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Major Richard “Dick” Winters, 1918-2011

By Wyatt Earp | January 9, 2011

Longtime readers of SYLG know that Dick Winters is a personal hero of mine, and I wanted nothing more in life than to meet him in person. Sadly, that will never happen, as we lost Major Winters on January 2nd. He requested a private, unannounced funeral service, which took place on Saturday. He was 92 years old.

If I were king of the world, the news of Major Winters’ passing would be broadcast over every internet provider, television, radio, and cellphone. The tributes to this man, one of the greatest of “the greatest generation” would soon follow. Winters’ life story would be taught in schools, and told to every man, woman, and child on Earth.

But we know that’s not going to happen, because America’s priorities aren’t in order. In today’s America, people are more concerned with parasites like Lindsay Lohan and Michael Vick than a man who led one of the most decorated companies in World War II. And that disappoints me.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Winters and his troops from Easy Company, 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, parachuted behind enemy lines to take on a German artillery nest on Utah Beach. His company fought through the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of a death camp at Dachau and to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

I still believe Major Winters deserved the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day, but you know that he would disagree.

Thankfully, Major Winters helped spread the good word about Easy Company after the war, and did so until his death.

Winters was always gracious about his new-found celebrity, but never really comfortable with it. He wanted people to understand that success in war depends not on heroics but on bonding, character, getting the job done and “hanging tough,” his lifelong motto. In combat, he wrote 50 years after the war, “your reward for a good job done is that you get the next tough mission.”

Following the miniseries, Winters turned down most requests for interviews because he said he didn’t want to appear like he was bragging. But he did feel the story of Easy Company was an important one, especially for young people.

The men who served under him and people who only met him later in life call him a hero, no matter what he says. According to the book, one wounded member of Easy Company wrote Winters from a hospital bed in 1945, “I would follow you into hell.”

Is there any American would wouldn’t? If Dick Winters was leading, at least you knew he was leading from a position of strength.

In November, I posted a story about a fund-raising effort to erect a statue of Major Winters in Normandy, France. An 11-year old Western Pennsylvania boy was selling wristbands to gather some of the money needed for the project. (The link for the wristbands is still in the right sidebar, where it will remain.) The organizers wanted to erect the statue “before it was too late” for Winters to see it. It was at the link that I learned that he contracted Parkinson’s Disease, and it finally dawned on me that our heroes are not going to live forever.

So what do we do? We live by the example our heroes set. We aspire to emulate our heroes and those actions and attributes that make them heroic. In Major Winters’ case, those actions had nothing to do with his combat record. They had to do with his humility, his leadership skills, and his ability to bring out the best in people, whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom. If we can honor Dick Winters by being more like him, he can live forever in us all.

Godspeed, sir. Thank you for your service, your example, and your heroism. Currahee!

In honor of Major Winters, there will be no posts tomorrow.

Topics: Heroes, The Troops | 36 Comments »

36 Responses to “Major Richard “Dick” Winters, 1918-2011”

  1. Andy Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Amen. A true hero from a generation we should all aspire to.

  2. C/A Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 10:20 pm


  3. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Andy – Our loss is Heaven’s gain.

    Captain – Such a terrific and honorable man. I wish I had the opportunity to meet him.

  4. dragonlady474 Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Rest in peace soldier

    Wyatt, what a wonderful human being he was. Nothing says it more than the quote from the soldier in the hospital. It brought a tear to this Ice Queen’s eye.

  5. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    DL474 – I always figured he would be the last one to pass. The leader following the parade of great men into Heaven. America has lost a true hero.

  6. Skye Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Rest in Peace, Major Winters

  7. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Skye – Amen. Here’s hoping his final jump went smoothly.

  8. Called Home – Major Richard Winters | Midnight Blue Says Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    [...] H/T: Support Your Local Gunfighter [...]

  9. Jon Brooks Says:
    January 9th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    God Bless Major Winters. I am sorry for you too Wyatt, one does not hold such high regard for another without the pangs of loss when that time comes.

    God holds him gently in the palm of His hand.

  10. realwest Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Well I am sorry for his loss. He was a honest Hero in the true meaning of that word. And he did indeed “hang tough” for a long while.
    Thank you for your service, Major Winters, and may you Rest in Peace.

  11. 兄弟连 Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:27 am

    敬礼 (A salute.)

  12. Dusrtvet Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:51 am

    God Speed Major Winters Rest In Peace, Thank for your service sir. Salute.

  13. Dusrtvet Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Day is done, gone the sun,
    From the hills, from the lake,
    From the sky.
    All is well, safely rest,
    God is nigh.

    Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
    May the soldier or sailor,
    God keep.
    On the land or the deep,
    Safe in sleep.

    Love, good night, Must thou go,
    When the day, And the night
    Need thee so?
    All is well. Speedeth all
    To their rest.

    Fades the light; And afar
    Goeth day, And the stars
    Shineth bright,
    Fare thee well; Day has gone,
    Night is on.

    Thanks and praise, For our days,
    ‘Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
    ‘Neath the sky,
    As we go, This we know,
    God is nigh.

  14. Rides A Pale Horse Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 1:40 am

    “When people asked him if he was a hero, he liked to answer the way his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney, did.”

