Technician Fifth Grade Joseph D. Liebgott, Jr. was a Paratrooper that served in Easy Company. His fellow soldiers assumed that he was Jewish, based on his family name.
Joseph Liebgott was born in Detroit, Michigan on May 17, 1915. His parents were immigrants from Austria. Although Jewish by descent from his mother, he and his five brothers and sisters were baptized and brought up in the Catholic religion of their father. The family moved to Oakland, California where Joseph completed two years of high school before dropping out and starting to work in different occupations.
Joseph Liebgott decided to join the army in 1942; he was posted to the Toccoa camp in Georgia and then to Easy Company, 506th PIR. His commander was 1st Lieutenant Herbert Sobel. During an inspection, Sobel approached Liebgott and told him that he had a rusty bayonet, which he hung on Liebgott's helmet and shouted loudly, "I would not take that piece of rusty shit at war ... "
After completing training in August, Liebgott qualified as a paratrooper at Fort Benning. He and his regiment then underwent tactical training at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, followed by deployment to England in preparation for the Normandy invasion. He and Forrest Guth gave mohawk haircuts to most of the men of the Company for $0.15 per head.
Liebgott jumped into Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was separated from the rest of his Company but made it back to his Company at Ste. Marie-du-Mont. He then participated in the Brecourt Manor assault, where he provided machine gun fire along with Private Cleveland O. Petty. For his actions, Liebgott earned a Bronze Star.
Liebgott later fought in the French town of Carentan on June 12. After his friend Edward Tipper destroyed a building with a bazooka, Liebgott shot a German trying to get out of the building. Liebgott later helped his friend Tipper secure a building. Tipper was hit by German artillery fire, and Liebgott comforted the wounded Tipper, carrying him to safety with Harry Welsh. Liebgott later helped defend the town on June 13.
Liebgott and the Company were later sent to Holland as part of Operation Market Garden on September 17. They met no resistance when they landed, but were bested at Nuenen.
They were then sent to "The Island" on October 2.
On October 5, he was sent on patrol with Sgt. Art Youman, Pvts. Joe Lesniewski, Rod Strohl, and James Alley. They came close to a German machine gun nest. Liebgott had spotted a German: Liebgott called, "Youman, is that you?", and the German threw a grenade at them. Liebgott took a minor shrapnel wound to the arm, while Alley was wounded severely by the blast. Liebgott brought him into Company HQ and Capt. Winters quickly assembled an attack squad to counter assault the German position.
Liebgott participated in the attack on the German position next morning, where he was able to lay down a hail of machine gun fire. During the attack, Easy Company was hit by heavy artillery, and Liebgott took a shrapnel wound to the base of his neck. After the attack, he was seen firing at a wounded German who was trying to crawl away. Capt. Winters approached Liebgott and told him to take the German prisoners to Battalion. However, being known for his hatred for Germans and his rough attitude to prisoners, Liebgott had his rifle emptied of all but one bullet. Liebgott was later sent to a hospital in England but requested to return to his Company, which was approved.
On December 18, Liebgott and the Division were sent to the Ardennes forest at Belgium to replace to 28th Infantry Division at the Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne). There, Liebgott neared his breaking point, was pulled off the line and made CP runner for Winters. He returned to the line but his stress continued, and he was sent to Division HQ Intelligence. He eventually returned to the Company at the town of Noville. Liebgott and Sgt. Earl Hale were escorting 6 German prisoners when an SS officer emerged and pulled a knife out, slashing Hale's throat. Liebgott shot the officer and Hale survived his wound.
After Belgium, the Division was sent to occupy Germany on April 2, 1945. After discovering a concentration camp, Liebgott translated for one of the prisoners, who said that the prisoners were Jews, to everyone's horror. He was later ordered to tell the prisoners not to eat food and be sent back to the camp for treatment. Liebgott sobbed after giving the order.
While occupying Austria, Liebgott was sent by Captain Speirs with Pvts. Wayne 'Skinny' Sisk, Don Moone and John Lynch to eliminate a Nazi who they believed was the commander of the concentration camp they found at Landsberg. Liebgott interrogated him and determined that he was the man they wanted. In anger, Liebgott shot him twice, but only wounded him. He tried to shoot him as he was escaping up a hill, but his gun jammed. Webster was ordered to shoot him but he refused, and, instead, Sisk shot the German officer through the back.
After the war, Liebgott returned to San Francisco. He later moved to Los Angeles and became a barber. He married and had eight children, naming one son after himself, while all the other children's names began with 'J'.
He didn't talk about his war years, nor did he attend any reunions. He died on June 28, 1992 at the age of 77.
- Ross McCall resembles the real Liebgott.
- In the miniseries, Liebgott is portrayed as Jewish as he stated in Currahee and had a fight with Guarnere. He was Jewish but did not practice Judaism and he was baptized Catholic.
- In the miniseries it is not specified that it was Speirs who ordered the Nazi eliminated. Liebgott, portrayed by Ross McCall, remarks, "...I'm under direct orders, and I'm happy to follow it."