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 was a humble man and very respected by the men under his command. He asked that his death not be announced until after his funeral. He lived in Hershey, PA.
Remarkably, there are enough of his men still alive to make public comment:
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.”
Another 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.
Rest in peace, Retired Major Dick Winters. We feel like we knew you and we thank you for your service.
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.”