Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?
January 10, 2011 8:38 AM   Subscribe

"He was a good man, a very good man, I would follow him to hell and back. So would the men from E Company."

β€œHe led hundreds of young men through some of the toughest fighting the world has known, but at his core he was a peaceful man. In everything he did, he served honorably.”

Major Richard "Dick" Winters (official site, memoirs), memorably portrayed in HBO's Band of Brothers (based on Stephen Ambrose's book), peacefully passed away on January 2. Winters never received the Medal of Honor, but there is a petition to remedy that. He was 92. (BoB previously)
posted by HumanComplex (83 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
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He was amazing, both in the personal interviews he gave for BoB and the way he was portrayed. A humane officer with a sharp sense of tactical and strategic necessities. The American army is poorer for his loss.
posted by Chichibio at 8:46 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I was not a hero, but I served with heroes."

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posted by mightygodking at 8:46 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Growing up in central PA, I used to play taps (last post) at memorials and military funerals. Major Winters lived in a neighbouring town and would often show up at memorial events and local political rallies. I never had a chance to speak to him, however. I wish I had.

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posted by honest knave at 8:47 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by Thorzdad at 8:47 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by longbaugh at 8:47 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by JohnFredra at 8:48 AM on January 10, 2011


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If you haven't watched Band of Brothers, let me urge you to do so. It is genuinely phenomenal.
posted by the painkiller at 8:48 AM on January 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


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posted by Fleebnork at 8:49 AM on January 10, 2011


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Those interviews before the episodes still manage to choke me up. The title of the post is a case in point.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by slimepuppy at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by dougzilla at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by Ber at 8:52 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by entropicamericana at 8:53 AM on January 10, 2011


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As a history teacher, I would like to second painkiller's recommendation to watch Band of Brothers. It is one of the most historically accurate depictions of World War II I have ever found. While it depicts a company that performed amazingly and heroically (the series actually downplays the heroism to some degree), it is not an "ooh-rah" propaganda piece or jingoistic historical fantasy. It's a story about real people making the best of a very, very bad situation (war), and it's painful and wonderful.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:53 AM on January 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


By all accounts an amazing leader and human being.

Band of Brothers is one of the best things ever put on TV.
posted by bondcliff at 8:54 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


They don't like to give out the Medal of Honor to living vets because it includes a lifetime pension. Now that he's gone it's much more likely.
posted by clarknova at 8:55 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by Maastrictian at 8:55 AM on January 10, 2011


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(Thank you Maj. Winters.)
posted by clavdivs at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2011


Nth the recommendation to watch Band of Brothers if you haven't already, for the reasons scaryblackdeath mentioned.


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posted by Megami at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 9:00 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by sacrifix at 9:00 AM on January 10, 2011


A true citizen soldier.
America at its best.

RIP, Major.
posted by Flood at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2011




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posted by wrapper at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2011


Nthing that you should watch the series. The "Why We Fight" episode is incredible.

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posted by jgirl at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have watched BoB more times than I can possibly count. Kind of silly, but this feels like we're losing a friend.

I sense a memorial BoB marathon this weekend.
posted by spinturtle at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by jessian at 9:15 AM on January 10, 2011


They don't like to give out the Medal of Honor to living vets because it includes a lifetime pension.

Well, um, it's good to see they're trying to keep military spending in check. Jesus Christ.

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posted by brundlefly at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by inturnaround at 9:26 AM on January 10, 2011


Thank you, Maj. Winters. From one Diplomat to another...

More local coverage:
Dick Winters, who inspired 'Band of Brothers,' remembered as an American hero

Maj. Richard Winters dies

"Clancy Lyall of Lexington Park, Md., also served under Winters.

Lyall described him as 'a great leader and a hell of a man.'”
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:26 AM on January 10, 2011


Thank you, Maj. Winters, and to all who serve. RIP.

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posted by orrnyereg at 9:28 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:31 AM on January 10, 2011


They don't like to give out the Medal of Honor to living vets because it includes a lifetime pension.

Cite Please. I would prefer to think that fewer than half of the medal's recipients are alive because the level of courage and valor requisite for consideration is usually fatal, not because of bureaucratic parsimony.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:35 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


People keep saying watch the series - Read the Book!

