Kenneth Eugene Lebl

July 14, 2013

After my visit at the Brittany American Cemetery in Saint-James, France in June of 2013 I was having my doubts about adopting a grave here as it was quite a distance from home. But since I visit Normandy at least once a year and the Saint-James cemetery is not far from the landing beaches in Normandy, I decided to adopt one. After my application, the responsible told me there are still a lot of graves to adopt so I enlisted for a second grave there too. This man is on the Tablets of the missing in Saint-James.

Before the war

Kenneth Lebl was born and grew up in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois on April 29, 1921. He was the only child of Jerry and Estelle Lebl. His grandparents emigrated all from Czechoslovakia and Bohemia, which was part of Austria before The Great War.

Illinois, USA

Cook County, Illinois

Chicago, Cook County

Kenneth attended 4 years of high school. One of his favorite classes was math.

He loved flying and was very eager to learn to fly himself. He also loved going to the cinema and watch movies.

He was a very hard working young man. According to his WWII Enlistment Record, and confirmed by a relative, Kenneth worked as an accountant or auditor.

In the army

Kenneth joined the Army Reserves in Chicago, Illinois on October 5, 1942. He left Chicago by train on January 27, 1943 for Miami where he got his basic training for about 2 weeks. Camp Miami Beach became known as the most beautiful boot camp in America. It played a significant role between 1942 and 1945. Nearly half a million men took over hotels, restaurants, theaters and golf courses for training by the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command. By the end of the war, one-fourth of all Army Air Force officers and one-fifth of the military's enlisted men had been trained in Miami Beach.

Camp Miami Beach

After basic training he received new orders and left for Davidson College in North Carolina where he spent 5 to 6 months training and following classes. It's here that he learned to fly, which he loved a lot.

When he finished in North Carolina, he was transferred to Nashville, Tennessee. Here Kenneth received his classification papers to become a pilot and an Aviation Cadet.

From February 18, 1944 until May 1, 1944 Kenneth was at the McCook Army Air Field in Nebraska. This was activated on April 1, 1943 and was one of eleven US Army Air Forces training bases in Nebraska during WWII. It closed on 31 December 1945 and is now used for farm storage.

According to the IDPF, Kenneth was also based at Lincoln Air Force Base in Nebraska, but it doesn't mention a date.

Article about the navigators receiving their commissions

A picture of the original crew taken in the USA. We recognize Kenneth Lebl (top left), Pavel Lester (next to Kenneth), Billy Hollingsworth (top right),
Tony Caddell (bottom left), Roscoe Wilson (bottom middle), Dallas Kincaid (second from the bottom right), William Smith (bottom right)

Kenneth loved writing home when he was away. He also phoned his parents a lot. This was really important to him and made him feel happy.

The original crew consisted of 2nd/Lt Donald Russell, 2nd/Lt Lester Pavel, T/Sgt Billy Hollingsworth, T/Sgt Roscoe Wilson, 2nd/Lt Kenneth Lebl, 2nd/Lt Quentin Smith, S/Sgt William Smith, 2nd/Lt Loren Smith, S/Sgt Ronald Pelkey and Sgt Dallas Kincaid. Eventually Quentin Smith would be replaced by George Sharman as a bombardier, Loren Smith and Ronald Pelkey would be replaced by Tony Caddell and Charles Bujtor for their first mission on D-Day.

The group flew its first mission on D-Day 1944. This is the flight plan of the Moby Dick on 6 June 1944. On this day things went wrong with the plane and it's crew.

Moby Dicks mission on 6 June 1944

Death of Kenneth Lebl

Kenneth Lebl was a crew member (navigator) in a Liberator B-24. He was part of the aircraft with serial number 42-94789 which was nicknamed "Moby Dick". The aircraft took part in the first mission from the 862nd Bomber Squadron, 493rd Bomber Group (Heavy), also nicknamed "Heltons Hellcats".

That first mission took place on June 6, 1944 and their target was to bomb Lisieux (France), but the thick clouds prevented all 36 Liberators to drop their bombs so they returned with them. Around 10h28 at about 11.000 feet above the Channel the "Moby Dick" collided with another Liberator B-24, nicknamed "No Love No Nothin" with serial number 44-40471. The right wing of the "No Love No Nothin" appeared to have hit the tail of the "Moby Dick".

