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Chapter Three: Liebgotts!


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#1 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 12:02 PM

Liebgotts!! Wednesday afternoon there was a pretty strong buzz in the place (okay, I initiated it) when the group was descended upon by about 6-8 Liebgotts – two sons, John and Jim, a wife, a few grandchildren and a great-grandbaby. Among them was a very trim young woman, about 30, with dark swept back hair and the most astonishing cheekbones – about as sharp a CWO as you’ll ever see in her crisp white Navy uniform. Awesome! She’s Joe’s granddaughter, an eight-year veteran serving in Southern California.

The vets were very enthusiastic to meet and learn about Joe from his sons, but they were wild about Rhonda, and who wouldn't be!!

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#2 homefront41

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 12:05 PM

The family had limited time and tried to make the most of it, connecting with whomever they could and exchanging phone numbers, etc. After being contacted, etc., and learning about BoB, John started going through Dad’s boxes, still in the attic or basement. They found, among other stuff, somethings they brought along and showed to anyone who was willing to discuss their dad with them -- original photos, THE CURRAHEE SCRAPBOOK, which I got to flip through for an hour, photostats of Joe’s official records, two versions of dogtags showing him as a RC or C, Roman Catholic.

Knowing that sometimes Jewish troops had RC or C on tags in case of capture, someone wondered if maybe there was one parent who was Jewish, John said no, not the case. Finally I asked one of the vets who said with the certainty of long held knowledge, “Yeah, he was. Well, I’ll tell you this -- he NEVER DENIED it.” And there you have it, a perfect example of how and where the story may have started and continued all these years. Kinda like the Blithe demise in 1948 – supposition becomes fact. Liebgott was a Kraut American Catlick.

John told me that Joe disappeared after he came back to the U.S. His parents in Alameda, CA, couldn’t find him. In 1946 or ‘47, I think, Smokey Gordon wrote from Louisianna that he wanted to get in touch with Joe (I think that’s when they were planning their first big reunion), and John brought that letter with him too. It had Joe’s dad’s or mom’s handwriting on it to say that they had not heard from Joe and they were glad to at least hear that he got back to the U.S. well. In 1948 Joe surfaced in Southern California, found himself a nice cushiony woman to marry and eventually had eight children. He was still giving haircuts up until just before he died in the ‘90s.

According to John, though they never knew much about that dropout period, they believe he was suffering some sort of PTSD (before they acknowledged and named it) and when he came out the other end, he put it behind him and resumed his life. John says his dad never talked about the war, the kids never really had any idea what was in Dad’s boxes, they never looked until this all came up. Curiously, none of his medals or citations have turned up. The children surmise that they are in the bottom of some lake, bay, ocean somewhere. Probably a good guess.

I must say, it was really exciting to see all the Liebgotts talking to the men about their dad’s service. Though it was apparently difficult for them all to break away from work on short notice (Bill had only just reached them three weeks before), a handful of them stayed a day longer than anticipated. I don’t know how they could leave before Sunday!!! I couldn’t have. It was pretty cool to watch the vets seek them out as soon as they heard who they were. They hadn’t known what happened to Joe either. I was mesmerized.

~~end of chapter three~~

#3 VanessaBinder

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 02:20 PM

BK, thank you so much for sharing your stories and pics regarding "The Boys". I am so in awe of the WW2 vets. They deserve every bit of recognition. Regards, Vanessa

#4 appell8

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 03:34 PM

BK, I mentioned your conclusions about Joe L. to Bill Maynard, and his jaw dropped. He said "No. That's not right. We joined up together, and he said he was Jewish."

It would appear that if he was Catholic all along, he enjoyed letting people think he was Jewish.

Who knows?

#5 bamapt

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 03:36 PM

So, not to sound like a complete moron here, but you're saying that Joe never reunited with any of the guys after the war?

Thanks for sharing. :D More, more, please.

michelle

#6 Morgy

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 08:15 AM

I'm happy to learn a bit more about post war career of Joe. Keep posting stuff like this Bk. I love it.

