Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Band of Brothers Hero Dick Winters Dies at 92
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He was called "Wild Bill" by his fellow soldiers, and his heroic deeds as an Army major in World War II were chronicled in the TV miniseries "Band of Brothers." But Dick Winters asked that news of his death not be released until after his funeral.
Winters died Jan. 2 in central Pennsylvania at age 92. For almost 40 years after the war, he lived a quiet life, working in the agriculture feed business in Pennsylvania and raising two children.
It wasn't until historian Stephen Ambrose chronicled the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, E Company, better known as the Easy Company, that Winters gained any kind of fame.
But Winters' heroism in uniform left a strong impression on those who remember him.
Edward Heffron, 87, a former member of Winters' unit, said thinking about the man brought tears to his eyes, according to The Associated Press.
"He was one hell of a guy, one of the greatest soldiers I was ever under," said Heffron, who had the nickname "Babe" in the company. "He was a wonderful officer, a wonderful leader. He had what you needed: guts and brains."
Easy Company jumped into combat on D-Day, June 6, 1944, near Normandy, France, as part of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
The group later fought in the Battle of the Bulge and occupied Hitler's mountainside retreat Eagle's Nest, near Berchtesgaden, The Washington Post reported.
The harrowing experience of combat forged deep bonds between Winters and his men, according to Bill Guarnere, 88.
"He took care of his men and his men took care of him," Guarnere said, according to The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa. "That's why they called us the 'Band of Brothers.'"
Winters was born Jan. 21, 1918, to Richard and Edith Winters. He attended Lancaster Boys High School and Franklin & Marshall College before joining the military.
Even after the publication of Ambrose's book in 1992, Winters remained skeptical of his place in history.
"When the book came out, he sent it to me at the paper with a note, saying, 'I don't know if this is worth writing about,'" said William Jackson, a friend and former newspaper editor.
Greater fame awaited Winters. The TV miniseries, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, was a huge hit.
Winters continued to shun the spotlight. Still, he approved that the TV series depicted the combat as it was, without glorifying or criticizing it.
In war, "Your reward for a good job done is that you get the next tough mission," Winters wrote, according to The Patriot-News.
His family plans to hold a public memorial service by the middle of March, Agence France-Presse reported.
Rep. Frank Dermody, Democratic leader in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives, called Winters a "real-life American hero."
"In everything he did, he served honorably," Dermody said, according to The Patriot-News.
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Our condolences to the family of this warrior leader....
Charles M. Grist