Dick Winters Medals and Awards of WWII
Richard D. Winters was born in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania, on January 21 1918.
Winters graduated from Franklin-Marshall College in June 1941 as a business major. After his graduation he volunteered for military service. His intent was to spend the mandatory one year in the Army, then return to civilian life to pursue a private career. Winters induction was in August of that year. Richard (Dick) Winters spent his basic combat training at Camp Croft, South Carolina. At Camp Croft he received word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. When Winters first joined the Army he took a series of tests to see where he would best fit. He scored high enough that he qualified for OCS (Officer Candidate School). Winters was sent to Fort Benning for OCS.
While Winters was at OCS volunteerd for the Airborne, a new element of the Army that looked like a challenge. Winters had always enjoyed sports and physical activity, and there was a certain appeal to being with the best. In Winters' eyes, the airborne training appeared to be "interesting work." The troopers were "hard, lean, bronzed and tough ......a proud and cocky bunch." Standing 6 feet tall and weighing 177 pounds, he was accustomed to lots of running and outdoor activity. Also, the additional jump pay might help pay off his father's home mortgage.
After Winters graduated in July 1942 as a Second Lieutenant of infantry from OCS, he reported to Camp Croft, in South Carolina, where he got the job to train new men. After about 13 weeks Winters got orders to report to Camp Toccoa in Georgia, at that time still named Camp Toombs (for more information why Camp Toombs was later named Camp Toccoa see my adoption story of Cpl. Francis T. Fernan).
Richard reported in at Camp Toccoa, and was assigned to a tar-paper shack. There were no windows in any of the buildings, and the only place with electricity was the latrine. Winters said: "This was rough. But you were expecting to have it rough if you were going to be in the parachute troops."
According to Winters, were the new airborne officers highly selective in picking the men. They looked for the ones who looked like they could take it and accepted discipline, because according to Winters is discipline what makes a good soldier. During the training it was discipline that kept the men going over their limits. It was also very important that the individual was accepted by the other soldiers, the men needed eachother, without eachothers support they were lost already at the beginning.
Dick Winters and Skip Muck at Camp Toccoa
Winters first met Colonel Robert Sink at Toccoa. He was the commander of the 506th PIR. Colonel Sink turned down two promotions during the war to stay with the regiment, a strange unusual choice for a West Pointer and professional soldier. When Winters first met Colonel Sink Winters was in awe. The Colonel was sitting behind his desk smoking a cigarette. He came across as having this West Point attitude. Sink turned out to be a terrific leader, and he stuck with the regiment from the beginning to the very end of the war, so Dick’s first impression was wrong. Richard Winters often wondered during the war; "how come this guy is sticking around? "Richard thought it had to do something with Colonel Sink's drinking problem, but it didn't influence his leadership of the regiment at all.
Winters had a lot of respect for Colonel Sink, Dick said: "He stuck with us throughout the entire war. I respect "Bourbon Bob. "He was a good man." Sink made of a bunch of civilians and boys with little education, including the officers, a crack airborne unit. Sink’s training camp was as good as nothing at the beginning when the first trainings started, Sink made the camp and the unit he trained there to one of the most famous ones in the entire history of the United States of America. Colonel Sink stuck with his regiment from the beginning to the end as a real leader.
Winters became one of the original members of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, formed in August of 1942. He was assigned to command 2nd Platoon of Company E, Easy Company, the company that became famous with the Band of Brothers movie. Training started right away. Currahee Mountain was a real challange that they had to run up and down, 3 miles up and 3 miles down. It became a real test for all the men and officers. Everyone had to run up it, walk actually, in what was called the "airborne shuffle. "Dick Winters said about Currahee Mountain: "It was equal for every man, every officer. Nobody was getting by with a thing. Everybody was being treated the same."
Toward the end of November 1942, the 506th PIR was ordered to Fort Benning for parachute training. The entire 506th PIR walked to Fort Benning. The 506th immediately started their parachute training. Richard and the others soon completed their five jumps and received their jump wings. Winters and the men were now moved to Camp Mackall, NC for extensive tactical training, including many night jumps.
In mid-April 1943, Winters achieved the position of Company Executive officer (XO) of Company E while under the company's original commander Captain Herbert Sobel. A position that brought new challenges according to Winters. On June 1, 1943, the 506th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) became part of the 101st Airborne Division. Later that month Winters and the rest of the regiment moved for maneuvers Tennessee. After participating in the maneuvers, the 506th was sent to Fort Bragg, NC until the end of August 1943 when the unit went to Camp Shanks, NY to be transported overseas to prepare for the Liberation of Europe. Winters crossed the Atlantic on the S.S. Samaria during September 1943. On the way over to England, the conditions on the troopship were awful; even the officers were crowded together. Dick arrived at Liverpool, England, on September 15, 1943.
