My faith in America is solidified tonight, after talking to Linda, Leonard's daughter. She told me that Leonard Herman made the front page of the Columbus, Georgia newspaper, in this outstanding, factually-correct story by reporter Larry Gierer. It is so nice to know that the passing of one of our World War Two veterans has merited front-page coverage commemorating his final mission. As I told Linda tonight, the story should be front-page in the New York Times. When we lose these men, we lose the best of ourselves.
Thank you, Columbus (GA) Enquirer for honoring a World War Two veteran.
Posted on Tue, Oct. 07, 2008
Decorated World War II airman dies
Leonard Herman died at age 92 on Sunday
BY LARRY GIERER - email@example.com --
Linda Collins laughs when she says nobody in her dad's crew worried more about their airplane getting shot down than he did.
"He was the only Jew aboard and they were dropping bombs on Germany," she says.
Her father, Leonard Herman, 92, died Sunday in Columbus. He was one of the most decorated airmen of World War II. Among his combat decorations were the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. A bombardier, he was credited with shooting down two German fighters. Twice he saved the lives of his crew, once flying his airplane home after the pilot was killed.
He participated in the battles of Northern Europe, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.
With the Army Air Force, he flew 25 missions as a B-17 Flying Fortress bombardier for the 95th Bomb Group and was wounded. He completed a war bond tour, trained fliers to go overseas, then was reassigned to the U.S. Ninth Air Force and returned to Europe, flying additional missions as a bombardier on A-26 Intruders and B-26 Marauders.
He and Rob Morris wrote a book called "Combat Bombardier" based on his exploits.
"My father was very proud of his war record," Collins said. "He loved to tell the stories to my son."
"He was my hero," said Randy Kranepuhl, a retired soldier who works at Fort Benning. "His stories were always interesting. This was a guy who took part in the first daylight bombing of Berlin. He was always friendly. He told me he was a salesman and joined the Army after a car accident. He said God wanted him to do something else."
It was something that had nothing to do with shooting or bombing that was possibly just as great an accomplishment for Herman. Along with his brother, Edward, and another soldier, Robert Hilliard, Herman helped pressure the U.S. government into changing its policy toward German concentration camp prisoners who had been liberated into the American sector. Many lives were saved. The story of his action was later told in a documentary, "Miracle at St. Ottilien." And Hilliard, who was a college professor, wrote a book about it, "Surviving the Americans."
Displaced Jews were being held behind barbed wire in camps guarded by U.S. soldiers with unsanitary conditions and inadequate food supplies. Some were sick and didn't have medicine. Many had to wear prison garb or discarded SS uniforms.
"We were the United States of America," Herman told the Ledger-Enquirer in a 1998 interview. "We were supposed to be the good guys."
Hilliard and Ed Herman were privates stationed at St. Ottilien, a church village, and they saw the treatment of the Jews. They paid a German printer to print thousands of letters asking for help.
Leonard Herman used his contacts and made sure influential people saw the letter. In the 1998 interview, Herman called himself "a novelty" at that time. "I was someone who survived, a lucky guy," he said of his service in Germany.
Eventually, Earl Harrison, the American representative of the Intergovernmental Committee of Refugees, saw the letter and wrote a report, which made it to the desk of President Harry S. Truman. On Sept. 30, 1945, the headline in The New York Times read: "President Orders Eisenhower to End New Abuse of Jews."
After the war, Herman married an Army nurse, Pauline Rubin. He will be buried next to his wife in Philadelphia. Herman ran his own textile company, Seagull Manufacturing.
"He came to Columbus to be closer to me," Collins said. "He wanted to be near family. Everyone was his friend. He was the most outstanding, sweetest guy. Everybody loved Mr. Herman."