We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Follow the Money: Hope, but caution, on Ephrata
12 July 2013, 19:13
Filed under: 101st, 506th, Band of Brothers, Veterans | Tags: , , ,

As I mentioned the other day, Stephen Sears, who sculpted the Winters Leadership Memorial in Normandy is attempting to peddle his one-of-a-kind work to Ephrata, Pennsylvania. It they decide not to erect the monument, he plans on offering for sale to Derry and, failing that, Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The Ephrata Borough council met on Thursday and expressed their concerns (including a worry about being sued by the Winters family if the memorial went up), but took no action. Since the council’s role has only been to allocate the land for a memorial, they don’t necessarily directly control what memorial is placed there. They had received a letter from Jill Peckelun, Major Winters’ daughter, opposing the monument and for councilman Vic Richards, this was a game-changer.

On the other hand, local football coach and project co-chair, Scott Shelley was basically unmoved by her letter and by talking to her about it. “He’s an American figure now,” he said. Then, he blamed the Winters family for the “firestorm” that has occurred. It’s shocking to me that he is choosing not only to ignore Dick Winters’ explicitly stated wishes, but also blaming the victims (the Winters family) for the controversy.

Now, of course, Mr. Sears will profit whether the monument goes up in Ephrata or not — they made a $15,000 non-refundable deposit AND he can go to Derry and Hershey to see if either of them will give him $90,000. I’ve often heard prosecutors say, “Follow the money.” You can see who stands to profit the most here. Assign blame as you see fit.

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Against the Winters monument in Ephrata
10 July 2013, 18:38
Filed under: 101st, 506th, Band of Brothers, Veterans | Tags: , , ,

Normally, I am in favor of memorializing our veterans at every possibility, but, recently, a new memorial to Major Dick Winters has been proposed in his hometown, Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Actually, we need to clarify, it is a DUPLICATE monument, not a NEW monument.

Much of the information here comes from Joe Muccia, who is one of the most knowledgeable historians of Easy Company.

I did not personally know Major Winters, but I know several people, like Joe, who did. He was quite a humble gentleman. He didn’t want a memorial created to him in the first place, but as Rosemary Clemons relates, he was convinced to allow the original memorial in Normandy:

Herm and I actually delivered this proposal to Dick Winters house since an email from Ethel said the family was against it but she thought it was too important a decision and should be made by Dick Winters. He said he would agree but this would be the only statue and it would be in Normandy to represent all those in a leadership role in World War 2. This was toward the end of his life and we believe his wishes should be honored. We don’t understand how those who say they wish to honor him could actually go against his wishes.

The Winters Leadership Memorial in Normandy was designed specifically for placement there, with the agreement that the monument would be the only one to Major Winters and would not be duplicated anywhere.

There’s a football coach involved who the scupltor, Stephen Sears, was able to get on his side to raise funds for the monument. Over at Lancaster Online, you can read about it, but the gist of the story is that the coach had read about a father and son who traveled to Normandy to see the actual Winters Leadership Memorial, then came to Ephrata to visit Winter’s grave.

“I thought if they came all that way just to see this small, humble gravestone, what will happen once we have that statue here, and they don’t have to go all the way to Normandy to see it,” he said.

Joe put the argument succinctly when he wrote:

He just doesn’t get it. The Major wanted a statue to honor ALL small unit leaders…not just about him. He wanted it in Normandy because that’s where these men fought and where many of them died. It’s sad that so many profess to honor and adhere to the Major’s leadership tenants but can’t follow one of his last requests. It’s also amazing how money motivates some people to forget their values.

This is really about the sculptor, Stephen Sears, who wants to make $90,000 by selling Ephrata, … or Derry … Hershey, a duplicate monument.

So, in summary, Winters never wanted a monument to himself. His family never wanted a memorial to him. They relented and allowed ONE monument, in NORMANDY, as long as it was dedicated to ALL JUNIOR LEADERS. Now, the sculptor is trying to make a buck, exploiting well-meaning people who see the tourism dollars as they contemplate the leadership example of Winters.

Because the Major was against such a memorial, I and many others are against it. Of course, if they want to name a trail after him, or want to build a separate, unique memorial to him (against his wishes and those of his family), I’d have far less ground to stand on. I’m curious what then-13-year-old Jordan Brown, who helped raise the $98,000 for the original memorial, feels about it.

Update: Winters’ daughter, Jill Peckelun, has come out in opposition to it as well. How did she find out that the memorial was being planned? She read about it in the paper like everyone else. The more I learn about this whole thing, the less I like. One would think that any sensible person would at least contact the family to help with fundraising, if not to ask permission.



Airborne Cavalryman in Normandy

I really enjoyed the scene in Band of Brothers when a paratrooper rides up to Easy Company on a white horse. If memory serves, the soldier’s name is Farnsworth, linking in my mind with Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth who died at Gettysburg. Turns out that they may have been channeling Mario Patruno of F Company, 3/506th. Patruno visited the Military Museum of North Florida in February to pose with his own mounted likeness. There’s another, more extensive article on Patruno that was published in 2011 in the Mayport Mirror, which starts, “Army Pfc. Mario Patruno was 23, tough and fit. He’d fought in the ring as a youth boxer, and in the streets of Holyoke, Mass., with a brawling gang called the Bond Street Rovers.” Those paratroopers are an interesting bunch!

Of note, one of the other attendees was “C.C. Sprinkle, 91, who was the co-pilot of a B-26 Marauder during World War II and took part in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of South France in August 1944.” Hopefully, we’ll be able to get C.C. up to Washington for the Operation Dragoon Commemoration and Seminar in August.



