Sunday, October 5, 2008

Leonard Herman Flies Final Mission

God speed, Leonard. Happy landings...

Just received word from Linda, Leonard's daughter, that Leonard Herman passed away today.

My world just got a lot more lonely. I'll never fill that gap in my heart that was filled by my buddy Leonard. I love you, Len.

I am including in this post the hardest writing assignment of my life: Leonard's obituary, which I wrote this morning before I knew for sure we'd have to use it.

Len, I'll never have another friend like you. I pray your mission is successful, and that you are, as we speak, in the arms of God.


"Leonard Herman, 92, of Columbus, Georgia, one of the most decorated airmen of World War Two, flew his final mission on October , 2008. Leonard flew two tours of duty in the service of his country as a combat bombardier.

Leonard was born to Lena and Lewis Herman in Philadelphia, PA, on September 10, 1916, the third of five children. He attended Philadelphia public schools, graduating from Overbrook High School. While in grade school, he worked as a ball boy for Philadelphia’s Negro League baseball team, and met many of the great players of the era. After attending college for a short time, he became a traveling salesman. In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, later transferring to the Army Air Force, where he trained first as a pilot and then as a bombardier. He flew 25 dangerous missions as a B-17 Flying Fortress bombardier for the 95th Bomb Group (H) in the early days of the air war over Europe in 1943, when the odds of completing 25 missions were slim, and was wounded in combat. He was credited with shooting down two German fighters. Upon completion of his tour, he was reassigned to the U.S. Ninth Air Force and returned to Europe, flying many additional missions as a bombardier on A-26 Intruders and B-26 Marauders. He flew missions up until the last days of the war. Along with his brother E. Edward and another young GI named Robert Hilliard, Leonard pressured the United States government to change its policy towards liberated concentration camp survivors in the American Sector of Germany, thereby saving thousands of lives. The story was made into a book and later an acclaimed documentary entitled ‘Saving St. Ottilien’. For this action and for his two tours of combat, he was nominated for a belated Medal of Honor, and has a United States Post Office named after him in Boca Rotan, FL. Among his many combat decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters. He participated in the Battle of Northern Europe, Battle of Northern France, Battle of the Rhineland, Battle of the Ardennes, and Battle of Central Europe.

After the war, he met and fell in love with a young Army nurse, Pauline Rubin, of Philadelphia. They were married 1946 in Philadelphia. Leonard then embarked on a successful career in the textile industry, and ran his own large company, Seagull Manufacturing, for many years. Leonard and Pauline also raised their daughter Linda in the Philadelphia area.

In the seventies, Leonard became involved in the 95th Bomb Group and the preservation of its history. He was the project coordinator, along with Ellis Scripture, of the acclaimed oral history of the group edited by Ian Hawkins entitled “Courage, Honor, Victory”. He remained very active in the 95th Bomb Group until poor health prevented his active participation. In 2007, he published his memoirs.

Leonard was a member of the Jewish faith. He was preceded in death by his wife Pauline Rubin Herman and his brother E. Edward Herman. He is survived by two brothers, Herbert and Irwin; a sister Miriam; his daughter, Linda Collins; son-in-law Larry Collins; grandson Jordan Collins; and numerous nieces and nephews. Leonard was an outgoing, loving man and everyone was his friend.
Funeral/memorial services will be held ________. Condolences can be sent to _____."


Les said...

Rob, I offer my condolences in what must be a very difficult time for you. Although I never met Len, I feel like I have met him through his memoirs in "Combat Bombardier". My prayers are with you through the loss of a friend and I join you in honoring and celebrating the life of a courageous hero.

r morris said...

Thank you, Les. I plan to be at his funeral in Philly in three weeks. he was a great man, and yeah, i've done some crying today.