Dick Winters, 'Band Of Brothers' Inspiration, Dies The heroics of the retired Army major and the men he led in World War II, the 101st Airborne's famed Easy Company, were recounted in the HBO miniseries. Winters, who had been living in rural Pennsylvania, was 92.

Dick Winters, 'Band Of Brothers' Inspiration, Dies

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now for another story of historic significance, this one we know is true.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's about the man whose exploits in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II were chronicled in the HBO series "Band of Brothers." Dick Winters has died at age 92.

MONTAGNE: He led Easy Company. He and his soldiers parachuted into Normandy for the D-Day invasion. They liberated a Nazi concentration camp and later captured Hitler's mountaintop retreat.

NPR's Tom Bowman has this remembrance.

TOM BOWMAN: Dick Winters was a little-known retiree in rural Pennsylvania, until the fall of 2001. That's when the HBO series "Band of Brothers" aired. Ten million people watched the first night.

The series was based on the book by historian Stephen Ambrose. It told the story of one company of World War II soldiers in Europe. The company's leader was Dick Winters.

Mr. CLANCY LYALL (Veteran, Easy Company, World War II): I'd go through hell with him. You know, no question about it. We all had the same feeling about him too, I'll tell you

BOWMAN: That's Clancy Lyall who served as a private in Easy Company, under Winters.

Mr. LYALL: Everything we had to do, he was there right with us. He wouldn't run. You know?

BOWMAN: Winters led from the front. Some of his soldiers were amazed he survived the war. On D-Day, Winters led an attack on a German gun battery, destroying the weapons firing at the American troops on Normandy's Utah Beach. Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor.

Winters always played down his heroism. In the HBO series, Winters recalled a question that a fellow veteran was got from his grandson. Here's how Winters told it.

Mr. DICK WINTERS (Commander, Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment): Grandpa, were you a hero in the war? Grandpa said, No, but I served in a company of heroes.

BOWMAN: It was Winters' favorite line. Just a few years ago, Winters wrote a memoir. Cole Kingseed, a retired Army colonel, helped with it. He recalls what Winters told him after the manuscript was completed.

Colonel COLE KINGSEED (U.S. Army, Retired): Wars don't make men and women great. But it sometimes takes war to bring out the greatness in men and women.

BOWMAN: Winters wasn't sure he would live through the war. He told writer Stephen Ambrose that he knelt down and prayed after D-Day. That comment inspired a scene in "Band of Brothers."

Here's actor Damian Lewis portraying Winters.

(Soundbite of movie, "Band of Brothers")

Mr. DAMIAN LEWIS (Actor): (as Dick Winters) And if somehow I manage to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace.

BOWMAN: Winters found that quiet piece of land. He bought a farm outside Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he spent the rest of his life.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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