This is the approximate location where the Moby Dick went down

Both planes disappeared in the overcast and crashed into sea. Lt. Donald Russell was the pilot of the B-24 in which Kenneth Lebl was a crew member. All 10 crew members died in the crash. In the "No Love No Nothin" 9 were killed, 1 became a POW. During 1 year Kenneth was listed as missing in action. After 1 year this changed to finding of death because he was missing for 1 year and his body was not found by then.

The Report of Operations mentions this about the incident: "Two A/C were lost during this operation due to collision. The condition at the time of collision were not abnormal. The weather was clear, visibility unlimited, and formation was flying straight and level. Since it was the leader of the 4th element high squadron that collided with the leader of the 3rd element high squadron, no definite reason can be advanced for the accident."

B-24 Moby Dick in which Kenneth Lebl and his comrades made the final flight

Kenneth rests somewhere in an unknown grave at sea. His name is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Brittany American cemetery in Saint-James, France.

Brittany American Cemetery, Saint-James, France

The rest of the crew of the Moby Dick is also mentioned on the Tablets of the Missing at the Brittany American cemetery. They too deserve to be commemorated:

862nd Bomber Squadron, 493rd Bomber Group, Heavy

8th Air Force

862nd Bomber Squadron

493rd Bomber Group, Heavy

Second Lieutenant

The 493rd Bombardment Group is a former US Army Air Forces unit that was assigned to the 92nd Bombardment Wing during World War II. It was the last bombardment group to be assigned to the Eight Air Force. It flew combat missions in the strategic bombing campaign against Germany until shortly before VE Day, then returned to the USA for inactivation.

De eenheid werd voor het eerst geactiveerd op McCook Army Airfield in Nebraska, samen met de 860ste, 862ste en 863ste bombardements eskadrons. De groep werd half mei 1944 opgericht in Debach in Groot-Brittanniƫ en vloog zijn eerste gevechtsmissie op D-Day, 6 juni 1944. Hiermee werden ze meteen ok de laatste 8ste Air Force eenheid die operationeel werd. Ze bleven met Liberators vechten tot 24 augustus 1944, toen deze werden teruggetrokken uit het gevecht om om te bouwen naar Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, samen met andere eenheden van de 93rd Bombardment Wing, terwijl de 8th Air Force al de Liberators in de 2nd Bombardment Division concentreerde. Ze vlogen hun laatste gevechtsmissie naar rangeerterreinen nabij Nauen op 20 april 1945. Hierna dezen ze nog voedsel- en voorraaddroppingen.

De 493ste heeft 47 missies gevlogen met de Liberator en 110 met de Flying Fortress. Ze claimden de vernietiging van 11 vijandige vliegtuiten, maar verloren er zelf 41 tijdens de strijd. Ze vlogen in Normandiƫ, Noord-Frankrijk, het Rijnland, Ardennen, Elzas en Centraal Europa.


On July 28, 2013 I received an e-mail from Heather Cristman. She contacted me because my fantastic American friend Andi contacted her through Ancestry and told her about me adopting the name of Kenneth Lebl on the Wall of the Missing and I was looking for relatives of him. She answered that call and told me Kenneth was her grandmothers nephew. Her grandmother named her son, the father of Heather, after Kenneth as a second name.

In November 2017 we connected again and she provided me with more pictures of Kenneth Lebl. Since then we regularly send e-mails with information or just to enquire how things are going, I'm glad to have made a new friend in the US whom I hope to meet one day in France and in the USA.

Personal information

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Service # O-710284
862nd Bomber Squadron, 493rd Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered service from Illinois

Born: April 29, 1921
Hometown: Cook County, Illinois

Died: June 6, 1944
Status: finding of death (FOD)

Buried: Tablets of the Missing, Brittany American cemetery, Saint-James, France
Awards: Air Medal and Purple Heart

Air Medal

Purple Heart

Father: Jerry C. Lebl (1894-1981)
Mother: Estella Schultz (1895-1971)
Brother(s): /
Sister(s): /

More pictures

Sources NARA tablets of the missing
Andi Hunting
Cynthia De Bock
Rudy Kenis
Heather Cristman
493rd BG museum Suffolk
Individual Deceased Personnel File

Any information you can provide me about this soldier, can be mailed to me (nicklieten at Thank you!