Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Charles Speirs served with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division in WWII. He was originally the platoon leader for the Baker Company of the 1st Battalion but was reassigned to Dog Company of the 2nd Battalion just before the Invasion of Normandy.
During the Battle of the Bulge from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, the Belgian town of Foy which is about 2.4 miles north of Bastogne was heavily occupied by German forces. The US 101st Airborne Division held the Bois Jacques stretch of forest just outside.
The 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry, together with Easy Company under First Lieutenant Norman Dike attacked the town losing several men in the initial assault. First Lieutenant Dike ordered the platoon to flank the rear of the town when they came under heavy fire, forcing them to take cover. They were now sitting ducks.
Easy Company’s original commander, Captain Richard Winters now the 2nd Battalion’s Executive Officer, tried radioing Dike and Easy Company to evacuate. What happened next is in contention. Some accounts claim Dike froze in fear and panic; putting his company in danger. Others state he was wounded in the right shoulder, which was why he hesitated.
Whatever the case, Winters ordered Speirs to relieve Dike. Speirs did so by countermanding Dike’s order to attack from the town’s rear. In the confusion, however, two different US companies ended up firing at each other. Worse, they did not have a radio, so they could not talk to each other.
With no other options, Speirs ran through the town avoiding German fire. Fortunately, he reached the soldiers of Item Company unscathed and explained the situation thereby stopping the two companies from firing at one another. He then ran back through the town amidst a hail of German fire to return to his men; also unscathed.
Despite their best efforts, however, they were unable to take the town, though they did manage to take some German POWs. Speirs went on to become the commanding officer of Easy Company and held that position until the end of the war.
The incredibly successful series Band of Brothers portrayed this climactic battle in harrowing detail, including Speirs’ incredible sprint through German lines to hook up with I company. Check out the scene here: