Bob Liebold of Englewood Beach, Fla. wears a tan ball cap with a brown beak. On the front of his hit are two gold crossed cannons, a couple of campaign ribbons with three bronze stars and on the beak is a set of silver captain’s bars.
He served in the 198th Antiaircraft Coastal Artillery and saw action during the invasion of New Guinea and Luzon in the Philippines in the Second World War. The 87-year-old former artillery lieutenant joined the service in 1942 after growing up in Punxsutawney, Pa.
“Our unit was one of the first American Army units to land on the beach in Dutch New Guinea. When we arrived the Australians had just established a beachhead,” he said. “We set up our 40 millimeter antiaircraft gun to protect the troops from Japanese planes who were coming in after us.”
From there Liebold’s artillery outfit moved on to Sansapor in Dutch New Guinea. A short time later they were among the first soldiers to hit the beach during the invasion of Luzon in the Philippines.
“We loaded onto to a LCT (Landing Craft Tank) on Christmas Eve 1944 for the invasion of Luzon. We hit the beach with the 101st Airborne that came in with us on the landing craft,” he said.
The Japanese were still in control of the entire island, except for the invasion beach.
“I watched Gen. MacArthur come ashore,” Liebold recalled. He said little more about the historic general’s wade ashore on Luzon. It was from that beach the general broadcast to the Philippino people, “I have returned.”
The lieutenant had more important things to do than watch the supreme commander in that part of the Pacific come ashore. Liebold’s unit again set up their 40 millimeter guns to protect against enemy aircraft.
All the while the landing forces were being shell by a huge 16-inch cannons the enemy set up in the mountains overlooking the landing beach.
“The gun had been taken by the Japanese from an emplacement in Manila and put up in the mountains. They used manpower to haul the gun into the mountains. It was in an area that was inaccessible by Jeep,” he said.
“Just by accident one of our fighter planes spotted the gun in the hills one day. It was hidden beneath a house that was rigged to slide out of the way when it was fired,” Liebold said. “The pilot dropped two 500-pound bombs on the gun and scored a direct hit.”
After the initial invasion his artillery unit was relocated to protect an airbase. At the same time American forces began training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. He was transferred to the 707th Glider Transportable Machine-gun Battalion. They were to be flown into enemy territory by glider.
Liebold was still on Luzon waiting for the final invasion when he happened to accompany an injured soldier to the hospital. At the time he had major medical problems of his own.
“I was wearing a sleeveless shirt because I had fungus infection and jungle rot on my arm,” he recalled. “The doctor looked at the injured soldier and then looked at me. He put me in the hospital because of my jungle rot.
“I never went back to my unit. I spent the next 1½ years in the hospital trying to get over my infection.”
He served 15 years in the Army Reserve after the war and retired as a captain.
Members of his 198th Antiaircraft Coastal Artillery Battalion held a 64th Reunion in Dayton, Ohio last year. Only Liebold and four members of his unit were able to attend. They’ve planned another reunion this year and the old soldier is making plans to attend.
Name: Bob Liebold
Hometown: Punxsutawney, Pa.
Address: Englewood Beach, Fla.
Entered Service: Feb. 11, 1943
Unit: 198th Anti-aircraft Coastal Artillery
Commendations: Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Service Stars, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Star and the World War II Victory Medal.
Married: Lois Erickson (Deceased)
Children: Richard Liebold
This story was published in the Charlotte Sun, Port Charlotte, Fla., March 5, 2009 and is republished with permission.
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