Thank you,

Morgy :D

#7 kat

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 02:51 PM

BK are you writing a book??? I tell you I'm totally captivated!! I've not getting very much work done today. Please don't stop we need to hear more!!!

kat :D

#8 homefront41

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 03:43 PM

Maybe the conclusion needs to be revised to say that Joe left his Jewish traditions behind when he resumed his post-WWII life. Jim and John were very clear about their understanding of their Dad's heritage, and the dogtags were both stamped as a Catholic, one RC and one C. Of course, tags are not reliable evidence as mentioned, Jewish soldiers often had tags which indicated another religion for obvious reasons.

In any case, maybe one of these days I'll get to talk with some Leibgotts again and dig some more. Very puzzling. They left the reunion wanting to know much more themselves.

One thing's for sure -- when Joe left the 506th, he REALLY left. If indeed he was Jewish, one can only imagine what ghosts he put aside when he re-emerged in the late forties. It almost seems as though Joe buried it all too deeply for anyone to find. But his buddies admired him and cared about him so much, he's been resurrected so we can pay him tribute.

I think that's where I'll leave it. BK

#9 SusanSmithFinn

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 08:32 PM

I am not sure why, but I did not spend any time talking to the Liebgotts and hope to fix that someday! It is strange that Joe did not maintain contact. There were many Easy Company veterans in the SF bay area and they all belonged to the very sociable Northern California chapter of the 101st Airborne Assn., including Tony Garcia, Chuck Grant, probably Mike Ranney and my dad among others. BK, do you recall if any of the Liebgotts mentioned what if anything they knew about why Joe did not maintain contact after the war? But again, you have to understand that my dad was very active in the aforementioned 101st assn. and never, ever, ever talked to us about the war or Easy Company.

Susan

#10 SusanSmithFinn

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 08:32 PM

Yippee...finally got that promotion!

Susan

#11 homefront41

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Posted 03 March 2003 - 09:48 PM

The Leibgott kids (there are eight of them, 5 boys with names starting with J - Jim, John, Jerry, etc.) knew absolutely nothing about their dad's wartime service. I'm not sure they even knew he was IN the service.

It was not until people started poking around to find any Leibgotts that some of Joe's sons began to get some inquiries about this paratrooper portrayed in Band of Brothers. And even at that, they were slow to get around to seeing the program; none of them got HBO. Eventually, they went digging in the attic, basement or wherever and found a box (I think John said one box) of his dad's stuff that had been stowed away anonymously forever. Some of what they found in it, they brought with them to the Reunion as mentioned in my earlier post.

We don't hear too many stories about PTSD from WW II veterans, but if one gauges Joe's dropout period and following that his silence on his war experiences against the many stories we've heard about Vietnam veterans' experiences, it's not a stretch to believe that when he was ready to resume his life, it was a considered decision to just move on without any of it.

Susan, from what I learned from John, there's no way of knowing why he chose to stay beyond the reach of Easy. Maybe if he'd included Easy in his life, he'd have had to include the horror. That's the way I see it. It would certainly seem that he built a good life and family going the route he did. I hope someday the Leibgott kids will learn more. But I won't be surprised if there's nothing more to learn from any of Joe's post-war friends and contacts. I think he just found something to believe in again and left buried everything he had experienced and seen.

Edited by homefront41, 05 May 2004 - 08:34 PM.


#12 Kiwiwriter

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 09:10 AM

Great story....great photographs.

And Rhonda made CWO in only eight years? That's a speedy promotion indeed.

But send her my congratulations on her service and my thanks for her sacrifice and commitment. Tell her to come back safe from the Gulf. :D

#13 TomC

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Posted 04 March 2003 - 04:37 PM

Homefront41, I had extended my gratitude to you for your other posts, and I again must say thanks for this one. I truly enjoy reading these stories and viewing the accompanying photos. I hope it isn't too much trouble, but please don't stop!

#14 cias

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Posted 15 March 2003 - 09:54 AM

If Joe went in the concentration camp, the trauma from that on top of the general trauma of the war could have caused him to deny his Jewish background
and to stay away from the other vets because the renewed bad memories would outweigh the possible pleasure of the reunions.

Gary

#15 Frank_Slegers_Holland

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Posted 09 April 2003 - 01:00 PM

Thanks for the Liebgott storie BK. This explains why I haven't been able to find info on Liebgott after WWII.

In some way a very sad storie. Good to know that he had a good life with his family and raised 8 kids. Sad to see he had his own "demons" that followed him after the war.

Thanks for sharing this BK.

Frank




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