After their arrival Richard and his men went to Aldbourne. There the officers immediately got the task to settle and bed the men. The officers were all crowded together in another building. The next morning Winters decided to get away from all the men and be himself for a few minutes. Dick went to the church, because it was for him the best place to be alone with his thoughts and have a little time to relax. Winters didn't pay attention to the sermon, he just wanted to be alone and that was for Richard the most important thing. After the service Winters still wanted to enjoy his little free time and went to a small cemetery next to the church. After Winters walked out of the church and went up a hill to two small benches, and sat down. While Winters sat there he saw a few people next to a grave. They eventually wandered up the hill and sat beside Dick. Richard was soon in a conversation and the Barnes family invited Winters for tea. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes just decorated the grave of their son, who was in the RAF (Royal Air Force) and had been killed. Soon the GIs noticed that the English were on very strict rationing, so they decided to turn down most of their invitations, because they didn't want to make it the English people even worser as it was already for them. Winters decided to visit Mr. and Mrs. Barnes and drank some tea together with them. Later, Winters visited the family another few times.
Damian Lewis as Richard Winters in Band of Brothers
Soon, it was noticed that the officers were settled too crowded and some should be placed by voluntaring families in the town. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes offered to take two officers in, as long as Dick Winters was one of them. Winters picked Lieutenant Harry Welsh to accompany him. Lieutenant Harry Welsh and Richard Winters rooms were in a room over the store of the family Barnes. It wasn't a big room and they both slept on army cots, but everything was better than the overcrowded place they slept before. Winters prefered to stay with the Barnes family. He enjoyed their way of life, shortly before 9 o'clock when the news came on, Mrs. Barnes would come up and knock on Dick Winters door and say, "Lieutenant Winters, would you like to come down and listen to the news and have a spot of tea?" Richard really liked that, as he liked the private chats. He felt to be part of the family, which was very important for him to have some "civilian life" too. "As I look back, "Winters said, "on the months before the invasion, my stay with the Barnes family was so important, because this helped me prepare mentally for what I was about to face." Lt. Welsh rather liked to visit the pubs in the evenings.
In England, the E Company was stationed in Wiltshire County. The men went to the village of Aldbourne. Here the 506th took part in exercises as "Operations Wadham and Rankin" in preparation for the coming invasion of occupied Europe.
From September 1943 until June 1944, Dick Winters turned out to be a good junior officer of Easy Company. Later in the war Easy Company had to thank its success to its training and to the relationship that Winters develloped with the enlisted men. Dick Winters described himself as a "half-breed," being an officer with the responsibility to train the men, but being an enlisted man at heart. Winters was always thinking about the enormeous responsibility of preparing his men for combat. In a private letter home, he commented on his personal crusade to improve himself as an officer and to improve Easy Company as fighters and as men.
In the advance to D-day first Lieutenant Raymond Schmitz wanted to make some fun. He challenged Richard Winters for a boksing game. Winters didn’t like that idea, but got crazy of Schmitz's pushing. Finally they held a wrestling game. When the game started Winters soon kicked Schmitz’s ass, Dick always wrestled at school, so he was pretty good at it. Lt. Schmitz was taken to the hospital and missed for that reason the Normandy invasion.
Winters' best friend, Lt. Lewis Nixon, became an intelligence officer and told Winters their first combat assignment will be to invade occupied Europe. While the training still continued to steem the paratroopers ready for their Big Day, Sobel continued to harass Winters by citing him for failing to inspect a latrine. Winters requested a trial by court martial, as a result of this the Sergeants in the company decided to turn in their stripes rather than lose Winters and have to follow Sobel into combat. Their Commanding Officer, Colonel Sink, upbraided them for this, they were to short now for D-day to punish some good men, but decided to transfer Sobel out of the company before the upcoming D-day mission. Captain Sobel was replaced by First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan III.
The last few days before the invasion Winters and the rest of Easy Company would stay at an encampment at Uppottery Airfield. There they received their last briefings and were shown sand table models of the area where they were going to be jumping. When Winters went into the tent, a staff officer instructed the men to memorize everything they saw, the roads, bridges, trenches, really everything. Winters said about this: "I didn't let myself get carried away trying to memorize every detail, because the big thing in life, not only in making a jump into Normandy, is that you have got to be able to think on your feet. That's what we had to do, and that's what we did."
