Dick Winters, a highly decorated World War II hero who became a household name when his heroics were chronicled in a Stephen Ambrose book that later became the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” has died. He was 92.
A very private and modest man, he died last week but requested that the news be withheld until after the funeral, a family friend told the Associated Press.
After enlisting in the Army on Aug. 25, 1941, the Pennsylvania native was deployed with fellow soldiers in Easy Company — the 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division — to land by parachute in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. By leading the takeover of a German artillery bunker on Utah Beach, Winters and his company saved countless lives from relentless cannon fire — an action that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest honor an American soldier can receive. Winters and Easy Company later fought near the Belgian town of Foy during the Battle of the Bulge, liberated the German concentration camp at Dachau, and occupied Hitler’s mountainside retreat, Eagle’s Nest.
In 1945, one of Winters’ soldiers, Floyd Talbert, wrote a letter to Winters from his hospital bed to express appreciation for his leadership in battle.
“You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you,” Talbert wrote. “I would follow you into hell.”
Shaken by what he experienced in war, Winters reportedly vowed to live a simple life if he managed to survive, and that’s just what he did. After returning home, he married his then-girlfriend, Ethel, bought a farm in Pennsylvania and raised a family. He reportedly never talked about his war experiences until Ambrose came calling in the hopes of documenting Easy Company’s role in winning the war. Winters said he honored Ambrose’s request because he felt it important for future generations to learn about the war, its consequences and the sacrifices made by soldiers. He later wrote his own memoir, “Beyond Band of Brothers.”
Winters was leading a quiet life of farm retirement in Hershey, Pa., when “Band of Brothers” turned him into a minor celebrity. People who knew him say that he never really became comfortable with life in the spotlight. He had fielded countless requests for interviews and personal appearances over the past decade or so, most of which he turned down.
Winters was, by all accounts, exceedingly modest. When someone would ask him whether he considered himself a hero, he would usually respond by saying, “No. But I served in a company of heroes.”