Leader Of The Band Has Died
(February 17, 2011)
Major Richard “Dick” Winters
|In 1992 the book, Band of Brothers, was published. It was written by the noted Civil War author Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose. While doing research for a book about D-Day he had interviewed soldiers who survived the fight on the Normandy Beaches of June 6, 1944. One group of men he interviewed was former soldiers from Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101 Airborne Division. He taped interviews and collected information, but again it was for his D-Day book (Citizen Soldiers).|
During this process he came to realize he had another story to tell about these men who trained for combat so hard in the States as well as England. Men who jumped from airplanes, while being shot at by German anti-aircraft batteries, and then shot at after they hit the ground. One of the men Dr. Ambrose interviewed was former Major Richard Winters, who had started out as a young second lieutenant and rose to be the commander of Easy Company. The actor Tom Hanks was involved in an HBO series based on the book.
|What this book and movie series did was take Major Winters, SSgt. Earl McClung and other surviving members of the Easy Company and make them legends and heroes to later generations of Americans who were not even around during WW II. Major Winters has been called upon to speak about their personal military history and leadership. After Dr. Ambrose finished both his Band of Brothers book, as well as the book on D-Day (Citizen Soldiers) he turned over large parts of his background information to Major Winters. Dr. Ambrose was dying of cancer and wanted the collected information to be in the hands of someone who would preserve it.|
One of the things the HBO series did was bring the men to life for the viewing audience and they started asking for more information. Whenever Major Winters spoke in public, people wanted more untold stories. Here was a true war story that was being told by the enlisted men, the sergeants, and junior officers down at the company and platoon level. Not by senior officers writing about their war memories, who saw and worked the “big picture” but had little idea what the front-line troops were going through in the trenches.
There was a need to continue telling the story of Easy Company, and Major Winters has done that with his book, Beyond Band of Brothers. There is some retelling of information that was already discussed in Dr. Ambrose's book, but Major Winters goes more in depth. He gives much better insight into his life in the WW II Army, starting as a private prior to the US entering the War. Continuing through his days as an officer leading a parachute company on combat jumps into enemy held Holland. He brings to your attention some of the major, real-life characters first introduced to us in Dr. Ambrose's book.
You come to understand the total commitment that WW II soldiers put forth. There was no going home after you did your year in country, like we do now in current US military deployments. You were in the war until it ended, plus six months. Your company and platoon became your only family, because without them you had no family or life. Major Winters brought to life that the men of Easy Company needed and depended on each other in both combat and daily Army existence. Something that needs to be understood by civilians secure in the comfort of your state-side home, it is the soldier beside you that you fight so hard for in combat, so you both can return safely. Major Dick Winters has written an excellent book on friendship and leadership in the dangers of combat.
I heard myself gasp when I opened my computer and found that Major Winters had died on 2 Jan 2011 at the age of 92. When asked if he was a hero in the war he replied “no--but I served in a company of heroes.” This country lost a national treasure, a living part of our history and a true American hero on 2 Jan 2011. I never met Major Winters but I personally feel a loss. Hard times are coming to America and it will take men and women the caliber of Dick Winters, to lead us through (not manage) to a positive outcome. A memorial will be held on 19 March 2011 in Hershey, PA for Major Winters. We buried another veteran today.
By Van E. Harl
Major Van E. Harl, USAF Ret., was a career police officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Major Harl is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School, the Air Force Squadron Officer School and the Air Command and Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force he was a state police officer in Nevada.
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