In the marshaling area at Uppottery Winters disciplines Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton, who was already six months with Easy Company. It was a fellow officer and close friend. Winters didn't like one thing at Compton’s behaviour. He gambled in the marshaling area with some of his men. It was a bad habit, and it putted him in the position that he had to take from his men when he won, an embarrassing position, according to Winters. Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton already won some games and had taken from his men. The point Winters was trying to make was that you have to be prepared to give to the people you lead. Dick said: "You must give in every way. You must give of your time, and you must be consistent in your treatment of them. You must never take from people you lead. That is why I reprimanded him. Later, at Brécourt Manor, Compton did a fantastic job leading his men."
At 2030 Hours on the night of June 5, 1944, under an overcast sky, the 139 men of Easy Company, 506th PIR, left their encampment at Uppottery Airfield, and marched for the C-47s that would fly them to France for their drop, and open the invasion of Europe. The C-47s of the 439th Troop Carrier Group, 50th Troop Carrier Wing were capable of hauling over three tons of cargo, or 18 fully loaded paratroopers.
Just before Easy Company would leave England Winters stood bareheaded in the center of his platoon, holding a letter from Col. Robert Sink, which states in part "tonight is the Night of Nights." At age 26, Winters commanded the company's 1st Platoon. At 2225 Hours the paratroopers climbed aboard, and at 2313 Hours, they were airborne.
13,000 Paratroopers were carried to France that night, in 821 aircraft. Although chaos erupted, it was as confusing for the Germans as for the jumpers. Only 21 C-47s were lost to enemy fire.
D-day, June 6, 1944 was the day Winters saw his first combat. The 101st Airborne Division, had to secure the causeways behind Utah Beach to facilitate the expansion of the beachhead. The paratroopers had to jump from a C-47 Dakota at 150 miles per hour and at 500 feet and less. The paratroopers landed scattered allover the Cotentin Peninsula. Winters came down near the town of Ste. Mere-Eglise, several kilometers from the planned DZ (drop zone). On his way to his target Winters picked up some other lost troopers, 40 men of Company D and the battalion staff, and headed to Ste. Marie-du-Mont, the first liberated town of Europe (the 101st Airborne Division’s headquarters for most of D-Day). By 700 Hours Easy Company consisted of two light machine guns, one bazooka with no ammunition, one 60mm mortar, nine riflemen and two officers. No one knew the whereabouts of the company commander or anyone of the men that were in the company commander’s plane. As a result Winters took command.
Lt. Richard D. Winters' uniform at the Death Man's Corner Museum in St. Come du Mont, Normandy, France
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Lt. Richard D. Winters' equipment at the Death Man's Corner Museum in St. Come du Mont, Normandy, France
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Lt. Richard D. Winters' footlocker at the Death Man's Corner Museum in St. Come du Mont, Normandy, France
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Three kilometers from Ste. Marie-du-Mont, the column encountered sustained German fire, and Winters was summoned to the front. About 0830 Hours Winters and his Easy Company consisting out of 12 men finally stumbled into Le Grand-Chemin, where the 2nd Battalion was gathering. Winters sat there with his men as an officer came and said, "Winters, they want you up front!" When he got there, Captain Clarence Hester turned to him and said: "There's fire along that hedgerow there. Take care of it." That was it. There was no elaborate plan or briefing. I didn't even know what was on the other side of the hedgerow. All I had were my instructions, and I had to quickly develop a plan from there. Winters and a dozen of his men had to move a few hundred meters to the front across an open field, south of Le Grand-Chemin (near Sainte-Marie-du-Mont), opposite a French farmhouse called Brécourt Manor, located 3 miles west of Utah Beach, at the end of crucial Causeway No. 2.
Map of the attack on the 4 105mm guns at Brecourt Manor
Entrance of the Brecourt Manor farm, Normandy, France
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
There they found a battery of four 105mm guns connected by a trench network and defended by nests of
MG-42 machine guns and 50 Germans. Upon arrival at the battery location, Winters first made a careful reconnaissance before he ordered his men to take positions and start the attack. Winters developed a quick plan of attack after his impression of the situation. He had a pair of 30-caliber machine gun positions set up to function as fire bases, as well as an additional placements for covering fire.