    “No,” Ranney said. “But I served in a company of heroes.”

    Tell a WWII vet he’s a hero and he’ll most likely tell you that “No, the real heros are still over there”.

    God bless you and keep you Major Winters.

  15. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Jon – I just finished watching the first two parts of BoB. I cry a little every time, but tonight was a lot worse. I don’t understand it, since I never met the man, but I can’t help but mourn a little. I guess that makes me a tad insane.

    Real – The last time I saw him on TV was during John McCain’s GOP acceptance speech. Major Winters was in the audience.

    兄弟连 – Kon’nichiwa.

    Dusrtvet – I never served, but I will certainly salute the man.

    RAPH – We’re losing our WWII veterans all too fast. If you know one, please take the time to say thank you before it’s too late.

  16. Old NFO Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Godspeed is right, RIP Major, your job is done!

  17. Ben & Jake Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 4:11 am

    May god be with him….see you in heaven….

  18. Fenway_Nation Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Godspeed, Major.

  19. USAdmiral Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 10:08 am


  20. Rick Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 10:25 am

    R.I.P.Major Winters
    Like you I mourn the passing of such men.
    I have several family members that served in WWll.
    My mother’s brother Frank paid the ultimate price for freedom December 3,1944

  21. Dr. Evil Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 10:54 am

    A true American hero has been lost. RIP Major Winters.

  22. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Old NFO – I wish the media would make a bigger deal about his passing. CNN has nothing on their front page, and neither does Drudge. FOXNews has a tiny article, linked in the middle of the page. Disgusting.

    Ben & Jake – Easy welcomed him there with open arms.

    Fenway – A terrible loss for America.

    USAdmiral – Agreed.

    Rick – Thanks for your family’s service. So many great stories of dedication and heroism from that war.

    Dr. Evil – I’m proud to say he was from Pennsylvania.

  23. Ferrell Gummitt Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    My great aunt Margaret whom died two years at the age of 91, was a nurse that received some of the wounded from Normandy. She always remarked how brave the men were. Ten years ago her hometown asked her to be in their 4th of July parade as a vet. She declined saying that the real heroes were the ones whom fought on the front and she was but a nurse.

    When “Saving Private Ryan” came out I couldn’t get her to see it because of the first 30 minute sequence of the Normandy invasion. I offered to go in at the 45 minute mark of the movie, she still declined. Finally, about six months before she died she told me she saw the movie. And remarked that “Steven Spielberg came real close with the invasion.”

    At her funeral there were about 10 volunteer nurses who worked with her to take seniors blood pressure. She did the volunteer work up and until she got sick.

    God bless you Aunt Margaret..

    Sorry for the rambling…

  24. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Ferrell – Don’t be. It’s a great story. God bless and keep your Aunt Margaret.

  25. Wes S. Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    *wipes tears from eyes*

  26. Mrs. Crankipants Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Words cannot express the admiration I have for guys like him. Rest in peace Major Winters, and thank you for your service.

  27. Rides A Pale Horse Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 5:30 pm


    I get my healthcare at the V.A. here in Denver and NEVER pass up a chance to thank ALL the vets for their service and sacrifice.

    My dad had 6 brothers that served during the war (all came home safe thank God), my ladyfriends grandmothers second husband was a survivor of Bastogne and one of her uncles was on the U.S.S. California at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, well, until he was blown off the ship only to re-emerge two weeks later after helping rescue others from the capsized U.S.S. Oklahoma and other ships damaged or sunk in the attack.

    Yeah, I’m acutely aware of their service and never pass the chance to thank them.

  28. Bob G. Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I lost my uncle on the 3rd (stationed in India during WW2), so this comes as a double-whammy to me!
    Major Winters deserves the MOH, no question.
    I also wanted to meet him…being a PA man myself.
    Maybe someday…in a better place.

    The world seems a bit smaller somehow.

    From our lives into God’s arms, Major.

    We shall NEVER forget.

  29. RT Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    You’re right, guys like him need to be the focus of our study, for in no other way do we learn what true courage is.

  30. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Wes S. – Very well deserved.

    Mrs. Crankipants – I wonder if South Philly’s Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron were at the services?

    RAPH – The greatest generation. No doubt about it.

    Bob G. – No, we never will.

    RT – He and his men personified it.

  31. TonyF Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Wyatt, I first read the news this afternoon and was bummed the rest of the day. I too consider this man to be the epitome of an American. Thanks for honoring him.

  32. JT Says:
    January 11th, 2011 at 4:55 am

    God bless ya, Major Winters.

  33. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 11th, 2011 at 7:39 am

    TonyF – How could I not? He is everything I would like to be.

    JT – Amen to that.

  34. piperfromtn Says:
    January 11th, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Piper salutes and plays Flowers of the Forest for Major Winters. Thank you, Sir.

  35. murder_city Says:
    January 11th, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I’m sure there were others like the Major in our wars that have followed. Why haven’t we heard of them?!?

  36. Wyatt Earp Says:
    January 11th, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Piper – A great man, deserving of great accolades.

    MC – Because the media doesn’t care. Hell, there was little to no coverage of Major Winters’ passing.