The miniseries Band of Brothers may have made him a household name, but Major Richard Davis “Dick” Winters was a highly decorated war hero long before his story was told on screen.
He was already an Officer when he joined Easy Company – the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment – at Camp Toccoa in Georgia. Colonel Robert Sink was in command, and Winters was a 2nd Lieutenant serving under 1st Lieutenant Herbert Sobel.
The 506th was an experimental group consisting of men with little previous training who were the first to go through airborne instruction as a unit.
The training was tough but for a good reason. Out of the 500 officers who volunteered for the program, only 148 made it to the end. Of the 5300 enlisted men who finished, 1800 were chosen.
Winters was made First Lieutenant and then Acting Company Executive Officer before the Company flew to Aldbourne, Wiltshire, England. There they received even more intensive training in preparation for D-Day.
Aldbourne and the surrounding villages became home away from home for the 506th. They were stationed there both before and after D-Day. They made friends with the villagers, and a few soldiers are still in contact with people they met there.
At Aldbourne Winters clashed with First Lieutenant Herbert Sobel. In the ensuing drama, matters became so heated that Sobel accused Winters on false charges. Winters asked for a court-martial review to settle the conflict.
Support for Winters among the officers and enlisted men was so high they petitioned Colonel Sink to sack Sobel, or they would give up their stripes. Sobel was transferred, and Winters was made platoon leader under Thomas Meehan who replaced Sobel. When Meehan’s transport plane was shot down over Normandy, Winters became Commander of Easy Company.
After Normandy, Easy Company returned to Aldbourne and from there, fought in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. They did not go back to Aldbourne.
Until 1991. In the video below, you can watch Winters tour Aldbourne with fellow Easy Company Officers Carwood Lipton and Donald Malarky.
Richard “Dick” Winters passed away on January 2, 2011, aged 92.