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Liebl Vernie D.

Vernie D.  Liebl
Staff Sergeant
Serial Number:
357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division
Date of Death:
Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France
Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster

Vernie D. Liebl was an infantryman/artillery forward observer in the 1st Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, which landed on Utah Beach. He was wounded on 11 July 1944 on the last - sixth - day of fierce fighting outside of Beaucoudrey (Normandy) and was hospitalized in England.* He returned to the Front on 31 July, when he rejoined his battalion in C Company. On 10 September 1944, Staff Sergeant Liebl was killed in action during the liberation of the city of Hayange, as the 90th Infantry Division ("the Tough Ombres") raced across France towards Germany. He was just shy of his 24th birthday. Vernie was born to a colorful father, Josef Georg Liebl (1868-1946), an Austrian immigrant who left or fled his village just outside of Salzburg in 1886 and hopped onto a steamer as a stowaway and jumped into New York Bay (thus never went through the Castle Garden processing center) for fear he'd be sent back. Or so the family yarn goes. He somehow made his way across America, ended up in Boise, Idaho and then Washington State to try his hand at mining. He never spoke German again, nor traveled away from Washington State, where he settled, raised a family, and was buried next to his wife, Neva Belle. Vernie's mother, Neva Belle McConnell (1880-1953), was born in Kansas to an Irish immigrant father (Edward McConnell), and an American mother (Emma Barrett) of Irish and English ancestry. Her family were also ranchers in Kansas, who moved west and ended up ranching in eastern Washington. Vernie was the baby in a large loving family with eight surviving siblings: two brothers (Ray and George) and six sisters (Pearl, Sarah, Annie, Odyle, Francis and Hazel). His eldest sibling, Pearl, was 19 years his senior. He was an avid horseman, marksman, and rancher who was raised in the mountainous Methow Valley region in the Cascades. On 28 October 1942, Vernie volunteered to fight and signed up as a Private to serve for the duration. Vernie's family never quite recovered from the horrific news of the war. In those days, given the number of deaths, many killed in combat were buried far away from home. Vernie was buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St Avold (Moselle). Plot: C Row: 24 Grave: 30. His parents placed a marker in the Beaver Creek Cemetery in his honor, where they are buried nearby. Vernie was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster. Reading Vernie's letters to his sister Francis and other family members, one gets the impression of a dedicated patriot eager to free Europe from the clutches of Nazism. Cheerful, intelligent, and always concerned about the welfare of his other family members, it would be remiss not to honor his memory on this 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the day the 1st battalion of the 357th infantry regiment of the 90th Infantry Division began landing troops, including Vernie, on Utah Beach. Vernie's eldest brother, Ray Elmer's only child, Ray Edward, was seven years old when his uncle was killed in France. Inspired by his uncle's service and sacrifice, Ray enlisted in the Marine Corps with his parents' permission in 1953. He saw action in Vietnam (Danang and Quang Tri Province 1968-1969) and was awarded the Purple Heart. Ray named his only son after his uncle. Vernie Roy (Vernie's Great Nephew) also served in the USMC and did four combat tours starting with Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Horn of Africa/Yemen. His youngest son, Vern Nathaniel (born in 2001) is named in honor of his Great-Great Uncle Vernie. It's with much sadness one wonders how Vernie's life would have turned out had he not made the ultimate sacrifice. Judging from his letters, he probably would have returned to ranching back home in a place he loved, where he'd have raised a family. So many young men like Vernie never made it home. Those who did return from World War II combat infrequently spoke about it, but many went on to live life with a sense of purpose. May God Bless America circa 2014. *Back in the east the 357th had entered the battle on July 5 to relieve part of the 358th. The outfit was stopped cold outside of Beaucoudray in a day-long battle but continued to trade blows there for six bitter days. Constant battering only loosened the hinges but diverted German attention to the east so that the lock on the west was picked and the portal was forced open slowly in a southeastern swing pivoted on Beaucoudray. Extracted from "Tough 'Ombres!", a small booklet covering the history of the 90th Infantry Division. This booklet is one of the series of G.I. Stories published by the Stars & Stripes in Paris in 1944-1945.