Leonard Herman, 92; aided displaced persons

Posted: October 25, 2008

Leonard W. Herman, 92, formerly of Wyncote, a retired company owner and a decorated World War II bombardier who assisted displaced persons after the war, died Oct. 5 at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Ga.

Mr. Herman, whose parents were Russian immigrants, grew up in West Philadelphia and graduated from Overbrook High School. When he was inducted into the Army in August 1941, he was assigned to serve in the Medical Corps. He told a reporter later that he wanted more excitement and transferred to the Army Air Corps, where he became a bombardier on B-17s.

By November 1943, Mr. Herman had flown 25 missions against the enemy and shot down two aircraft. He was wounded when his plane was hit over Germany and the pilot was killed. The crew made it back to base "with the plane looking like a sieve," Mr. Herman said. He feared being captured because he was a Jew dropping bombs on Germany, said his daughter, Linda Collins.

Mr. Herman was awarded a Purple Heart, an Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

After Germany's surrender, Mr. Herman's brother Edward and another soldier, Robert Hilliard, were stationed at an Army base in Germany near the St. Ottilien monastery, which had been converted into a camp for Jews who survived the concentration camps. The soldiers discovered that the occupants of the camp were in desperate need of food, blankets, medical supplies, and clothing. The men mounted a letter-writing campaign to get help for the camp and enlisted Leonard Herman's help.

Mr. Herman, using his influence as a war hero, sought out government officials. Eventually the plight of the displaced persons at St. Ottilien and at other camps reached the White House, and President Harry S. Truman issued orders to provide the assistance.

In 2007, a post office in Boca Raton, Fla., was named after Mr. Herman in recognition of his service as a veteran and a humanitarian.

After the war, Mr. Herman married an Army nurse, Pauline Rubin, and established a textile firm, Seagull Manufacturing. He retired in the late 1980s.

He and his wife moved to Georgia in the mid-1990s to be near their daughter. In 2006 he coauthored with Rob Morris a book, Combat Bombardier, about his war experience.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Herman is survived by two brothers; a sister; and a grandson. His wife died in 2001 and his brother Edward died in 2007.

A graveside service will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Mount Sharon Cemetery, 502 E. Springfield Rd., Springfield, Delaware County.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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