10 January 2011

In case you missed it: Major Dick Winters, of legendary "Band of Brothers", dies at 92.

Sadly, instead of uniting a nation in sorrow and compelling us to overlook our differences, Saturday's tragedy in Tucson served as little more than a springboard for the fringes of the political debate to hurl accusatory remarks at one another with renewed vigor. Few have taken the reasonable course of action and placed blame on the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, save for Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Jamie McIntyre of the Line of Departure.

Though the suffering in Tucson is real, the veritable media frenzy created by this most despicable act has pushed another, sorrowful, story to the wayside. As of late last night, a few media outlets had reported that Major Dick Winters, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division's Easy Company, 1st Battalion-506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, passed away on January 2nd, just short of his 93rd birthday.

No words of mine can do justice to Major Winters. The Washington Post aired the obituary of the "biggest brother" in the legendary "Band of Brothers" late last night.

Dick Winters, a decorated Army officer whose World War II service was recounted in the best-selling book and HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers," died Jan. 2. News reports listed his age at 92.

Based on the 1992 book by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, the HBO mini-series came out in 2001 and was produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

The story follows the tragedies and triumphs of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, E Company.

To Mr. Winters, these citizen-soldiers came to be known as the men of Easy Company -- paratroopers who jumped into combat on June 6, 1944 above Normandy, France.

According to Ambrose's account, Easy Company suffered 150 percent casualties throughout the war.

One of the soldiers who served in Easy Company, David Webster, once wrote that among his colleagues the Purple Heart "was not a decoration but a badge of office."

Mr. Winters, who separated from the Army at the rank of major, and his men fought together through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and later occupied Adolf Hitler's mountainside retreat, the Eagle's Nest, near Berchtesgaden.

A charismatic officer who led by example, Mr. Winters received the Distinguished Service Cross, the country's second highest decoration for valor, while conducting combat operations on D-Day.

Mr. Winters led a small group of men on a raid of German cannon emplacements near Utah beach on Normandy's coastline.

While taking out the heavily fortified bunker, Mr. Winters and his men killed 15 German soldiers and [captured twelve more], helping to save countless American lives from the withering cannon fire.

Later in the war, one of Mr. Winters's soldiers, Floyd Talbert, wrote a letter to the officer from a hospital in Indiana expressing gratitude for his loyalty and leadership.

"You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you," Talbert wrote to Mr. Winters in 1945. "I would follow you into hell."

For Mr. Winters, his soldiers were his Band of Brothers and their experiences together in the war "created a bond between the men of E company that will last forever."


A. Ormiston said...

The men of Easy company and the US military in general might capture enemy soldiers, but we DO NOT take hostages.
I notice this has been corrected on the Washington Post site already.

Starbuck said...

Thanks for the catch. I did see it as a strange flaw in an otherwise well-written obituary. I'll have an update posted in a few seconds...

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