel Sr. (January 26, 1912 – September 30, 1987) was a commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Sobel was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by David Schwimmer.
Early life and education
Sobel was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a Jewish family. He was a clothing salesman after attending military school at the Culver Military Academy in Indiana. He graduated from the University of Illinois. Sobel volunteered for the paratroopers soon after the outbreak of World War II and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Promoted to first lieutenant, Sobel commanded Company E for all of their basic training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. He was known to be strict, earning the hatred of many of his men. However, because of the intense training he gave his men, he was credited with creating the finest company in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to the rank of captain in recognition of his ability as a trainer.
After a period of training in the United Kingdom before the Normandy invasion, Captain Sobel was removed from command of Easy Company. Contrary to popular belief, regimental records show he did jump into Normandy but not with Easy Company and earned a CIB as part of Regimental Headquarters Company. He was later transferred to command the Chilton Foliat jump school. First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan replaced Sobel, and was one of several officers (including Richard Winters) to succeed him in that post before the war was over.
Shortly before Easy Company took part in the invasion of the Netherlands, Sobel was assigned to the 506th once again, this time replacing Salve Matheson as the regimental S-4 (logistics) officer for Operation Market Garden.
Later life and death
Sobel returned to the United States after the war, and worked as an accountant before being recalled to active duty during the Korean War. He remained in the Army National Guard, eventually retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He later married, and had three children.
In the late 1960s, Sobel shot himself in the head with a small-caliber pistol. The bullet entered his left temple, passed behind his eyes, and exited out the other side of his head. This severed his optic nerves and left him blind. He was later moved to a VA assisted living facility in Waukegan, Illinois. Sobel resided there for his last seventeen years until his death due to malnutrition on September 30, 1987. No services were held for Sobel after his death.
Sobel was controversially portrayed as petty and capricious in the television series Band of Brothers, generating much debate. Stephen Ambrose gives several examples of this in his book. Since the series, his son Michael has spoken out on his behalf. In various interviews, Easy Company veterans have acknowledged the importance Sobel's training played in the company's later successes. Writing of him in their autobiographies he seemed to have been remembered less fondly by the other officers. Enlisted men seemed uniform in disliking him but recognizing his drive to make them the best, ensuring their fine conditioning probably saved many lives.
- 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.
- Brotherton, Marcus (2009). We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from The Band of Brothers. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 0-425-23419-3.
- Compton, Lynn D.; with Brotherton, Marcus (2008). Call of Duty: My Life Before, During, and After the Band of Brothers. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-21970-6.