Band of Brothers is one of the best WWII history books. It is worth reading.
It is a rare history book that is engaging and exciting to read.
posted by Flood at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by BZArcher at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2011


Here.
posted by longbaugh at 9:38 AM on January 10, 2011


He was truly admirable man. Thank you for informing us about him, Band of Brothers creators including author Steven Ambrose and executive producers of the awesome TV series, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

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posted by bearwife at 9:40 AM on January 10, 2011


longbaugh, I think BigLankyBastard was asking for backup to clarknova's assertion that "they" don't like to give MoH honors to living vets because of the pension issue, not a citation for the existence of the pension.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2011


Yes, Longbaugh, that links to an article stating that there is in fact a stipend associated with the MOH. That is also noted in the Wikipedia article I looked at prior to posting my comment.

I am not questioning that there is a stipend. I am asking for someone to provide some kind of evidence for the deeply cynical assertion/implication that the MOH is routinely withheld from otherwise deserving and qualified living recipients until after their deaths because the government does not like to pay the stipend.

Because if clarknova made that up, that's a horrible lie.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2011


I was lucky enough to interview Major Winters for a magazine article back in 2003. The magazine gave me his home address so I wrote a letter introducing myself and then called him. "I have just one question," he said. "Have you read Stephen Ambrose's book?" When I said I had he replied, "That's all I need to know." He was a kind and gracious interview subject and he showed me various items from his military career that he had in the small office in his home. He struck me as a genuinely good human being, and that's saying something. I'm glad I had the chance to meet him.
posted by Man-Thing at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2011 [18 favorites]


The series is excellent, and I also urge you to watch Ron Linvingston's video diaries as well. It's pretty incredible to watch them pretty much become their characters during boot camp.

Also, Frank John Hughes did Bill Guarnere spot on, like eerily so.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:04 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never would have known about Maj. Winters had it not been for Band of Brothers. Even if it was by proxy, I'm glad I got to know about his story.

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posted by CancerMan at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by Smart Dalek at 10:24 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by psp200 at 10:26 AM on January 10, 2011


Book added to reading list - thanks. Major Winters is my kind of hero. It's sad (but probably inevitable) that we don't seem to hear about people like this until they die, and sometimes it feel like there aren't any more good men and women taking their place.

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posted by Quietgal at 10:30 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by randomkeystrike at 10:33 AM on January 10, 2011


Nthing the praise for Band of Brothers, with its deeply personal and inspiring portrayals of the heroics involved in those days, all while managing to avoid the hero worship that seems too often to seep into histories of the Last Good War.

Also echoing the awe and gratitude to Winters and all the other men who jumped out of rickety 1940s planes and boats and scaled cliffs under fire on D-Day, not even to mention the ensuing grueling campaigns.

Ambrose's D-Day book is an excellent companion to Band of Brothers. I was in Normandy a few years back, and, while a little tourist-trappy, the towns there have done a pretty good job of preserving the history there -- you visit the cliffs and bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, a model of the famous hanging paratrooper at St. Mere Eglise, and IIRC you can still see some sunken landing craft from the American cemetery.

RIP, Major.

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posted by ScotchRox at 10:36 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kind of silly, but this feels like we're losing a friend.

I feel the same way -- I teared up seeing this on the front page. It's not only because of "getting to know" Winters through his interviews and Damian Lewis's splendid performance but probably because my father (whom I never really knew) was a WWII vet, as were some uncles -- all in their 40s and 50s by the time I arrived on the scene. Band of Brothers made it more possible to see who they had been as young men, which made it all the more fascinating and poignant. That whole generation of guys feels surrogate-fatherly to me. So long, Dick.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:39 AM on January 10, 2011


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posted by asymptotic at 10:42 AM on January 10, 2011




Winters himself also wrote a book about his time in the 101st: Beyond Band of Brothers.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:58 AM on January 10, 2011


There's someone I would have liked to have a cup of coffee with.

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posted by mudpuppie at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please accept my apologies BigLankyBastard - I completely misread what you were trying to say. I shouldn't imagine that you'll find any sort of guidelines about withholding the MOH on account of the stipend being paid. That's more the sort of thing that some sort of dickhead bureaucrat would choose to implement off their own back rather than something that is codified somewhere in a DoD manual.
posted by longbaugh at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2011


ScotchRox, Cthulhu? Really?
posted by item at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lived in Belgium for about three years and actually had a chance to meet some of the gents from Easy Company (!) and they were exactly how they appear in the series.

I went to Bastogne on a few occasions and there is a structure at the memorial that you take stairs to the top of and in the open air, they have points where they show the layout of of the units and where they were positioned.

At one point, I see a marking for Easy Company and it say, "Major Winters' and I distinctly think, "Hey, I know Dick Winters!" at which point another part of the brain says, "No doofus, you just saw the series."

