Jan 10, 2011

Dick Winters, 1918-2011

I found out today that on January 2, Major Richard "Dick" Winters passed away. He was 92 years old.

Major Winters was a relative unknown until Stephen Ambrose's 1992 history of the WWII service of Company E ("Easy"), 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, entitled Band of Brothers. The story is one of those that has to be read to be believed. The men of Easy Company--and their comrades throughout the 101st--parachuted into Normandy in the wee morning hours of D-Day. They cleared the Germans from Normandy. They parachuted into Holland during Operation Market Garden. They were surrounded, yet held out, around the Belgian town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. They marched on, and took, Berchtesgaden--Adolf Hitler's summer retreat. They helped liberate concentration camps.

And then those survived came home. Some went to college, while others went to work. They married, had children, bought homes, and continued life, like all our World War II veterans, unsung and dignified. Major Winters, after winning the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Normandy, and after having led Easy Company for much of the war, went back to his home in Pennsylvania, where he eventually settled down on a quiet plot of land to live his life. Even today, his actions for taking out a number of German 88mm cannons behind enemy lines on D-Day are taught at West Point as ideal on-the-ground tactics.

Winters, from all that I've seen and read of him, was quiet, sharp, and self-effacing. He spent much of his life extolling his comrades-in-arms. I'm sorry he's gone. The world--quite literally--is better because of him, and ultimately, as a legacy, what more could one ask for?

No comments: