Retired US Army Major Richard “Dick” Winters’ quiet life as a civilian ended in 1992 with the release of historian Stephen Ambrose’s best-selling book titled Band of Brothers, which tells of hishis comrades’ experience serving during the World War II . The limelight on Winters increased a hundredfold when famed Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and veteran actor Tom Hanks teamed up to bring his story to tens of millions in the highly acclaimed, award-winning HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. This mass exposure transformed Winters and his companions into cultural icons for generations far removed from World War II.
In his autobiographical book titled Beyond the Band of Brothers, Major Richard “Dick” Winters speaks candidly about his life during the war with Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, which he commanded from Normandy to Berchtesgaden. He tells the E-Company story in his own words and shares lessons about leadership in life and death in the crucible of war. Lastly, he pays tribute to the men with whom he served his country and those who lost there lives in the battles of the Second World War. Virtually all this material is being released for the first time.
This paper is divided in three sections. The first section summarizes how Winters ended up in a military career and his life with the Easy Company. The second section explains the leadership lessons that Winters gleaned from leading a band of men to survive in the bloodiest conflict of the 20th century. The Beginnings of a War Hero Fresh out of college, Dick Winters entered the United States Army on August 25, 1941 as a private to complete his one-year military service. After finishing boot camp, he stayed behind at Camp Croft, SC to assist in training newly enlisted soldiers.
Any thoughts that he harbored about getting out of the army after just one year vanished with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1945. After the Pearl Harbor bombing, Winters contemplated about becoming an officer. Hence, when one of his commanders asked if he was interested in attending OCS (Officers Cadets School), he grabbed the chance immediately. It is while at OCS when he met and became friends with Lewis Nixon and Harry Welsh. After cadet school, Winters was assigned to the newly formed 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).
Friction rose between Winters and the company commander Herbert Sobel. Nevertheless, Winters attributes a large part of E-Company’s success to Sobel’s training. The Easy Company When Lieutenant Meehan, Sobel’s successor, was killed during the D-Day invasion in Normandy, Dick Winters became the company’s new commander. He parachuted into France and assumed leadership of the Band of Brothers and was regarded as “the best combat leader in World War II” by his men. The Easy Company suffered 150% casualties while liberating Europe—an unparalleled record of bravery under fire.
Winters led them through the Battle of the Bulge and into Germany, where and at a time each member was wounded. They liberated an S. S. death camp from the horrors of the Holocaust and captured Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Alpine retreat haven. Even though it was Winters who was greatly recognized and rewarded for his actions on the battlefield, he never failed to thank or forget the men who served under him. Furthermore, Winters showed remarkable compassion and concern for his men’s well being, so much that it sometimes overrode his rank’s duty.
In Haguenau, a second patrol was ordered over the Rhine to catch more German prisoners. Survival was next to impossible. Winters told the men that where supposed to go on the patrol to get a good nights rest. After his discharge from the U. S. Army, Major Richard Winters returned to civilian life. He worked for a while for the family firm of his wartime friend Louis Nixon. Following a brief tour of duty during the Korean War, he returned to Pennsylvania and embarked on a successful business career, raised a family, and lived the quiet life he had promised himself after his first day in combat.
Though out this book you will find three common themes the first is what he calls the “Leadership at the Point of the Bayonet Ten Principals of Success” , which he summarizes in the last section of the book. The second is the fact that he is very humble about he success, he is very much aware that the men contributed a lot to Easy Companies success as he did, and lastly he gives credit to the men who served under him and helped make Easy Company one of the best companies on the 506th. Conclusion
Winters reveals the Easy Company’s story in a rich, refreshing, and more personal way than how it has been depicted in its famous HBO miniseries. From the stationing of companies in Toccoa, GA in July 1942 until its deactivation in November 1945, Winters takes us every step of Easy Company’s journey, and also includes his comrades’ untold stories. This book also has value as a tool on leadership. It was Winters ten principals on leadership that help Easy Company grow as a company and helped Winters rise thought the ranks.
It is not a mystery why these men have become the embodiment of millions of American servicemen who marched off to war as ordinary men but achieved extraordinary things. References Alexander, Larry (2005). Biggest brother: the life of Major Dick Winters, the man who led the band of brothers. New York: NAL Caliber. Anderson, Christopher (2004). Dick Winters: Reflections on the band of brothers, D-Day and leadership. American History Magazine: August Issue http://www. historynet. com/magazines/american_history/3029766. html
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