Maj. Dick Winters, of 'Band of Brothers' fame, will be memorialized with a statue in NormandyPublished: Monday, May 28, 2012, 6:00 PM Updated: Monday, May 28, 2012, 6:00 PM
IVEY DEJESUS, The Patriot-News By IVEY DEJESUS, The Patriot-News
On the main road to Sainte Marie-du-Mont in Normandy, the steeple of the 11th-century church — once a shield for enemy snipers — rises high above the village.
The confessional and the glass case that encases a statue of the Virgin bear bullet holes, remnants of the fierce fighting 68 years ago.
The flagpole at Brecourt Manor is off to one direction, to the other Carentan —Nuts German stronghold landmarks, objectives for the Allies.
And approximately three miles away, the expanse of Utah Beach summons the images in historic black-and-white footage of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
Maj. Dick Winters — then a lieutenant — sealed his place in history among this bucolic landscape of dairy farms.
Over the years, Winters, an Ephrata native, has been lauded for his valor and leadership. Medals, books, movies and personal tributes have honored the military acumen Winters displayed on that day as he led a small unit of men to destroy a German artillery battery charged with destroying landing U.S. forces.
A reluctant hero, Winters, who passed away last year at 92, deflected the laurels onto his men.
Now a statue in his likeness will for posterity survey a landscape that has come to memorialize the liberation of a country and the turning point of the war.
An effort years in the making will bear fruition on June 6 as the World War II Foundation unveils the Richard Winters Leadership Monument, a 12-foot high bronze statue of Winters in an attack position, his weapon at the ready. The monument will be dedicated to all junior U.S. military officers who served on that day.
“Richard Winters represents the young men of his generation who stepped up and took on a leadership role as junior officers in a growing American army,” said Ret. Colonel James Helis, chairman of the Department Of National Security Strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle.
“They provided the front line leadership that the troops needed. The generals do the big planning but when it comes down to making contact with the enemy and fighting the battle and getting off that beach, that’s done by the junior officers. Winters represents all of that.”
That mutual nod to military leadership was a crucial factor in getting Winters to agree to the project, said Tim Gray, chairman of The WWII Foundation and brainchild behind the monument.
“It doesn’t just recognize him. It recognizes all American divisions that landed there on D-Day. It was one of his requests,” Gray said. “We knew when we approached him that he would feel the same way and that’s how he felt.”
After the war, Winters fulfilled his dream to stake his claim to a small plot of land and raise a family. His quiet life, first in Lebanon County, then Hershey, changed abruptly in 1992, when author Stephen Ambrose released his best-seller “Band of Brothers.” Winters stood as the central figure in the gripping account of D-Day.
Then, in 2001, Winters and Company E 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division were catapulted into national discourse in the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” based on the book.
As he fulfilled the deluge of interview requests and speaking appearances across the country, Winters wrote his own wartime memoirs.
“If they hadn’t been dropped that night, it would’ve been a disaster on the beach from those guns,” said Edward Heffron, 89, one of the few remaining members of Easy Company.to read this article in full go to
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