Winters (Damian Lewis) leading his men at Brecourt Manor in Band of Brothers
Winters saw the impending attack as a "high risk opportunity." The key was "initiative, an immediate appraisal of situation, the use of terrain to get into the connecting trench and taking one gun at a time."The attack would consist of a frontal assault. Winters selected three men for this assault: Pvt. Gerald Lorraine, Pvt. Popeye Wynn and Cpl. Joe Toye. Later they asked Richard Winters why he picked out these three, Winters recalled; "In combat you look for killers. Many thought they were killers and wanted to prove it. They are, however, few and far between." The assault was led by Winters with covering fire from several directions to pin down the Germans and take out the MG-42 nests.
First they attacked the flanks down the hedgerow leading to the first gun position. While the trench network provided the Germans with an easy way to reinforce their gun positions it also proved to be its biggest weakness, because Winters and his men could use the trenches as cover for the German fire. Crawling Winters and his men got close enough to the first gun and disabled it. Mowing down the retreating Germans, Winters then placed a machine gun to fire down the trench. Richard had also noticed that as soon as he got close enough to take out the first gun, the Germans in an adjacent hedgerow temporary lifted their fire so that they would not inflict friendly casualties. That was enough for Winters, who had a "sixth sense" that such a respite shifted the advantage to him.
With the first gun out of action, Winters went with 2 other men to charg the second gun. Throwing handgrenades and firing their rifles, they took the second 105mm howitzer. Winters discovered next to that gun a German map, indicating all of the German artillery and machinegun positions throughout the Utah Beach sector. The discovery of the map turned out to be very important, and was handed up the chain of command.
Dick Winters then directed another assault which rapidly captured the third gun. Reinforcements from D Company, led by Lt. Ronald Speirs, arrived to help attack the last gun. Winters watched the men of Dog Company capture the 4th, and last gun, meanwhile he briefly outlined the situation. With the 4 guns taken out, 1st Lt. Winters ordered a withdrawal at 11:30 a.m., about three hours after Winters had received the order to take the battery. The men withdrew with less ammo left.
They killed 15 Germans, wounded many more, and taken 12 prisoners. According to Dr. Stephen E. Ambrose (author of the book Band of Brothers): "it would be a gross exaggeration to say that Easy Company saved the day at Utah Beach, but reasonable to say that it had made an important contribution to the success of the invasion."
Later on, two tanks from Utah arrived, and Winters directed their fire to cleanup the position. Winters lost one man, Pvt. John D. Hall, under his command during this attack. Winters' capturing of the guns on D-day is still taught at West Point today.
For Winters' heroic leadership under fire during the attack at Brécourt Manor, Col. Robert Sink, the 506th PIR commander, recommended Winters to receive the Medal of Honor, but only one man in the 101st Airborne Division was to be given that medal.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole was the 101st Airborne soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for D-Day. Still today people are trying to get for Winters his deserved Medal of Honor, but unfortunately there are people that block this request, apparently it is for some people not enough what Richard Winters did for his Country and World Peace. Instead, Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The rest of Winters men also received medals.
Distinguished Service Cross
Lynn "Buck" Compton
Rick Demas at the Band of Brothers Monument at Brecourt Manor, Normandy, France. The 4 German guns were placed at the treeline in the background.
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
At the end of the first day in combat Winters wrote in his diary that if he survived the war, he would find an isolated farm somewhere and spend the rest of his life in peace.
It turned out that First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan III was killed in the crash of
C-47 #66, near Beuzeville au Plain, which killed Meehan and a number of other E Company paratroopers. Winters was left in effective command of the company for the duration of the Normandy Campaign.
Rick Demas next to Lt. Meehan's C-47 crashsite monument at Beuzeville au Plain, Normandy, France
(Pictures Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Soon after Brécourt Manor Winters led Easy Company in another attack to capture Carentan, a small town at the base of the peninsula. The town was taken easier than expected. Most of the Germans just pulled out of the town for a big attack. In Carentan Winters won his Purple Heart. A lost bullet hit Richard’s foot. Now the town was taken it had to be defended. Winters led his men very well in the defense of Carentan. Once again he proved to be a leader and comrade for his men. Winters promotion to captain followed on July 2. On July 12, the company returned to England, after 36 days in Normandy. The 101st Airborne Division spent the remainder of the summer preparing for a series of missions that were all canceled as the Allied forces made a quick advance across occupied France.
