Richard Ziebart’s story

For more than a decade now, I have wanted to write about my father’s journey to the 417th Night Fighter Squadron.  Over the years, I had attended reunions with my father,  met some of his mates and work side by side with him to get this website up and running.  But,  I never knew the full story or timeline of his journey to the squadron – at least not first hand.   After his passing in 2018, I found and saved numerous bits and pieces that he had kept from this period of his life and after several false starts, I believe I have finally pieced together his journey.

In 1943, Richard Ziebart was 17 and a Senior High School. WWII was in full swing.  In October of that year, a recruiter arrived at school with a message to boys in his class.  They had 2 options: Be called to active duty when they reached 18 (potentially missing graduation) OR enlist now and remain home for 6 months after their 18th birthday.  My father and his cousin “Bud” enlisted that day.

In looking back on this decision, he recalled that 17 of his classmates  entered service in January 1944 and that he felt relief that he signed up and would be able to finish school.  

He turned 18 in May of 1944 and in November of that year, he travelled to Fort Sheridan in Illinois for Basics training.   While there, he sent this postcard to his mother with a photo of his group at Basic Training.  He wrote his name and drew an arrow, so his mother would know which of the sharp looking young men was her son.

Postcard that Richard Ziebart sent home to his mother. Hand written on it is an arrow identifying which of the fine young men was her son.

Exactly how long he was at Fort Sheridan is unclear and the trail gets a bit murky.   Tucked amongst the items he saved is a photo of himself as a Cadet at Keesler Technical Training Center, located in Biloxi, Mississippi.  He also saved a 4 page document with a map of  the Training Center.   My best estimate is that  he went to Biloxi  around December of 1944.

Sometime after  the New Year in 1945, he was moved again  to the Technical School at Sioux Falls Army Air Field.  He was assigned to Squadron Q, barracks 442.  At Sioux Falls, he was reunited with his cousin Bud, who bunked in Barracks 440 with Squadron O. 

There were several items that my dad saved that tell me a bit about life here: A booklet and map of Sioux Falls Army Air Field, a purchase certificate for his army issued shoes, a code test demonstrating that he could decode 19 words per minute,  a schematic of the radio receiver he designed as part of his training and an Honor Roll certificate of accomplishment from the school. 

One of the more interesting items that my father kept from this time period was a letter from the minister at the local Church where he attended Sunday service.    He had been given “extra duty” for several weeks after he and his cousin Bud were caught being “out of uniform”.  When the minister of the church found out, he wrote a letter explaining why my father was out of uniform and pleaded his case.   Hand written on the back of the letter is my father’s explanation of events.

The last nugget I have from his time in Sioux Fall is this postcard.  On the back he wrote “Bud Kasischke and Richard Ziebart, Sioux Falls, SD, April 1st, 1945)

Richard Ziebart on the left and Bud Kasischke on the right.

After 22 weeks in Sioux Fall,  he was transferred to Scott Field in Illinois.  It appears that his stay there lasted 18 weeks.  I have very little from this period, short of a story he told me about getting a weekend pass so that he could hitchhike home to be present for his newest sister Sharon’s baptism.  While home, he took a series of photos with his family.

On the 1st of January, 1946, Richard  boarded the SS Rollins Victory along with 800 other men and headed for Europe.  It was a stormy trip with many seasick soldiers.  He volunteered to work in the medical group.  His duties were to pick up the seasick soldiers and take care of them in sick bay for 2 days, then return them back to their bunks.  He commented that on the morning following the return of those soldiers to their bunks, the same group would be back in sick bay again.  For his work, he was given a pass which entitled him to eat in the mess at any time during regular hours.  On the back the photo, he wrote “Volunteered to work in sick bay on the entire trip – received best accomodations and eating privileges.  Weather was calm this day.”

Richard disembarked the SS Rollins in Le Havre, France and headed to Camp Lucky Strike.  From there, he would be transported by train to Fuerstenfeldbruk, Germany via Paris.  In Fuerstenfeldbruk, he was assigned to the 417th Night Fighter Squadron as a radar mechanic operator.   Things get a bit murky again, but from the photos he kept I believe my father headed Rothwestern airfield around February of 1946.  He describes himself as a “new recruit” along with a group of other men.


I believe my father stayed at Rothwestern until April of 1946 at which point the 417th NFS was transferred to Fritzlar Air Base in Kassel, Germany.  At Fritzlar he was assigned a roommate, George Marks, from Temple, Texas.  George was also a radar mechanic operator.    When he wasn’t working on P-61 radar, baseball seemed to have filled his time.


Aside from photos, my father kept a number of momentos from this time:  A class B Pass,  his motor vehicle operations permit and his European Theatre Ration card.

In August of 1946, he boarded the SS George Washington in Bremerhaven, Germany and headed home.  While on board ship, he took several snapshots with the friends he made onboard.

While my father’s time in the service and with the 417th NFS was brief, it clearly impacted and influenced his life.  When he returned to the US he leveraged his training into a 36 year career with Michigan Bell Telephone.  As he neared retirement, he became increasingly interested in keeping in touch with fellow squadron members and worked to keep the 417th story alive.  He, along with my mother, Lorraine, spent countless hours working others to organise NFS reunions, collecting and cataloging photos and stories.  This website is a dedication to their commitment to keep the story of the 417th NFS alive.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.  Love you.







3 thoughts on “Richard Ziebart’s story”

  1. Great work, Jackie! Thank you for sharing his story. Your dad was so generous with his time and resources when I was researching my great-uncle’s time in the 417th, and I will never forget that. I’m forever grateful.

  2. Excellent family research and details on Uncle Rich’s life in the service. The SCR-720 radar he utilized was likely “cutting edge” technology in that time – he was a techno-trailblazer. No wonder he went on to his career at Michigan Bell.

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