The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.
I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.
Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:
First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.
When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.
Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.
“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.
“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”
Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.
Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.
Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.
He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.
Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.
The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.
The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series. But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.
If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.
You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:
If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.
Operation Market Garden
More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:
Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.
The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.
“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”
Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.
I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.