Winters received a letter years after the war (after the book Band of Brothers came out) from medic Eliot Richardson, who landed at Utah Beach. He thanked Winters very much for knocking out those guns. He always wondered why the fire onto Utah Beach had stopped. With the guns knocked out, medic Richardson was now able to help wounded soldiers he couldn't with the guns still firing. Medic Eliot Richardson later became attorney general in the Nixon administration.
On September 17, 1944, Winters would lead the company with great distinction during Operation Market Garden.The operationwas an attempt to take bridges over the main rivers of the German-occupied Holland, so that the Allies could roll into Germany’s industrial heart without any remaining major obstacles. The operation was partail successfully with the capture of the Waal bridge at Nijmegen, but was a failure because the final Rhine bridge at Arnhem was not held by the Red Devils. The German counter-offensive resulted in the destruction of the British 1st Airborne Division, that by the way held the Bridge much longer then calculated in the original plan. The Red Devils did a great job, but unfortunately it was not enough to stop the German destructive counter-offensive. It would be Germany’s last real victory.
During Market Garden Winters assumed duties as 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR XO, although normally a Major's position, while still a Captain. Easy Company fought at the beginning of the operation in the Eindhoven area.
Easy Company went up to the dike along the Rhine River to relieve the British. Winters was to lead the men and was sent in front of the company. There Winters had an opportunity to witness a British attack. The officers walked with the men across this field. They all walked really slowly. Nobody looked like he was thinking about that fact that maybe some German soldiers would encounter them; nobody tried looking for cover or anything. Totally unprepared for direct action, walking around, the officers with their side arms in their holsters and the men with their rifles in their hands, going across a wide-open field, in enemy territory. The Germans just cut them to pieces. Richard never saw anything like it before. It was very brave, but unbelievably foolish. It looked like a Civil War battle. Unless Easy Company had a huge front to cover they had to replace the British. The only thing Winters could do was to set up some strongpoints at several places along the dike and cover the gaps with sending patrols there.
Left Richard Winters in Schoonderlogt, Holland 1944. Right Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers in "Schoonderlogt"
A notable action occurred towards the end of this campaign, while Winter's unit was deployed in the no-man's land called "the Island", between the Waal River at Nijmegen, and the Rhine river at Arnhem. On October 5, 1944, in defense of "the Island", Winters wrote another heroic page in the history of Easy Company. Company E was at that time 130 men strong and had to protect a 3 kilometers long line along the front. Winters deployed his men with two platoons forward and one in reserve along a dike that ran roughly parallel to his front, a place the men called the crossroads.
Winters received word that a German company was attempting to penetrate his defenses. He immediatly gathered half his reserve platoon, roughly 15 men, and led a patrol to check out where the Germans were. Winters ordered repeatedly to stop the patrol so that he could make a personal reconnaissance. He led his half gathered reserve platoon up to a small ditch adjacent to a German machine gun nest. Dick Winters and his men eliminated the German position and Winters called up the remainder of the platoon. Thinking of another well coordinated attack, Dick Winters then ordered his men to move towards the road and attack. Winters didn't know the number of German soldiers behind the dikeroad. With two squads providing covering fire, Winters ordered the remaining squad to fix bayonets and to follow him across 200 yards of open ground.
Dick Winters ordered his men to follow him as soon as the smoke came out of the smoke granade. Richard pulled the pin out of the smoke granade and threw it forward as a sign for the men to follow him. Winters immediatly ran towards the dike, but he didn't realize that it took a few seconds before the smoke would come out of the granade, so he was running there alone. A few seconds later the granade started to smoke and the rest of the men followed. Winters reached the road first, jumped over and saw a German sentry, about 100 Germans and a lot of others preparing for an attack. There was one German right in front of Winters, Winters shot the German, he looked up at Winters and smiled. Without hesitation, Dick Winters emptied two M-1 clips into the bunch of other Germans. As more paratroopers arrived, the Germans turned toward the river and fled. By now, Winters had taken cover behind the ditch, but rose to pour a withering fire on the retreating German soldiers. Other members of Winters' 1st Platoon did the same. Just then another SS Company arrived, but Winters and his men’s firepower was too intense and the SS Company joined the flight. For E Company, it was a "duck shoot," with one man firing a total of 57 clips of M-1 ammunition into the German garrison.
