SAINTE MARIE DU MONT, France (June 12, 2012) - Along the causeway
to Utah Beach stands a new monument to combat leadership, dedicated
June 6, in memory of Maj. Richard Winters, who led paratroopers from
Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st
Airborne Division, during the D-Day landings.
Former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Maj. Gen. Jim McConville, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), watch as Herb Suerth, a veteran of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, walks past the Maj. Richard Winters Leadership monument, dedicated June 6, 2012, near Utah Beach in Normandy, France.
Photo by Warrant Officer Patrick Brion, Belgian Armed Forces
The memorial, unveiled 68 years after Winters and fellow
101st Airborne Division troops jumped into Normandy to fight
the Nazis and liberate France, depicts Winters leading his
men into combat. Hundreds of people gathered for the event,
to include nine World War II veterans, former Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge and Maj. Gen. Jim McConville,
commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The heroic story of Easy Company -- from the D-Day
landings, to fighting in Holland, Belgium and Germany -- was
told by historian Stephen Ambrose and became the popular
television mini-series, "Band of Brothers." Two members of
Easy Company, Herb Suerth and Al Mampre, attended the
unveiling. Only 19 Easy Company members are living. Winters,
who passed away last year at 92, would likely be overwhelmed
by the crowd that gathered to honor him, Suerth said.
"He was very humble, a simple fellow," said Suerth, who
joined Easy Company in Mourmelon, France, just before the
101st Airborne Division fought in Bastogne. "It's a
well-deserved memorial, especially for the subject of
leadership -- not just for Dick Winters, but for the
leadership provided by young men who were practically no
older than the guys they were leading into battle."
Winters, a first lieutenant serving as Easy Company's
executive officer during the jump, took command after 1st
Lt. Thomas Meehan was killed, when his C-47 Sky Train was
hit by German anti-aircraft guns.
"He was thrust
into a position of leadership," Suerth said. "All of us have
the ability to develop our leadership skills. Some do it
better than others. Dick excelled at it."
Brecourt Manor, Winters led a dozen paratroopers in an
attack on four enemy 105 mm howitzers firing on a Utah beach
causeway. With little guidance, Winters directed his
Soldiers to hit the gun from the flanks, using the a trench
to attack one at a time. All the guns were destroyed,
eliminating a threat to troops coming ashore. For his
actions, Winters earned the Distinguished Service Cross.
One of the U.S. Soldiers coming ashore that morning was
Jack Port, 90, of Escondido, Calif., who landed on Utah
Beach with the 4th Infantry Division and made his way
inland. Port, who attended the memorial's unveiling, stared
down the causeway to where his unit, the 12th Infantry
"It was kind like a football play
to me," Port said. "The 8th (Infantry Regiment) took off to
the left. The 22nd went to the right. And we came up the
Port returned to the beach a few days after,
when he was shot near Montebourg. He rejoined his unit,
which liberated the port of Cherbourg, before fighting south
through Normandy and later entering Paris.
just a kid, only 22 years old," Port said, drifting into
silence as emotions welled inside him. Like many D-Day
veterans, Port won't discuss the fighting.
breeze passed through the farmlands causing the Stars and
Stripes to flap beside the French tricolor. A World War
II-era spotter plane buzzed the crowd, who listened to
several speeches about how Winters embodied leadership
principles, his courageous acts and his humble nature.
"Leadership is what Dick Winters wanted us to remember
of him," said Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor who
served as the first director of Homeland Security.
On the evening of June 6, 1944, after heavy fighting,
Winters promised himself that if he survived the war, he
would "find a small farm in the Pennsylvania countryside"
and spend the rest of his life in quiet and peace, Ridge
"Happy and proud are we who also call
Pennsylvania home, that Major Dick Winters finally found his
quiet and pace in our commonwealth -- where America's
founders declared liberty, the very liberty that Major
Winters and many more fought so hard to protect."
Winters' leadership and heroism helped save the lives of
countless Soldiers on D-Day and throughout the war, said
McConville, 53, of Quincy, Mass., who has served three tours
with the Screaming Eagles -- currently as the division's
commanding officer. Over the past 10 years of fighting in
Afghanistan and Iraq, the 101st has been one of the most
deployed divisions. Some 101st Soldiers are currently
serving in Afghanistan, McConville said.
great strength from the history of the 101st Airborne
Division," McConville said. "And we have an incredible
history that began here in Normandy."
13, of Pennsylvania, who raised nearly $100,000 for the
monument and spoke about his hero at the ceremony. At age
11, Brown started collecting donations and passing out green
wristbands with Winters' motto, "Hang Tough." Those two
simple words, first used in combat, inspired Brown, he said.
Winters taught people how to live, Brown said.
always led his troops from the front. He was always honest
with his men and therefore they trusted him. He never
thought of himself as anything special," Brown said. "He
always remained humble and he always remembered his
Winters wrote "the essential page in the
story of our liberation, said Henri Millet, mayor of
Sainte-Marie-Du Mont. Winters' actions will not be
forgotten, he said.
"This monument erected here in
our commune will be here to remind us," Millet said.
new band of brothers, U.S. airmen from the Ramstein,
Germany-based 435th Contingency Response Group were tapped
to help pull the silk camouflage parachute off the 12-foot
bronze statue of Winters, posed in a run with an M-1 Garand
During the first week of June, a contingent
from the 86th Air Wing took part in several commemorative
events, said Tech Sgt. Brian Angell, 34 of Tuscon, Ariz.,
who help unveil the memorial.
"We were just in the
crowd and they wanted some military support and we were
honored to play this small, small role," Angell said. "It's
important for us to keep this history alive."
By Army Staff Sgt. Rick Scavetta, U.S. European Command
Army News Service
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