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 of Austrian origin. Of Jewish descent by his mother, he and his five brothers and sisters were baptized and brought up in the tradition of the Catholic religion of their father. The family moved to Oakland, California where Joseph completed two years of high school before dropping out of school 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 was posted 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 being deployed to England in preparation for Normandy. After finishing training in England, Liebgott and the 506th were sent to Upottery to prepare for the jump into Normandy. 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 got separated like the rest of his Company but made it back to his Company at Ste. Mare-du-Monte. He then participated in the Brecourt Manor Assault, where he provided Machine Gun fire with Private Cleveland O. Petty. For his actions, Liebgott earned a Bronze Star.
On June 10, Liebgott encountered a German and killed him with a bayonet thrust. He later cut the German's finger off for his ring, which he kept as a souvenir and later showed Rod Strohl. He also got a Nazi swastika, which he showed to Sgt. Talbert, who in turn showed Liebgott his poncho.
Liebgott later fought at 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 cannon fire, and Liebgott comforted the wounded Tipper, carrying him to safety with Harry Welsh. Liebgott later helped defend the town on June 13.
After heading back to England, 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 on them. During the attack, they were bombed 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, he was ordered to have 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 found 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. Moone 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 him, 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 a Jew as he stated in Currahee and had a fight with Guarnere. He was Jewish but did not practice Judaism and he was converted to Catholic.
- In the miniseries as well, Liebgott wasn't sent by Captain Speirs to eliminate the Nazi who was the commander of the concentration camp, but he is eliminating him for his own selfishness and anger for what he did to those Jews.