Colonel Sink issued a general order, citing 1st Platoon's "daring attack and skillful maneuver." Four days later, he promoted Winters to XO (executive officer) of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th PIR. Winters now lost the command of Easy Company, it was taken over by Captain Fredrick T. Heyliger , but it had been a glorious close. With only 35 men, Dick had routed two German companies of 300 men, killed 50, captured 11 and wounded approximately 100 German troops. In this attack Winters lost one man and 22 were wounded. Winters later said this attack was "the highlight of all E Company actions for the entire war, even better than D-Day, because it demonstrated Easy's overall superiority in every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack under a base of fire, withdrawal, and above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine gun and mortar fire." October 5, 1944, was also the last day that Richard Winters fired his weapon in anger.
Easy Company remained in Holland until late November, although they were not trained and designed for sustained infantry combat. At t he end of November Winters and the unit went to a former French artillery garrison just outside the village of Mourmelon. Here they rested, reorganized and received replacements.
On December 16, 1944, Germany had launched a major offensive, west thru the Ardennes Forest, in the lightly held sector of the VII Corps, to capture fuel and the supplies and as most important target the Antwerp Harbor. At that time Shaef's Reserve consisted of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. The 101st was ordered to the town of Bastogne which was the key to the German counter-offensive. Several major roads led to and from Bastogne that were essential for the success of the German offensive. On December 18, 1944, Captain Winters and the entire 101st Airborne was jammed into trucks for an overnight rush to Bastogne in Belgium. Here would Captain Winters' toughest fight take place. His mission was to lead his men into the Ardennes Forest and hold the front line. Winters and his men, by the way the entire 101st and 82nd Airborne, were short of warm clothing, food, and ammunition, and still not recovered from their casualties of the Holland campaign.
Webmaster Rick Demas, in Bastogne (north part) - coming to Bastogne from Foy
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
The men spent Christmas without any wealth, freezing in their snowy foxholes, while listening to the German soldiers sing ''Silent Night.'' There a lot of men lost close friends, but also became close friends.
Now Easy Company did their job and held off the German attempts to overrun Bastogne, they got the order to capture the nearby town of Foy from the Germans. The 506th in the Foy area had to withstand several fierce artillery bombardments, during which several Easy Company soldiers were killed and badly wounded. Sgt. Joe Toye and Sgt. Bill Guarnere each lost a leg there. Easy Company's First Sergeant Lipton warned Captain Winters about Lt. Norman Dike, the new company commander of Easy Company, but Winters was well aware of the problem and could do anything about it. When Lt. Dike froze up during the crucial attack on Foy, Captain Dick Winters wanted to run into the battle and lead his ''old'' Company himself, but he was stopped by his suprior officer. Instead he sent Dog Company's Lt. Speirs to relieve him. Lt. Speirs successfully, and with bravery, leads the taking of Foy.
Rick Demas, in Foy (northwest part) - coming to Foy from Recogne.
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Webmaster Rick Demas at the Band of Brothers Monument in Foy, Belgium
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Rick Demas in an American foxhole in Foy, Belgium
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
This battle in the Ardennes Forest, Foy, and Bastogne, would later be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Dick Winters did what he could for his men, once again he proved to be a good leader. A lot of vets that fought in the Battle of the Bulge have never forgotten how cold it was back there in 1944-1945, and still think in a cold night at their days at the line in Bastogne.
Winters and his men didn't get the needed time to recover from their casualties in the Battle of the Bulge. They were trucked into an Alsacian town near the German border. The men still had to hold the line and do some more patrols in that area. Winters and the men had to sleep in houses, just across a small river from German forces doing the same thing. Winters got an order from higher hand that he had to send some men over to take some German prisoners. Two prisoners were taken, but Easy Company lost one man during that partol. The German prisoners didn't give the information that was wanted. The high ranking officers of the 506th although found the patrol a success and ordered Captain Winters to send another one, but this time the patrol had to go further into the town. Captain Winters disobeyed the order. He told the men to stay quiet the whole night and come to him the day after and tell him they didn 't find any Germans while over there. Winters said that for Easy Company the war was over there Hagenau. Before Captain Winters left Hagenau he was promoted to Major.
Dick Winters in Hochstett, near Hagenau, in 1945
Winters and his Second Battalion finally entered Germany, where they found no resistance, and began kicking residents out of their homes for the night so they could sleep. Major Winters sent out a small patrol into a nearby forest. The patrol found a concentration camp, a surprise to Winters and everyone else. They hand never seen anything like that before and didn 't know what it was what they found, untill Joe Liebgott, one of Easy Company's men that spoke German, asked the prisoners what they found. Later turned out that at a lot more places such camps were found. The officers of the 506th ordered the local citizens to burry the death corpses found all over the camp terrain.
