Major Richard D. Winters (ret)
Richard Winters was the third commanding officer (CO) of Easy
Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne
Division. While initially serving as a platoon leader of Easy as
a 2nd Lieutenant, he gained the mutual respect and the trust of
the men who later be part of one of the largest invasions known
Colonel Sink, who was the first and only CO of the 506th
Regiment, promoted Winters to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, and
the 1st CO of Easy, Captain Herbert M. Sobel, made Winters the
executive officer (XO) of Easy.
When the airborne troops finished jump school and were shipped
to England, they prepared for the big invasion of Fortess
Europe. Sobel was promoted and transferred to a jump school for
civilians (chaplains, priests, doctors, etc.) called Chilton
Foliat. Lieutenant Meehan from Baker Company took over as CO of
Easy Company. He would remain CO until his plane was shot down
during the invasion.
When D-Day came, the paratroopers dropped deep into Normandy
under enemy territory. Their objectives were to secure a series
of causeways, or roads, that linked to the beaches of Normandy,
where the regular US Infantry would make their assault on Utah
and Omaha beach. The Germans flooded the fields inland, so
securing those causeways was the only option.
Easy Company's objective was to secure Causeway #2, which linked
to Utah Beach. However, during the drop, the planes, desperate
to evade the incoming flak from German anti-aircraft guns,
dropped troops far from the designated drop zone (DZ).
Lieutenant Meehan's plane, which also included E Company's First
Sergeant, William Evans, was shot down during the invasion.
Lieutenant Winters lost his weapon, which was located in his leg
bag, when the bag was torn off from the tether that it was
Prior to the main invasion, the 2nd Battalion of the 506th,
which consisted of Dog, Easy, and Fox Company, set up
headquarters near a secured farmhouse. Intelligence reported
that 4 German 105mm artillery cannons were aimed and firing at
Utah Beach, where the 4th Infantry Division was making their
assault. Easy Company was ordered to eliminate those cannons,
which were causing massive damage to the beach area.
90 % of Easy Company was still unaccounted for at that time.
Lieutenant Winters had no choice but to do his best given the
circumstances. He ordered machine guns to create an enveloping
fire on the guns, while another squad, led by Lieutenant Lynn
"Buck" Compton, took the left flank and tossed grenades into the
trench where the first gun was. Sergeant Lipton and PFC Myron
Ranney took the right flank. This base-of-fire technique would
become a textbook case for assault on a fixed position, and is
still taught at West Point Academy today.
When the Germans at the first gun were eliminated, Easy Company
began their main assault on the trenches. They spiked the guns
with TNT and completed their objective with the aid of Dog
Company, led by Lt. Ronald Speirs, who would later become the
last CO of Easy Company.
Lt. Winters received the Distinguished Service Cross for taking
out those artillery pieces. However, many believe that he
deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor because of the
importance of this assault.