That is how well the series was made. At the end, I felt like I knew the guys in BoB...and yet, I knew such a small part of them.

(As an aside, this was the first time I took Jimmie Fallon seriously with his little cameo.)

I will not be sad at his passing but rather glad we had a chance to benefit from his presence.
posted by Dagobert at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just found this: get yourself a Hang Tough wristband in support of a monument to Maj. Winters in Normandy.
posted by HumanComplex at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2011


. (+ Salute)
posted by AugustWest at 11:43 AM on January 10, 2011


BoB was a pretty amazing experience and the closest, luckily any of us will ever have to come to that pure hell thanks to guys like Major Winters. His interviews on the show are deeply impressive as a person with real depth and real compassion and I worry about these guys who went to WWII all disappearing because we need their voices and understanding of patriotism without the BS more than ever.

Anyhow, if there's one thing I learned from watching Major Winter's in BoB, it's that you never ever stop moving when you're under fire. And those are words to live by....
posted by Skygazer at 11:47 AM on January 10, 2011


<salute />
Thanks for your service, Major. RIP.
posted by phoebus at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by stormpooper at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2011


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Need more Americans like him. More people like him everywhere, really.

If I had a flag out front it would be at half-staff.

posted by zoogleplex at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2011


oops messed that up. add a *salute* from me too.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2011


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Oh good god. This is so sad. I've watched him talking on the intros to Band of Brothers so often. First thought: as jarring as it sounds, maybe the death of this quiet, massively modest man will allow his relatives and admirers what he would never have allowed: paeans of praise for his achievements.
posted by paperpete at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by kaiseki at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by Xoebe at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2011


I first met Major Winters about 15 years ago and have met him a few times since. I knew he had been unwell for some time, but it is sad that he has passed on - he had a lot of wisdom.

I met him through a former member of his company that I play golf with - I won't mention his name, but he's an original member of Easy Company - now 88 Years old. We youngsters are hoping he will shoot his age some day soon, though he's not sure he's going to be able to play next year.

Major Winters was a very, very decent man. More, even, than you will hear in the media tributes that will follow this sad news.

He made a difference.

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posted by Sk4n at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are 36 Easy Company vets still alive today.
posted by HumanComplex at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by The Michael The at 1:27 PM on January 10, 2011


What a fine man and a good commander.

I watched the series long after reading the book, and the interviews of the vets that appear before each episode really moved the story from 2-D to 3-D for me. I encourage everyone to watch these segments if you haven't.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by dealing away at 2:12 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by ZeusHumms at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by lullaby at 4:08 PM on January 10, 2011


I can't use the html star I want to denote the Medal of Honor, so:

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posted by bwg at 4:32 PM on January 10, 2011


I read the Ambrose book as the series premiered each week on HBO. It was refreshing to see how close to reality they kept it. There were a few deviations - some characters were condensations but on the whole it was pretty much how it happened. I remember a bit from the "making of" when Spielberg said they were filming an assault on a village and someone insisted that E Company had a machine gun in a certain place when they came out of the woods. Carwood Lipton disagreed. He went over to where he thought it happened and started digging in the ground. He came up with .50 machine gun shells. Spielberg had them move the machine gun.
posted by Ber at 4:36 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cthulhu? Really?

eesh, no, poorly drawn parachutist is poorly drawn, apologies.

although if we were fighting a cthulu or cthulus I would want Maj. Winters in charge
posted by ScotchRox at 5:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This made me so sad. A good man.

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posted by Cheminatrix at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2011


The episode 'Why We Fight' mentioned above is truly amazing television. I'll have to find the book and read it at some point. I remember feeling distinctly sad when I got to the end of the series and realized that there were no more episodes to watch, and that's not a normal thing for me.

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posted by Ghidorah at 5:58 PM on January 10, 2011


Read about this earlier today. Very sad to see him go but, boy, that's not a bad life.

I'm a huge fan of the BoB series, and just recently watched The Pacific. If you liked BoB you'll probably like it as well. Well recommended, but not for the faint of heart.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:33 PM on January 10, 2011


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As zoogleplex said, we need more people like him in the world.
posted by arcticseal at 9:10 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by Tamanna at 11:31 PM on January 10, 2011


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posted by tzikeh at 2:04 AM on January 11, 2011


Loved Band of Brothers. Dick Winters dying is painful knowledge, especially once you've gotten to know him a little through BoB.

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posted by grubi at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2011


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