U.S. Army – World War II
Pre-military experience can open non-combat opportunities for infantry soldiers. Nick Libeg had taken typing and shorthand before being drafted in 1940, so he was made a clerk typist in the 45th Division at Camp Barkeley, Texas. One of his major jobs was to do the paperwork for courts martial. He had plenty to do. When the 45th Division went on maneuvers in Louisiana, Mardi Gras drew hundreds of men AWOL. The captain in charge of the courts martial was so pleased with Nick’s work that he recommended him for Officers Candidate School.
Commissioned at Fort Benning’s OCS, Nick served as a basic training officer at Camp Rucker, Alabama. His experience at running Libby’s Tavern in Masury gave him another opportunity, though not one that made his life easier. The jobs of mess officer and officers’ club manager were added to his other duties.
But it wasn’t Nick’s objective to avoid danger. He wanted to be a pilot, so he transferred to the Army Air Corps. Maybe the lack of appropriate pre-military experience kept this chance from being so successful.
“I loved flying,” he said, “but I crashed two planes. After the second accident, my trainer asked whose side I was on in the war.”
So he became a bombardier and navigator in a B-24 flying out of England. Enemy fire made the work dangerous, but their most frightening incident occurred because of a problem within their own plane. Their twelve 500-lb impact-triggered bombs were held in place by solenoid-activated clips at their nose and tail. The bottom two of a stack of three failed, but the clip on the front of the top bomb released, tipping it nose down onto the one below. One wrong move would have detonated it. With air temperature at 20 below zero, Nick crawled along an 18 inch wide walkway over the open bomb bay doors and released the bombs with a screw driver.
“We were pretty close to heaven at that time,” Nick said.
Their reward for completing the required 30 missions was another not-so-great opportunity: assignment to the South Pacific. Fortunately, the war in the Pacific ended before they got there.
Nick was able to go back to managing Libby’s Tavern, raise a family, and pursue a successful career in real estate. He served in many community organizations, including the Farrell Lions Club, the Wolves Club, the American Legion, VFW Post 8860, the Optimist Club in Brookfield, and the Shenango Valley Board of Realtors.
For a longer narrative of Nick’s life, go to his life story at America’s Cemetery.