Band of Brothers inspiration Winters dies at 92

RICHARD “Dick” Winters, the Easy Company commander whose World War II exploits were made famous by the book and television mini-series 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 yesterday.

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, Pennsylvania, 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 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.”

Winters was born on January 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 defences 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, Pennsylvania, where he retired.

Historian Stephen Ambrose interviewed Winters for the 1992 book Band of Brothers, upon which the HBO mini-series that started airing in September 2001 was based.

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