By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; p. B7
Richard "Dick" Winters, 92, a decorated Army officer whose
courageous leadership through some of the fiercest combat of
World War II was featured in the best-selling book and HBO
miniseries "Band of Brothers," died Jan. 2. He had
The Patriot-News in central Pennsylvania reported that Maj.
Winters, a longtime Hershey resident, died at an
assisted-living facility in nearby Campbelltown.
Stephen Ambrose's 1992 book "Band of Brothers" followed the men of
E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment,
101st Airborne Division. The group came to be known as Easy
One of Easy Company's officers was Maj. Winters, a charismatic and
compassionate leader who entered Army service as a private
and returned home after World War II as a major.
He and his men jumped into combat on June 6, 1944, above Normandy
and later fought together through Operation Market Garden in
the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge.
The unit experienced heavy turnover because of battlefield
casualties. One Easy Company soldier later wrote that among
his colleagues, the Purple Heart "was not a decoration but a
badge of office."
Maj. Winters graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1941
before enlisting in the Army. He was selected to attend
officer candidates' school, earned a commission in the
summer of 1942 and then - drawn by the promise of extra pay
for hazardous duty - volunteered to join a newly formed
Of about 500 officers who volunteered to join the elite unit, only
148 made the cut.
Maj. Winters excelled as a infantry leader and a paratrooper and
became a hallowed figure among his men for his "follow me"
He received the military's second-highest decoration for valor, the
Distinguished Service Cross, for his actions on D-Day.
That morning, after landing and untangling from his parachute, Maj.
Winters gathered a small group of men for a raid on German
cannon emplacements near Brecourt Manor.
Guarded by a platoon of 50 German sentries, the heavily fortified
battery had been firing on Utah Beach, causing significant
casualties and slowing the Allied advance.
In their assault of the position, Maj. Winters and his men killed
15 German soldiers and took 12 as prisoners. At one point,
Maj. Winters noticed a wounded German soldier crawling
toward a machine gun.
"I drilled him clear through the head," Maj. Winters told Ambrose.
Maj. Winters and his men destroyed three German cannons and
completed the action with near-textbook efficiency.
Throughout the war, Maj. Winters's leadership skills earned him
commendations and promotions. He served as Easy Company's
commander and was promoted to lead the 506th Regiment's 2nd
Battalion, which included Easy Company.
Maj. Winters and his men eventually saw the end of the European
campaign while occupying Adolf Hitler's mountainside
retreat, the Eagle's Nest, nestled in the Alps above
Berchtesgaden. They celebrated by drinking champagne from
the Fuhrer's 10,000-bottle cellar.
Late in the war, one of Maj. Winters's soldiers, Floyd Talbert,
wrote him a letter from an Indiana hospital, thanking him
for his loyalty and leadership.
"You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever
served under you," Talbert wrote. "I would follow you into
Richard Davis Winters was born Jan. 21, 1918, in Lancaster, Pa.
His family's roots in American history reached back to Timothy
Winters, a British immigrant who served in the Revolutionary
War and saw action in the Battle of Yorktown.
Maj. Winters's own war story went untold for nearly a half-century
until the publication of Ambrose's book, which became a
In 2001, a television miniseries adapted from Ambrose's work was
released on HBO. The series, co-produced by Tom Hanks and
Steven Spielberg, won six Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.
Toward the end of the war, Maj. Winters turned down the opportunity
to make the Army a career.
He returned to the United States and joined an Army colleague's
company, Nixon Nitration Works, in New Jersey. He was
recalled to active duty during the Korean War as a training
For the rest of his career, Maj. Winters owned a farm in rural
Pennsylvania and sold animal nutrition products to
animal-feed companies. He married Ethel Estoppey in 1948 and
had two children. He lived the quiet and peaceful life he'd
promised to himself after surviving the war.
One of the most harrowing experiences of his military service came
in late April 1945. The men of Easy Company discovered a
German working camp near Landsberg that was part of the
Dachau concentration camp. Maj. Winters found wheels of
cheese piled in a nearby cellar and ordered that the
nourishment be distributed among the inmates.
"The memory of starved, dazed men who dropped their eyes and heads
when we looked at them through the chain-link fence, in the
same manner that a beaten, mistreated dog would cringe,
leaves feelings that cannot be described and will not be
forgotten," Maj. Winters wrote of the experience. "The
impact of seeing those people behind that fence left me
saying, only to myself, 'Now I know why I am here.'"