When Winters began attending training at ‘Camp Croft,’ South Carolina, Richard Winters wanted his military service to be short and had no desire to participate in the ongoing World War II. Hence, he stayed in the camp to coach draftees.
In April 1942, Winters was moved to the 'Army Officer Candidate School' (OCS) located at ‘Fort Benning,’ Georgia, where he met Lewis Nixon. Nixon eventually became a long-time friend of his.
On July 1, Richard Winters was appointed to the ‘506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’ (506th PIR), formed at ‘Camp Toccoa’ in Georgia, where he volunteered for paratrooper training (activated on July 20, under Lt. Colonel Robert Sink). The following day, he joined the ‘101st Airborne Division’ as a second lieutenant and graduated from the ‘OCS.’
In August 1942, Richard Winters was assigned to ‘Company E’ (later known as 'Easy Company') of the ‘506th PIR,’ under Colonel Robert Sink. 'Company E' was led by First Lieutenant Herbert Sobel.
Winters became the leader of the ‘2nd Platoon’ and eventually got promoted to the position of first lieutenant. He was appointed as an acting company executive officer in October 1942 and officially assumed the post in May 1943.
In October 1943, while in Aldbourne, Winters was court-martialed because he failed to follow Captain Sobel's order of inspecting the latrine. It eventually created a rift between the two. Winters doubted Sobel's capabilities as a captain but never expressed his thoughts. Many enlisted men respected Winters for his leadership qualities and wanted him, and not Sobel, as their captain.
Sobel was upset that the battalion commander had canceled Winters's punishment after the court-martial trial. Hence, he came up with another charge. After investigation, Winters was appointed as the battalion mess officer at the headquarters of the ‘Company.’
Nevertheless, many non-commissioned officers (NCOs) pressurized the regimental commander, Colonel Sink, to decide whether or not Sobel should be dismissed from 'Company E.' Sink finally transferred Sobel to Chilton-Foliat, while he canceled Winters's punishment and appointed him as the 1st leader of the platoon. He, however, acknowledged the role of Sobel's grueling training sessions in boosting his competence.
On June 6, 1944, during the Normandy Operations (often referred to as “D-Day”), Winters flew with his parachute over Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and successfully landed on Sainte-Mère-Église. Unfortunately, he had to leave his weapons during the landing.
Continue Reading Below
Additionally, due to the heavy German anti-aircraft fire and dense clouds, many jump planes and paratroopers were displaced from their assigned drop zones. Nevertheless, Winters managed to assemble the troops and proceed toward their designated target.
Since the 'Easy Company' commander, First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan, was missing, Richard Winters was made the de facto commanding officer.
Later in the day, Winters led the Brécourt Manor Assault in the southern part of Le Grand-Chemin village. His bravery earned him a promotion to the position of captain. He was also awarded the 'Distinguished Service Cross.'
In September 1944, Richard Winters showed exceptional heroism in the airborne operation called Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. With his troop of 20 men, he successfully attacked a German force of 200 soldiers.
On October 9, he was appointed as the battalion executive officer (XO). The post is generally given to a major, but after the death of the battalion's former XO, Major Oliver Horton, Winters was chosen for the post, despite being a captain, as no one else was fit for the position.
On December 16, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, Winters's troops successfully broke through the enemy lines. He was promoted to the position of major in March 1945. Winters returned home in November.
Winters began his journey from Marseille to the U.S. on the ship 'Wooster Victory.’ He reached New York City in November the following year. Upon reaching Indiantown Gap, he was separated from the army. He was discharged officially in January 1946. Until then, he opted for a terminal leave.
In December, Lewis Nixon's father offered Winters a job in their family business in Edison, New Jersey. He joined 'Nixon Nitration Works' in January 1946. He simultaneously continued his studies through the ‘GI Bill.’ He pursued several business and personnel management courses at 'Rutgers University.'
Winters was appointed as the general manager of 'Nixon Nitration Works' in January 1950.
Continue Reading Below
In June 1951, Winters was summoned to rejoin the army in the wake of the Korean War. He was initially assigned to the ‘11th Airborne Division’ at ‘Fort Campbell,’ Kentucky, but was later moved to ‘Fort Dix,’ New Jersey, as a regimental planning and training officer.
At ‘Fort Dix,’ Winters was highly disappointed with the training officers, as they lacked discipline. He was sent to attend the 'Ranger School,' where he graduated as a ranger.
In January 1952, Winters was again promoted to the position of major in the ‘U.S. Army Reserve.’ He was given a choice to resign his commission, and he did so. In April 1953, Winters was honorably discharged from the ‘U.S. Army.’
He returned to New Jersey the following month and joined a plastics adhesive business in New Brunswick, as a production supervisor.
In January 1955, he left New Jersey and earned a job at 'Whitmore Laboratories' in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
In 1972, Winters ventured as an entrepreneur, starting a company of delivering chocolate by-products from 'The Hershey Company' to animal-feed-producing companies.
On February 26, 1990, Winters met American historian and biographer Stephen Ambrose. He shared his stories from his days with 'Easy Company,' which resulted in one of Ambrose's most outstanding books, 'Band of Brothers,' published in 1992. The book was later adapted into the 2001 ‘HBO’ miniseries of the same name, in which Damian Lewis portrayed Winters.
Winters retired in 1997 and moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, with his family. As the ‘HBO’ show began airing in 2001, he made several public appearances, giving speeches and interviews on his experience.
Another book on Winters, titled 'Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers,' authored by Larry Alexander, released in 2005. His memoir, 'Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters,' co-written by military historian Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, was published the following year.
Awards & Honors
In 2001, the 'Roosevelt Institute' presented Winters and five other World War II veterans the 'Freedom Medal & Freedom from Fear Medal.'
In May 2009, the 'Franklin and Marshall College' presented Winters an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters.
Additionally, Winters has been awarded five 'Overseas Service Bars,' the 'American Campaign Medal,' the 'European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal' (with four ‘Service Stars’ and ‘Arrowhead Device’), the 'World War II Victory Medal,' the 'Army of Occupation Medal,' the 'National Defense Service Medal,' the 'French Croix de Guerre' (with palm), the 'French Liberation Medal,' the 'Belgian Croix de Guerre' (with palm), and the 'Belgian Commemorative Medal' of the 1940–1945 War.
On June 6, 2012, a 12-foot bronze statue was dedicated to Winters to commemorate the 68th anniversary of D-Day.
On May 25, 2015, a replica of the sculpture was installed and inaugurated in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.