Major Dick Winters
An ordinary man in his own eyes, Maj. Winters rose to fame in 1992 with the publication of Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers. This bestseller documents the story of Maj. Winters and E Company of the 506th Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army from D Day to VE Day. Maj. Winters obtained his place in mainstream infamy in 2001 when Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced the story of Maj. Winters and E Company in a 10 part mini series based on Ambrose’s bestseller also called Band of Brothers.
A couple of years ago I picked up Maj. Winters memoirs called Beyond Band of Brothers. In those memoirs Maj. Winters talked about his desire during the war to make it home safely and live his life in peace. After the war, Maj. Winters lived a quiet and private life mostly outside of Hersey, Pennsylvania where he worked for himself as a farm supply salesman. As a decorated war veteran, he is noted for his leadership and ability to lead by example in tough situations. However, he was never comfortable with the term “hero” when describing himself and that is why prior to his passing he requested that his death be kept private until after his funeral, which took place this past week.
It’s difficult to say how the story of a man I have never met and that is 66 years older than myself has resonated so deeply within me. However, I think the appeal of Maj. Winters’ story is that it is one of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things because unforeseen circumstances required it of him. All the while, he remained humble and indebted to his fellow soldiers.
I’m sure there are thousands of stories from WWII that are similar to Maj. Winters but most of those veterans are no longer with us to share their stories. The average living WWII veteran is in their late 80s and some 1000 WWII veterans die worldwide everyday. Time is running out to celebrate the lives of these living heroes but thanks to the documentation in Band of Brothers, Major Dick Winter will live in infamy.