Winters and second Battalion finally entered the empty Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden, once home to all the Chiefs of the Third Reich. The men including the officers celebrate the German army's surrender in Hitler's mountaintop "Eagle's Nest." The men also found a large wine cellar that belonged to one of the Chiefs of the Third Reich. Dick Winters ordered the men to pick as much of the wine as they could and slipt up the rest under the other Airborne companies.
In Austria, the men learned that the Division would be redeployed to the Pacific Theatre, minus any men who had earned enough "points" to go home. To leave the Army, a man needed 85 points. Points were accumulated through as example medals, wounds or Purple Hearts. Usually only officers had enough points to make it home, because of the high amount of points that were needed. The rest of these men, men who had simply joined up to fight for America, not knowing how long they would be gone, would now be sent to invade Japan. Now, these men who had fought on D-day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge, would begin to train to go to war with Japan. Winters organized several training exercises to keep the men busy and prevent non-battle casualties, because the soldiers had a lot of free time, alcohol and were still armed with their rifles and guns.
As they awaited official orders to leave Europe and to start their campaign in the Pacafic, Major Winters applied for a transfer to a unit that was moving out immediately, but his request was denied, Winters' suprior officer had the opinion that Winters' men deserved such a good leader still for a while. Captain Speirs, also respected a lot by Easy Company, decided to stay on as company commander despite having enough points to go home. As the men of Easy Company were playing baseball Winters interrupted their game with the news of the Japanese surrender. Now the war was over Winters didn't want to make a career of the army, instead he accepted Captain Nixon's offer, a job with his family's company, Nixon Nitration Works. Winters made it to a highly successful businessman, he is a frequent lecturer at West Point.
At the end of the war, Winters Second Battalion was at Berchtesgaden, but his heart was always with the men of Easy Company.
Richard D. Winters and Damian Lewis
“What made Easy so special under Winters? The answer was simple. Shared hardship and stress created a bond that still exists today. The original members of Easy Company still sit together at reunions because they formed the core. To a man, the survivors acknowledge that Capt. Dick Winters was the best combat commander they had during the entire war. Winters shuns such acclaim, noting that "hardship and death bring a family together. Officers aren't family; the family belongs to the men, not the officers".”
Dick Winters indeed left the Army and found place far away from the battlefield. One of the famous citations of Major Winters is: "Hang tough and take care of your soldiers." Winters toughest challenge as a commander was: "To be able to think under fire. In peace the toughest challenge is to be fair." The greatest satisfaction of the military service was: "Knowing I got the job done; knowing that I kept the respect of my men. The greatest reward you can have as a leader is the look of respect.' The key to a successful combat leader is to earn respect not because of rank, but because you are a man."
For the men of Easy Company, it would be D-day plus 434. They had not seen home in more than two years. Each man would be forced to re-enter the world back home as best he could.
Major Richard D. Winters was reactivated during the Korean War to train Paratroopers and Rangers with the U.S. Army in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
After Richard Winters left the Army again he went back to his farm in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to hold a cattle and sold vitaminemixes livestock companies. Lewis Nixon, who continued to travel around the world stayed Winters best friend untill his Nixon 's death.
Left: Major Winters (Damian Lewis) Right: Capt. Nixon (Ron Livingston) in Band of Brothers
Major Winters once wrote a letter to Sgt. Floyd Talbert to come to a reunion once again. Winters received a letter back, with the following answer: ' ... Do you remember the time when you were leading us into Carentan? Seeing you in the middle of the road wanting to move was to much...' (Band of Brothers bladzijde 298) He also wrote: ' ...you where my total inspiration. All my boys felt the same way...'.
Talbert, who cut off his long hear and wild beard at request of Winters appeared at the reunion. A short while later he passed away.
Winters said about Talbert; "If I had to pick out just one man to be with me on a mission in combat, it would be Talbert." Talbert ended his letter to Winters with the following words: 'Your Devoted Soldier forever'.
