The HBO mini-series 'Band of Brothers' told the story of Easy Company, a squad in
the 101st Airborne Division in WWII.
This is the story of their leader, Lt. Dick Winters.
Richard Davis "Dick" WintersRichard Davis "Dick" Winters (January 21, 1918 – January 2, 2011) was an officer of the United States Army and a decorated war veteran. He is best known for commanding Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, during World War II. He was eventually promoted to major and put in command of the 2nd Battalion.
As first lieutenant, Winters parachuted into Normandy in the early hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944, and later fought across France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and eventually Germany. After the German surrender in May 1945, he left the 506th and was stationed in France, where senior officers were needed to oversee the return home. In 1951, during the Korean War, Winters was recalled to the Army from the inactive list and briefly served as a regimental planning and training officer on staff at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Winters was issued orders for deployment and was preparing to depart for Korea, but instead left the Army under a provision that allowed officers who had served in World War II but had been inactive since to resign their commission.
Winters was discharged from the Army and returned to civilian life, working first in New Jersey and later in Pennsylvania, where he set up his own company selling chocolate byproducts from The Hershey Company to producers of animal feed. He was a regular guest lecturer at the United States Military Academy at West Point until his retirement in 1997.
Winters was featured in a number of books and was portrayed by English actor Damian Lewis in the 2001 HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.
Winters enlisted in the United States Army on August 25, 1941. In September, he underwent basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina.:7 He remained at Camp Croft to help train draftees and other volunteers, while the rest of his battalion was deployed to Panama.
In April 1942, four months after the United States entered World War II, he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia. There he became friends with Lewis Nixon, with whom he served throughout the war. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the infantry after graduating from OCS on July 2, 1942.
During his officer training, Winters decided to join the parachute infantry, part of the U.S. Army's new airborne forces. Upon completing training, he returned to Camp Croft to train another class of draftees as there were no positions available in the paratroopers at that time. After five weeks, he received orders to join the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (506th PIR) at Camp Toccoa (formerly Camp Toombs) in Georgia. The 506th was commanded by Colonel Robert Sink.
Winters arrived at Toccoa in mid-August 1942 and was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, later to become better known as "Easy Company" per the contemporaneous Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet. Serving under First Lieutenant Herbert Sobel, Winters was made platoon leader of 2nd Platoon, earning a promotion to first lieutenant in October 1942. and made acting company executive officer, although this was not made official until May 1943.The 506th PIR was an experimental unit, the first regiment to undertake airborne training as a formed unit. The training at Toccoa was very tough. Of the 500 officers who had volunteered, only 148 completed the course; of 5,000 enlisted volunteers, only 1,800 were ultimately selected for duty as paratroopers.
Richard Winters (Damian Lewis) and Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer)
portrayed in 'Band of Brothers' first episode.
On June 10, 1943, after more tactical training at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, the 506th PIR was attached to Major General William Lee's 101st "Screaming Eagles" Airborne Division. Later in the year, they embarked on the Samaria, and arrived in Liverpool on 15 September 1943. They proceeded to Aldbourne, Wiltshire, where they began intense training for the Allied invasion of Europe planned for spring 1944.
In November and December 1943, while Easy Company was at Aldbourne, the tension that had been brewing between Winters and Sobel came to a head. For some time, Winters had privately held concerns over Sobel's ability to lead the company in combat. Many of the enlisted men in the company had come to respect Winters for his competence and had also developed their own concerns about Sobel's leadership. Winters later said that he never wanted to compete with Sobel for command of Easy Company; still, Sobel attempted to bring Winters up on trumped-up charges for "failure to carry out a lawful order". Feeling that his punishment was unjust and sensing Sobel's tacticality of the matter, Winters requested that the charge be reviewed by court-martial. After Winters' punishment was set aside by the battalion commander, Major Robert L. Strayer, Sobel brought Winters up on another charge the following day. During the investigation, Winters was transferred to the Headquarters Company and appointed as the battalion mess officer.
Following this, though Winters tried to talk them out of it, a number of the company's non-commissioned officers (NCOs) gave the regimental commander, Colonel Sink, an ultimatum: either Sobel be replaced, or they would surrender their stripes. Sink was not impressed and several of the NCOs were subsequently demoted and/or transferred out of the company. Nevertheless, Sink realized that something had to be done and decided to transfer Sobel out of Easy Company, giving him command of a new parachute training school at Chilton-Foliat. Winters' court martial was set aside and he returned to Easy Company as leader of 1st Platoon. Winters later said he felt that at least part of Easy Company's success had been due to Sobel's strenuous training and high expectations. In February 1944, First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan was given command of Easy Company.
Meehan remained in command of the company until the invasion of Normandy, when at about 1:15 a.m. on June 6, 1944, D-Day, the C-47 Skytrain transporting the company Headquarters Section was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire, killing everyone on board. Winters jumped that night and landed safely near Sainte-Mère-Église. Losing his weapon during the drop, he nevertheless oriented himself, assembled several paratroopers, including members of the 82nd Airborne Division, and proceeded toward the unit's assigned objective near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. With Meehan's fate unknown, Winters became the de facto commanding officer (CO) of Easy Company, which he remained for the duration of the Normandy campaign.
Later that day, Winters led an attack that destroyed a battery of German 105mm howitzers, which were firing onto the causeways that served as the principal exits from Utah Beach.The Americans estimated that the guns were defended by about a platoon of 50 German troops, while Winters had 13 men. This action south of the village of Le Grand-Chemin, called the Brécourt Manor Assault, has been taught at the military academy at West Point as an example of a textbook assault on a fixed position by a numerically inferior force. In addition to destroying the battery, Winters also obtained a map that showed German gun emplacements near Utah Beach.
On July 1, 1944, Winters was told that he had been promoted to captain. The next day, he was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross by General Omar Bradley, then the commander of the U.S. First Army. Shortly after, the 506th Parachute Infantry was withdrawn from France and returned to Aldbourne, England, for reorganization.
I need not tell more of his story here. I've told enough. If you're interested in a first-hand account, you can find his book on Amazon.
As I mentioned on a previous post, we just got back from visiting my brother in Belfast. It's early spring there as well as here in Florida - it's just 35 or so degrees cooler during the day. The flowers are busting out all over the country. The hillside are covered with blooming Butterfly Bush Trees, and virtually every house you see has something spectacular happening. If you do go to Belfast, be sure to visit the Botanical Gardens and Palm House downtown near Queen's College. It's pretty impressive. Enjoy!