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.

Missie van de Moby Dick op 6 juni 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

It was first activated at McCook Army Air Field in Nebraska, with the 860th, 861st, 862nd and 863rd Bombardment Squadrons assigned. The group was established at Debach, UK, by mid-May and flew its first combat mission on D-Day, June 6, 1944, making it the last Eight Air Force to become operational. It continued to fly Liberators until August 24, 1944, when it was withdrawn from combat to convert to Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, along with other units of the 93rd Bombardment Wing, as Eight Air Force concentrated all its Liberators in the 2nd Bombardment Division. They flew their last combat mission against marshalling yards near Nauen on April 20, 1945. After that they did some food-droppings and supply-droppings.

The 493rd had flown 47 missions with the Liberator and 110 with the Flying Fortress. It claimed the destruction of 11 enemy aircraft, but lost 41 in combat. They flew in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.

Contact

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


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

More pictures















Sources

- http://www.abmc.gov
- http://www.wwiimemorial.com NARA
- http://www.wwiimemorial.com tablets of the missing
- http://www.findagrave.com
- http://www.findagrave.com
- Andi Hunting
- Cynthia De Bock
- Rudy Kenis
- Heather Cristman
- 493rd BG museum Suffolk
- www.miamibeachvets.com
- Wikipedia
- Individual Deceased Personnel File


Any information you can provide me about this soldier, can be mailed to me (nicklieten@hotmail.com). Thank you!