It was announced that one of the United States Army's most famous combat officers died on January 2.


Major Richard Winters is known to many as the commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the inspiration for the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.  I use episodes of this series to teach my Experience of Modern War class at La Roche College, with Dick Winters as an example of an effective combat commander, who was also concerned with the welfare of his troops.  Then in the July, I had the opportunity to visit Easy Company's battlefield at Foy, Belgium, just outside of Bastogne.


In his obituary, The Washington Post quotes a soldier named Floyd Talbert who gave Major Winters an outstanding tribute, writing from his hospital bed in 1945: "You are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you.  I would follow you into hell."


The word "hero" is often devalued, but in Dick Winters' case it remains fully applicable.

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Comment by Joseph C. Beard III on January 10, 2011 at 2:44pm
I couldn't agree more.  Major Winters, I think, epitomizes those qualities that are present in the best infantry officers of any time.  I remember, much to the dismay of my wife,  loudly voicing my disgust at Hollywood's portrayal of far too many "line" officers -- particularly, on popular programs such as MASH -- as callous boobs and martinents.  For my own part, although I did encounter a few officers in Vietnam who could probably be described as promotion-obsessed "suck-ups," the great majority were professionals (whether "ring-twisters or ROTC grads or "mustangs") who were deeply and sincerely concerned both with the success of their mission and with the welfare of their men.  I never personally met Major Winters, but I did meet many fine officers (including a Medal of Honor winner) who were both superb commanders in the field and extraordinarily decent men whether on the line or in the rear.  We are all, I think fortunate, that men like Major Winters still shoulder the burden of command in America's armed forces, today.

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