PHILADELPHIA -- Richard "Dick" Winters, the Easy Company commander whose World War II exploits were made famous by the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers," died last week in central Pennsylvania. He was 92, their legacy is dying with them."
Winters died following a several-year battle with Parkinson's disease, longtime family friend William Jackson said Monday. William Guarnere, 88, said what he remembers about Winters was "great leadership." "When he said 'Let's go,' he was right in the front," Guarnere, who was called "Wild Bill" by his comrades, said Sunday night from his South Philadelphia home. "He was never in the back. A leader personified."
Another member of the unit living in Philadelphia, Edward Heffron, 87, said thinking about Winters brought a tear to his eye. "He was one hell of a guy, one of the greatest soldiers I was ever under," said Heffron, who had the nickname "Babe" in the company. "He was a wonderful officer, a wonderful leader. He had what you needed, guts and brains. He took care of his men, that's very important."
Winters was born Jan. 21, 1918 and studied economics at Franklin & Marshall College before enlisting, according to a biography on the Penn State website. Winters became the leader of Company E, 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, after the death of the company commander during the invasion of Normandy.
During that invasion, Winters led 13 of his men in destroying an enemy battery and obtained a detailed map of German defenses along Utah Beach. In September 1944, he led 20 men in a successful attack on a German force of 200 soldiers.
Occupying the Bastogne area of Belgium at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, he and his men held their place until the Third Army broke through enemy lines, and Winters shortly afterward was promoted to major, MORE FROM THIS SOURCE.....
BAND OF WARNER BROTHERS AT D-DAY INVASION OF NORMANDY & STE.-MERE-EGLISE WITH THE 507th Parachute Regiment 82nd AIRBORNE ON 6/06/44
Last of city's WWII 'band of brothers' dies, 3 of 4 Warners were involved in the D-Day invasion. "Their legacy is dying with them," said Brian Vojtisek, who is Broome County's director of Veterans Services.
James Warner, Robert Warner, Harry Warner & William Warner. By William Moyer Press & Sun-Bulletin Binghamton NY. James, Robert, Harry and William Warner were literally a military "band of brothers. " The four sons of Harry J. and Katherine Warner grew up at 93 Schubert St. on Binghamton's West Side.
After graduation from high school, all the brothers enlisted in the armed services and served in World War II; three were involved in the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. Like so many World War II veterans, though, members of the local "band of brothers" have all gone to graveyards, every one.
U.S. Coast Guard veteran William Warner, who was the youngestand last surviving of the male siblings, died Feb. 18 at his homein Dearborn, Mich., a family member said. He graduated from Binghamton Central High in 1943 and was a retired executive with the Ford Motor Co.
William, 82, was one of two Warner brothers who settled elsewhere after World War II. Harry, also a Central High graduate who died 11 months ago, moved to Dallas after he got married. James, the oldest brother, who died in 1991, and Robert came home to Binghamton after the war. At one time, James worked for Koehler Manufacturing Co., and Robert, who died in 1995, was a U.S. Postal Service employee. As each Warner brother died through the years -- added to the deaths of all World War II veterans who are buried at a rate of 1,500 a day -- the curtain continued to drop on an entire generation that changed culture and society after America's defining war.
"Their legacy is dying with them," said Brian Vojtisek, who is Broome County's director of Veterans Services. "Their stories are dwindling down to footnotes in history." In its most recent report in late 2006, the U.S. Census reported 3.9million living World War II veterans, out of 16 million who served between Dec. 1, 1941, and Dec. 31, 1946. The average age of living World War II vets is 83. In 13 years, the number of living World War II vets is expected to drop to 283,000.
A SILENT GENERATION; Despite their honorable service records, the Warner brothers carried their combat experiences to their graves, said Robert's son, Bill Warner,(private investigator) 59, of Sarasota, Fla. "Not one of them ever told me anything about it," said Bill Warner(Sarasota private investigator), who graduated from BinghamtonNorth High School in 1964. "Not a word. Forget about it; it was something they had to do. They did it; that was it."
That's not unusual for combat veterans, said Vojtisek, especiallythe World War II generation,"You don't hear specific stories about how horrific their experiences were. It's locked in the back of their minds," he said."For that generation, that was how many of them dealt with it.
The first time Bill Warner watched the movie "Saving PrivateRyan," he understood why it was difficult for his father anduncles to talk about their war time experiences."When I saw the movie, I was stunned. I just never knew what itwas all about or what they had to deal with or exactly howhorrible it was," said Bill Warner, who worked for Warehouse Carpet when he lived in Johnson City NY, before moving to Sarasota Fl in 1988.
