Wednesday, June 24, 2009
"Shifty" Powers of Band of Brothers Fame Dies at 86
Darrell "Shifty" Powers, one of the legendary soldiers from World War II's famous "Easy Company" of the "Band of Brothers", recently died at the age of 86. The following is from the Roanoke Times:
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Veteran a part of 'Band of Brothers'
Darrell "Shifty" Powers, who died at age 86, was a hero on the battlefield and to his family.
By Neil Harvey
In a 2001 interview with The Roanoke Times, Darrell "Shifty" Powers talked about some of his experiences during World War II.
Powers, a United States Army paratrooper and sharpshooter, belonged to Easy Company, part of the legendary 101st Airborne Division. He recalled a bitterly cold day in the Ardennes when he was able to draw down on a German sniper, sighting his target by the misty cloud of the man's breath. He killed him with one shot.
"Right there," he said, touching his forehead. "Between the eyes."
But Powers, of Dickenson County, who died Wednesday of natural causes at age 86, was also reflective about such matters.
In the second-to-last episode of "Band of Brothers," an HBO miniseries that documented Easy Company's wartime exploits, Powers spoke on camera about the soldiers he fought and also hinted at the intrinsic tragedy of combat.
"We might have had a lot in common. He might've liked to fish, you know, he might've liked to hunt," Powers said. "Of course, they were doing what they were supposed to do, and I was doing what I was supposed to do.
"But under different circumstances, we might have been good friends."
Powers, who got the nickname "Shifty" playing basketball as a youngster, served three years in the Army during World War II and later worked as a machinist for Clinchfield Coal Corp. He found renewed notoriety when his military experiences were depicted on film and in the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name.
"He actually hadn't talked about it, his war years, until the book came out," said his daughter-in-law, Sandy Powers. "He gets fan mail from all over the world, and calls."
"For me and my kids, it's just amazing that our regular, sweet uncle was such a hero," said his niece, Cheryl Gilliland of Roanoke. "It sure changed his life in later years. He went places and met people he never would have otherwise."
Darrell Powers met a German soldier in 2005 who had fought against him at the notoriously brutal siege of Bastogne during the winter of 1944.
According to his son, Wayne, he had in September been scheduled to travel to Iraq to meet with U.S. soldiers, but health problems prevented it.
"He was so disappointed. He wanted to meet with the soldiers so badly," Sandy Powers said.
One of his closest friends, Earl McClung, of Colorado, in 2001 called Darrell Powers "a heck of a good soldier and a heck of a good shot."
"And he was there every time I looked up," he added.
"Our family had four boys and one girl, and I'm the only one left," said Powers' sister, Gaynell Sykes of Roanoke, on Wednesday. "He was a great brother. I know he was great at a lot of other things, too -- great father, great son, great husband."
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Our condolences to the family of this great American soldier.
Charles M. Grist