His Brother's Keeper
Winters believes his ability to inspire his men to follow him into harm's way on the dike in Holland and elsewhere was attributable to his bedrock beliefs in basic leadership qualities. According to Winters the individual needs to have the respect of the men. You get that by living with the men, knowing what they feel, beying honest to them, and holding together with them in hard times. You have to be one of them. "Once you can achieve that, you will be a leader. Then, when you go with the men into combat, and you get in a situation such as we were in along the dike in Holland, when I gave the orders, "Ready, aim," nobody else there was thinking about anything except what he had been told to do. They trust in you, have faith in you and they obey right now, no questions asked." Winters knows that the men and he were lucky in some cases, like in Holland along the dike, incase the Germans spotted the troopers running in the open field, it would have been a "duck shoot" for the Germans. According to Winters it is also important to make a quick decision, right or wrong, you are the leader and have to make the decisions, don't let someone else make the desicion, because that brings you as a leader in a defensive position.
You maintain close relationships with your men, but not friendship, because then it will be harder to discipline the men. You can be friendly to the men, but there is a certain limit, you are the leader and have to stand above them, and the enlisted men have to know that. You have to be fair and equal to the men to have, and maintain, their respect and make the men follow your orders without hesitation. "The most effective leader will have quiet self-confidence and self-assurance that ultimately commands the respect of the men."
"If you listen and pay attention, you will find that your own self-consciousness will tell you if you are getting off track. Nobody will have to tell you that what you are doing is incorrect or ineffective. If you take advantage of opportunities for self-reflection, and honestly look at yourself, you will be able to be a better leader."
The one thing Winters has treasured and will always remember, when his grandson who asked, "Grandpa were you a hero in the war?" "No,"he answered,"but I served in a company of heros."
Richard D. Winters (92) passed away on January 2, 2011,
at Columbia Cottage in Palmyra, PA,
following a several-year battle with Parkinson's Disease. Funeral services took place on January 8, 2011.
The following orbituary concerning Richard Winters death was published on Timesdaily.com:
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Richard "Dick" Winters, the Easy Company commander whose World War II exploits were made famous by the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers," died last week in central Pennsylvania. He was 92.
Winters died following a several-year battle with Parkinson's Disease, longtime family friend William Jackson said Monday.
An intensely private and humble man, Winters had asked that news of his death be withheld until after his funeral, Jackson said. Winters lived in Hershey, Pa., but died in suburban Palmyra.
The men Winters led expressed their admiration for their company commander after learning of his death.
William Guarnere, 88, said what he remembers about Winters was "great leadership."
"When he said 'Let's go,' he was right in the front," Guarnere, who was called "Wild Bill" by his comrades, said Sunday night from his South Philadelphia home. "He was never in the back. A leader personified."
An other member of the unit living in Philadelphia, Edward Heffron, 87, said thinking about Winters brought a tear to his eye.
"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. He took care of his men, that's very important."
Winters was born Jan. 21, 1918 and studied economics at Franklin & Marshall College before enlisting, according to a biography on the Penn State website.
Winters became the leader of Company E, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, after the death of the company commander during the invasion of Normandy.
During that invasion, Winters led 13 of his men in destroying an enemy battery and obtained a detailed map of German defenses along Utah Beach. In September 1944, he led 20 men in a successful attack on a German force of 200 soldiers. Occupying the Bastogne area of Belgium at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, he and his men held their place until the Third Army broke through enemy lines, and Winters shortly afterward was promoted to major.
After returning home, Winters married his wife, Ethel, in May 1948, and trained infantry and Army Ranger units at Fort Dix during the Korean War. He started a company selling livestock feed to farmers, and he and his family eventually settled in a farmhouse in Hershey, Pa., where he retired.
Historian Stephen Ambrose interviewed Winters for the 1992 book "Band of Brothers," upon which the HBO miniseries that started airing in September 2001 was based. Winters himself published a memoir in 2006 entitled "Beyond Band of Brothers."
Two years ago, an exhibit devoted to Winters was dedicated at the Hershey-Derry Township Historical Society. Winters, in frail health in later years, has also been the subject of a campaign to raise money to erect a monument in his honor near the beaches of Normandy.
Winters talked about his view of leadership for an August 2004 article in American History Magazine:
"If you can," he wrote, "find that peace within yourself, that peace and quiet and confidence that you can pass on to others, so that they know that you are honest and you are fair and will help them, no matter what, when the chips are down."
When people asked whether he was a hero, he echoed the words of his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney: "No, but I served in a company of heroes."
"He was a good man, a very good man," Guarnere said. "I would follow him to hell and back. So would the men from E Company."
Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers, Larry Alexander, NAL Hardcover, 2005, ISBN 0451215109
Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest, Stephen Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, 1992. ISBN 0743464117
Death Man's Corner Museum in St. Come du Mont, Normandy, France