"I wish they would have talked about it. "The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, chronicled an Army rescue mission to find paratrooper Pvt. James Ryan and send him home after three of his brothers were killed in combat. Unlike the fictional Mrs. Ryan in the movie, Katherine Warner did not lose any sons in combat. Katherine, a house wife, kept four Blue stars in the front window of the family's Schubert Street home to wait for her sons' return. She and her husband, Harry, who worked for Endicott Johnson Shoe Corp., also had a daughter, Mary Ann Warner, who was a registered nurse. Harry died in the mid-1960s; Katherine lived in the Schubert Street house until the mid-1970s when she moved to a nursing home.
AT WAR AND HOME; Robert, William and Harry Warner were involved in the D-Dayinvasion of Normandy. James probably arrived in the war zonesometime after the initial assault. From air and sea, Allied troops invaded Normandy's beaches on June 6, 1944, with 5,300 ships, nearly 11,000 airplanes, about 50,000 military vehicles and 154,000 troops. The strategy was to establish five beachheads as gateways into the German-occupied territory. The assault eventually opened Western Europe to Allied forces and turned the tide against Adolf Hitler.
With two combat assaults under its belt, the 82nd Airborne Division was now ready for the most ambitious airborne operation of the war so far, as part of Operation Neptune, the invasion of Normandy. The 82nd Airborne Division conducted Operation Boston, part of the airborne assault phase of the Overlord plan.
In preparation for the operation, the division was reorganized. Due to a need for integrating replacement troops, rest, and refitting following the fighting in Italy, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was not assigned to the division for the invasion. Two new parachute infantry regiments, the 507th and the 508th, were attached to provide it, along with the 505th, a three-parachute infantry regiment punch.
On June 5, 1944 (just hours before midnight) and June 6, 1944, these paratroopers, parachute artillery elements, and the 319th and 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalions, boarded hundreds of transport planes and gliders to begin the largest airborne assault in history.
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division dropped into Ste.-Mère-Église, a town of 1,500 astride a road network a few miles from the invasion sector called Utah Beach. Their mission was to block German troops from attacking the American infantrymen arriving at dawn in the vanguard of the D-Day invasion. By about 4:30 a.m., the paratroopers had seized the town, and Lt. Col. Edward Krause of the 505th Parachute Infantry raised an American flag outside the town hall.
* Paratrooper Army Pvt. Robert Warner, who was in his early 20s at the time, landed in Normandy (Ste.- Mere- Eglise) with the 507th Parachute Infantry (82nd Airborne). He had enlisted in April 1942 after graduation from the former St. Patrick Academy High School in Binghamton. A newspaper story reported him as getting injured in combat, although his injuries were not life-threatening.
* Paratrooper Robert Warner of the 507th Parachute Regiment 82nd Airborne received the "American Service Medal", the "Distinguished Unit Badge", the "European African Middle Eastern Service Medal" and a "Purple Heart". Paratrooper Robert Warner of the 507th Parachute Regiment 82nd Airborne was involved with the Normandy Invasion and Trooper Robert Warner went onto fight at the Battle of the Bulge – The Ardennes Offensive, Rhineland and in Central Europe, Robert F. Warner a trooper with the 507th PIR received a purple heart on March 24th, 1945 for injuries received in combat at Operation Varsity – The Airborne Assault on the Rhine, CLICK ON IMAGE ABOVE TO ENLARGE PHOTO, see his service record above, “Purple Heart ETO 24 Mar 45″.
Bill Warner remembered his father, Robert Warner, as a sports fan. "He was very sports-minded, a big Yankees fan, a big-time golfer," he said."When he was older, he was still shooting in the low 80s."
* During the invasion, Seaman William (Bill) Warner was stationed on a Coast Guard cutter in the English Channel. The cutter and crew helped rescue Allied troops during the critical days of the invasion, according to a newspaper story in August 1944. Williamwas in his late teens at the time. After the war, he graduated from Binghamton University in 1951. He had attended Binghamton Central at the same time as science fiction writer Rod Serling of "Twilight Zone" fame.
* Like his brother Robert, Harry Warner was also in his early 20s at the time of Normandy. Harry was a petty officer aboard a Navy destroyer that guarded Allied vessels from Nazi U-boats. Afterthe war, he returned to Binghamton and married Elizabeth Ann Brink in November 1956. The wedding drew a lot of newspaper attention -- even a pre-nuptial story about the attendants and the color scheme. The bride was the daughter of Broome County Judge Robert O. Brink. The couple moved to Dallas where Harry became an executive with the Equitable Life Insurance Co.
* Army Lt. James Warner was the first of the brothers to enlist. He began active duty on April 23, 1941, and served in England for 14 months with the Army Medical Corps. James, who was in his late 20s at the time of the D-Day invasion, probably arrived in the war zone after the initial assault. While he lived in the Binghamton area after the war, James once headed the Chamber of Commerce's Business-Industry-Education program that connected high school students with local business and corporate leaders for a real-world learning experience. "They are all gone now," Bill Warner said. "An era has ended.
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