World War IIHerbert M. Sobel Sr. was born in Chicago, Illinois on 26 January 1912 to a Jewish family, and he attended the Culver Military Academy and the University of Illinois (as an architecture major). He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army paratroopers when World War II broke out, and he became the commander of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, US 506th Infantry Regiment during its training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Sobel was a strict disciplinarian who was known for his cruel methods, such as revoking the entire company's weekend passes due to the mistakes of a few members, having his men run up Currahee mountain shortly after eating lunch (causing vomiting), and punishing men for owning personal property, saying that they were not paratroopers yet. He was promoted to Captain in recognition for his skills, but his men saw him as petty and vindictive, and he was known to have his follies as a commander; in 1943, he failed a training exercise in North Carolina, and he cut down an English farmer's barbed wire fence in 1944, letting his livestock loose. In June 1944, he was reassigned to the Chiltan Foliat jump school to train non-combat officers after Robert Sink found out about a planned mutiny against Sobel by several Easy Company NCOs. He jumped into Normandy during Operation Overlord and later fought in Operation Market Garden and at the Battle of the Bulge, and he became a logistics officer on 8 March 1945.
After the war, Sobel worked as an accountant and was recalled to active duty in the Korean War as a lieutenant-colonel in the US National Guard. He later married and had three children. In 1970, he blinded himself in a failed suicide attempt with a handgun, and he was moved to an assisted living facility in Waukegan, Illinois. He died there of malnutrition in 1987. No services were held for him after his death, and he was remembered as a petty martinet by his men, but as an effective trainer by some of his fellow officers.