America lost another World War II hero on Jan. 2, when Army Maj. Dick Winters (ret.) died at the age of 92. He requested that his death not be made public until after the funeral. On June 6, 1944, then-First Lt. Winters parachuted into the French village of Ste. Marie-du-Mont with the other members of the U.S. Army’s E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. The group was famously nicknamed “Easy Company” and became the inspiration for historian Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers.”
After Easy Company’s commander was killed in a plane crash early in the assault, Winters led the company on its mission to destroy four 105mm howitzers and a 50-man German platoon to help clear the way for the invading Allied Forces’ landing at Utah Beach. Winters lost his weapon during the drop and was initially isolated from his men, but he regrouped and led the successful assault, despite the unit’s suffering 50 percent casualties. He later called his actions “my apogee” — actions for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross. Ambrose wrote, “It surely saved a lot of lives, and made it much easier for — perhaps even made it possible in the first instance — for tanks to come inland from the beach.”
When the war was over, Winters worked in New Jersey at a fertilizer plant, and later sold animal feed and ran a farm. He left his war experiences behind him, but his men never forgot. William Guarnere lost a leg in the Battle of the Bulge under Winters’ command. After learning of the latter’s death, Guarnere said, “I would follow him to hell and back. So would the men from E Company.” Rest in peace, Maj. Winters.