Richard D. Winters, was a United States Army Officer, who was born on 21 January 1918 and sadly passed away at the age of 92 on 2 January 2011. He served as the commander of Easy Company (Company E), 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division, made famous by the HBO television mini-series “Band of Brothers” (2001), based on the book by Stephen Ambrose, in which his stories and those of his comrades were featured.
He was born in Ephrata, Pennsylvania but moved at the age of 8 to Lancaster, where he graduated from Lancaster Boys High School in 1937. Afterwards he attended Franklin and Marshall College, where he graduated in 1941 and enlisted in the United States Army in August of that year. Winters attended basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina. and remained there to help train draftees and other volunteers.
In April 1942 he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia and was commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduation in July 1942. He decided to join the parachute infantry and upon completing his training, he returned to Camp Croft to train another draft as there were no positions available in the paratroopers at that time. After five weeks he received orders to join the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) at Camp Toccoa (formerly Camp Toombs) in Georgia, arriving in mid-August 1942, and was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR. The 506th PIR was an experimental unit, being the first regiment to undertake airborne training as a formed unit. Here he served under First Lieutenant Herbert Sobel. Winters initially served as a platoon leader in charge of 2nd Platoon, but in October 1942, he was promoted to first lieutenant and became the acting company executive officer, although this was not made official until May 1943. In September 1943 his unit was sent to England for additional intense training, in preparation of the invasion of Europe that was planned for the following year.
In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 (D-Day), he parachuted and landed safely near Sainte-Mère-Église, France and became acting commander of Easy Company (First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan, the former commander, was killed when his aircraft was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire), and he led the unit for the duration of the Normandy campaign. In July 1944 he was promoted to the rank of captain. He participated in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands (September 1944) and the Battle of the Bulge in the Bastogne area of Belgium (December 1944 – January 1945). In March 1945 he was promoted to the rank of major and was made acting commander of the 2nd Battalion.
Citation for his Distinguished Service Cross:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Richard D. Winters (ASN: 0-1286582), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company E, 2d Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, in action against enemy forces on 6 June 1944, in France.
First Lieutenant Winters with seven enlisted men, advanced through intense enemy automatic weapons fire, putting out of action two guns of the battery of four 88-mm. that were shelling the beachhead. Unswerving in his determination to complete his self-appointed and extremely hazardous task, First Lieutenant Winters and his group withdrew for reinforcements. He returned with tank support and the remaining two guns were put out of action, resulting in decreased opposition to our forces landing on the beachhead. First Lieutenant Winters’ heroic and determined leadership exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 101st Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
In April 1945 the battalion carried out defensive duties along the Rhine River, before deploying to Bavaria later in the month. The following month, the 101st Airborne Division received orders to capture Berchtesgaden, Adolph Hitler’s alpine retreat in Bavaria, where he spent the remaining days of the war. He remained in Germany until November 1945 and returned to the US where he was separated from the US Army later that month and officially discharged in January 1946.
On 6 June 2012, a memorial was revealed
98 years ago you were born, and passed away 5 years ago but you are never forgotten. Happy birthday, Richard Winters! Forever in our hearts.
“One day my grandson said to me, grandpa were you a hero in the war? And I said to him no I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.” ― Dick Winters. Find all books on Easy Company here.