Delphos resident and World War II veteran Harold Liebrecht saw first-hand the decimation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his service in the US Army from 1944-46. Above: Liebrecht poses by a Japanese memorial while stationed in Japan. (Submitted photo)
Delphos resident and World War II veteran Harold Liebrecht saw first-hand the decimation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his service in the US Army from 1944-46. Above: Liebrecht poses by a Japanese memorial while stationed in Japan. (Submitted photo)

DELPHOS — Ninety-two-year-old World War II veteran Harold Liebrecht saw first-hand the decimation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his service in the US Army from 1944-46.

He said after they dropped the atomic bomb — a 9,000-pound uranium-235 bomb named “Little Boy” — over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, his company toured the ruble and went into what was left of the buildings, where anything that was not concrete, was gone.

“I thought, ‘what about the people’? he said with compassion. “I don’t care what someone’s nationality is. The Japanese people had nothing to do with the war, it was the leaders that kept the conflict going. People were nothing but dust, it was kind of a spontaneous combustion when the bomb exploded.”

Liebrecht did his boot camp training at Camp Walters in Texas, transferred to Maryland and then road the train across country — which traveled through Delphos — en route to San Francisco for a 30 day voyage on a troop ship headed for the Philippine island called Mindanao.

“I served in the Army Infantry 34th,” he recounted. “There was a lot of combat going on in the jungle.”

His company was the back up company to go to the front lines next. They guarded bridges, were lookouts and continued with training all the time.

“I carried my ‘best friend’, an M1 rifle, and was taught to handle all kinds of weaponry,” he said. “I was in the service only three or four months before I was transferred by an LST ship (a sea going vessel known as Landing Ship, Tank) and stationed in Himeji in Japan.”

Three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, a second A-bomb fell on Nagasaki, killing close to 40,000 people, resulting in Japan’s unconditional surrender on Aug. 15.

“I had a job to do,” he said. “I looked straight ahead and didn’t look sideways.”

Liebrecht had the opportunity to take the Honor Flight this past August and said he went back to Washington, D.C., three weeks later so he could spend more time there and tour the memorials and Arlington Cemetery.

“I’d never seen anything like that before and it was very emotional,” he said. “It stirs up the memories. I think about what would have happened if they — the Japanese — would have got to our shores. What kind of life would we have had?”

Liebrecht grew up outside of Fort Jennings on a farm and went to Ottoville High School before being drafted in 1944 at the age of 22.