Joseph Liebgott

In his book ‘Beyond Band of Brothers’, Major Dick Winters relayed an interaction with Liebgott after he’d been given an order. Major Winters explained, “Liebgott had earned the reputation of being one of Easy’s best combat soldiers, but we had all heard stories that he was very rough on prisoners. Liebgott was one of Easy Company’s “killers,” so I deemed it appropriate to take a bit of caution. When he heard me say, “Take the prisoners back to the battalion command post,” he replied, “Oh boy! I’ll take care of them.” In his exuberance, Liebgott stood up and paced back and forth and he was obviously very nervous and concerned. I stopped him in his tracks. “There are seven prisoners and I want seven prisoners turned over to battalion.”

Major Winters continued, “Liebgott was highly incensed and started to throw a tantrum. Somewhat unsure of how he would react, I then dropped my M-1 to my hip, threw off the safety, and said, ‘Liebgott, drop all your ammunition and empty your rifle.’ There was much grumbling and swearing, but he did as I had ordered. ‘Now,’ I said, ‘you can put one round in your rifle. If you drop a prisoner, the rest will jump you.’

Another of Easy Company had his own view of Liebgott.  Webster said, “120-pound Liebgott, ex-San Francisco cabby…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 paratroopers”

However, there were issues with Websters description. Joe was not a cabby although he drove one for a short time prior to joining E Company; he was a barber by trade. But the biggest assumption was that Joseph Liebgott was Jewish, he was in fact Catholic.

Let’s find out more about Joseph D. Liebgott. 

Early Life

Born in Lansing, Michigan, Joseph Liebgott was the eldest of six children.

He had one brother and four sisters, all of whom he was incredibly protective of. Joseph Sr and Mary, his parents, were immigrants from Austria. The children were raised as Roman Catholic just as Joseph Sr had been. His childhood centred around Oakland, California and after two years of high school and a variety of jobs, Joe began to assist his father in his work.

Joe drove a cab for a short time in San Francisco, then went to barber college which was his listed profession when he joined the army. An interview with Jim Liebgott, Joe’s son, in Marcus Brothertons book ‘A Company of Heroes’ tells how the extra money from being a paratrooper was to be used for a down payment on a house for his parents. Jim commented that Joe always loved to look after people.

World War II

On September 9th, 1942, Joseph Liebgott enlisted in San Francisco. He volunteered to join the Airborne which led him to Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa in Georgia. As they prepared for the Normandy invasion, Joseph’s barber training came into valuable use. Joe Liebgott and Forrest Guth gave haircuts to the men for 15 cents a time. Granted, most were shaved heads or Mohawks, but it was the sense of camaraderie and in a way, a sense of normalcy, as the haircuts were done before the war that was to follow.

The Brecourt Manor assault saw Liebgott manning a machine gun alongside Cleveland Petty. Colonel Sink awarded the gentlemen the Bronze Star for their actions. Joe began to collect ‘mementoes of the war, a ring from a dead German and a Nazi Swastika. During the Carentan attack, Liebgott was the first to reach Edward Tipper following a motor shell landing near him. Liebgott comforted Tipper and along with Harry Welsh took him to the aid station.  Joe himself received minor wounds on 5 October 1944. The location was the Netherlands and while on patrol, Joe and his group encountered a German patrol. An incoming grenade wounded him and others.

When the 506th moved onto Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, Liebgott was near breaking point. Recognising this, Winters pulled him off the line and gave him a few days as his Command Post (C.P.) runner. Joe returned to the line, but his stress and tension returned too. Winters made a decision to assign him to 101st Division Headquarters S-2 (Intelligence). It was thought that his ability to communicate in German could be beneficial to interrogating prisoners.

Whilst in Austria on occupation duty, Easy Company commander Ronald Speirs assigned Liebgott, along with Lynch, Moone, and Sisk, to “eliminate” a Nazi who had been the head of a labour camp. When they found the man concerned, Liebgott interrogated him for several minutes, to confirm that he was the man they wanted. Once confirmed, the four paratroopers drove him to a ravine where Liebgott shot him twice. Wounded, the Nazi ran up a hill as Lynch ordered Moone to shoot him. Moone refused, and Sisk killed the man with a single, fatal rifle shot.

Throughout his service with the 506th, there was a consistency with Joseph Liebgott. Major Winters noted him to have exceptional qualities, that he was an extremely good combat soldier and a loyal friend.

Later Life

After returning to life in California, Joe got married to Peggy whom he met in LA. They raised a large family, naming one of his sons after himself and gifting the rest of the children ‘J’ names. He continued his work as a barber through to his death and never said a word to his children about the war or his actions in it. When the book and series brought the Liebgott name to light, the family learned about his combat experience. Furthermore, when looking through his personal effects, his jump wings and Currahee scrapbook were found.


After Band of Brothers aired in 2001, the Liebgott children made contact with Bill Guarnere and other members of Easy Company. This culminated in them attending a 2002 reunion in Phoenix. The Liebgott family were able to share and fill in the missing gaps of information for the other Easy Company members. They explained how Joe went missing after the war and remained that way for three years. His parents had no idea where he was or when he returned. In hindsight, Joe’s family feel that he suffered from PTSD like many veterans before him. There is a feeling that to cope with the PTSD he needed to tune out, to drop out of society for a while.

In Marcus Brothertons book ‘A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the real Band of Brothers and the Legacy they left us’, Joe`s son Jim shared memories and said this about the atmosphere in the home while growing up.  “It was fun, particularly with eight kids on a barber salary. We didn’t have a lot, but we always had shoes and clothes, and were always well fed.” One of Jim’s favorite memories is whenever his father took the family to the beach. “He had only one day off per week, and he took us to the Long Beach pike, an amusement park with a roller coaster and pinball games. There wasn’t much money to go around, but we always had fun.””

The book also shares delightful memories of Grandpa Joe. A man who had workers hands and sunspots all over them. A man who loved to make his grandchildren laugh. A man who made bikes for all his grandchildren from dilapidated bikes sourced from thrift stores. Joes grandaughter Rhonda shared memories of bite size candies and soda; tuna sandwiches and a delicious marinade. A man whose house was as organised as his Easy Company footlocker.

Liebgott died on 28 June 1992 in San Bernardino, California, leaving behind strict instructions for the family. There was to be no funeral. But there were many precious memories. How would we remember him? His son stated he was “an honourable man and a good father”. His granddaughter said, “when we were around, we had his full attention.”

He was a husband, brother, son, father, grandfather and friend.

He was also an Easy Company soldier.

Ross McCall – Thank you for your portrayal of this gentleman. 

To the Liebgott family – Thank you for sharing your memories. 

To Marcus Brotherton – Thank you for capturing those memories. 

To Joe Liebgott – Thank you for your service.