Weekend Wanderings: Gold Cup 2012

“I demand satisfaction!” is a cry of an earlier time when I man could seek redress on a field of honor for slights suffered at the hands of others. If you long for such times, as opposed to the endless blathering of slanders and disagreements found on the internet, you will surely enjoy this video, courtesy of our friends re-enacting Easy Company.

  • I may be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think any current leading ladies of film hold any technical patents, but Hedy Lamarr was far different, as Valerie Curl pointed out on her EpiphanyBlog, “In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was two decades ahead of its time.”
  • Robert Seale took some excellent photos of 3 of the 5 surviving Doolittle Raiders. The 70th anniversary of those “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” is approaching (18 April 2012) and he got to fly with Doolittle’s co-pilot, Colonel Richard E. Cole, in Larry Kelley’s B-25, Panchito.
  • Speaking of re-enacting, there is apparently an event over in south-west Michigan that might be fun if you’re nearby, Lest We Forget: WWII Public Display and Battle Recreation. There will be a vehicle parade, beach landings, a public battle and a hangar dance. It will be held at the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport and the beaches of St. Joseph.
  • At the GI Film Festival (don’t forget to help out Firewatch) there will be a film on The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald. Betsy Miller, in the Military History group on LinkedIn, had recently pointed out the fate of some American airmen who got trapped in the Holocaust, pointing us to the National Museum of the US Air Force for more information.
  • Volunteer fireman and Easy Company veteran, John “Jack” McGrath passed away. McGrath was a humble man, not eager to tell his stories, leaving dedicated Easy Company researchers like Marcus Brotherton and Joe Muccia lamenting that they couldn’t learn more from him. Joe noted that, “in fact he spent more time asking me about my war”.


Weekend Wanderings Super Bowl XLV
6 February 2011, 11:30
Filed under: 506th, Marines, Navy, Veterans, Weekend Wanderings | Tags:

Super Bowl Sunday is a uniquely American experience, parties that start mid-afternoon on a Sunday and last until the game ends. Loads of food, a good amount to drink and a game on in the background. Oh, I almost forgot the commercials! The commercials are usually the best part.

  • Every year, folks go out and commemorate the Battle of the Bulge with a reenactment at Fort Indiantown Gap. Friends of mine were there and passed along a link to a good article about the event. Hat tip to Brim.
  • Craig made a good post to commemorate Operation Flintlock on its 67th anniversary. Operation Flintlock is a textbook example of “joint” operations built by experience – a prime example of Lessons Learned.


Losing Easy Company

As I watch Band of Brothers again and again, I am often surprised when, in Episode 1, Captain Sobel is reassigned from command of Easy Company to commanding training at Chilton Foliat and, despite the enmity that has been created for Sobel, I feel sorry for him.

I think David Schwimmer does a masterful job of portraying Herbert Sobel. From what I’ve heard from Paul Woodadge, who did some manual labor type work in costuming and sets, Schwimmer was excellent choice and properly prepared by the directors.

The first part of the preparation was the pre-filming training camp. While the main cast went through training together, building camaraderie, Schwimmer was not part of the training. Actors were instructed to only ever refer to each other by their character’s names (including Neal McDonough going into an emergency room insisting his name was Buck Compton when he suffered a minor injury). From reading about Frank John Hughes and Robin Laing’s experiences as actors, I know that actors playing replacements, like Laing who played Babe Heffron, arrived later in the training, so that they would not have the same tight connection as the other actors. So, Schwimmer showed up for the filming, having no emotional bond with the other actors, and with those actors knowing that their characters, in many cases, despised Sobel.

Schwimmer was the only well-known actor in the cast, which had to add to the feelings on both sides – Schwimmer knowing he was a skilled and accomplished actor amongst journeymen and unknowns, the others having the feeling of men yearning for the chances Schwimmer has had.

Paul tells me that Schwimmer was nick-named “Bubble Wrap” by the crew. You see, those paratrooper uniforms have all those pockets, normally filled with ammunition, grenades, rations or whatever a paratrooper might need. Apparently, Schwimmer’s agent suggested to him that it would be a ‘bad thing’ to actually put ammunition, grenades, rations or whatever paratroopers actually carried in those pockets. So, the story goes that he suggested to Schwimmer that he simply fill those pockets with bubble wrap, so it looked like he was carrying something. Again, this couldn’t have endeared him to the rest of the actors, even if it was only a rumor. They’d be sweating up a hill, carrying a rifle and full pack, while there would be eminent actor David Schwimmer wearing his natty 506th leather jacket, with bubble wrap in his pockets, looking calm and comfortable.

Now, admittedly, some of this is based on what I think I remember being told, but it all sounds brilliant for preparing the entire cast for how Sobel should be viewed. I don’t know how much of this Schwimmer would have been party to, and how much would have just been deft handling by the directors, but I think it translates very well to the screen.

So, why do I end up feeling sorry for Sobel in Episode 2? Chris Hook relates it well. “He tried as hard as he could  to make it as an Airborne officer, but try as he might, he just could not do it. He should be respected for his effort.” He produced a fantastically well-prepared company, that did exemplary things in combat. I think Dale Booth was the one who pointed out to me, most likely every company commander was intensely disliked during training. Their job wasn’t to earn the love of their men, but to prepare them for the fight of their lives.

Serving as a Company Commander is the highlight of a career for Army and Marine officers. It is the highest command at which a commander still has a very direct connection to his men. XbradTC found an article in the New York Times that talks about the weight of command and he blogged about it. I don’t think there’s anything in the civilian world that parallels it – the responsibility for men and equipment, the closeness to those men and the youth of the company commander. Executive responsibility is unique. Working at nearly the same level, but not being the executive – not being the company commander – is not at all the same.

Now, I often relate my experience as a Scoutmaster to some military experiences, but it’s only because that’s as close as I’ve come to the military. That is, not close at all. However, I have seen and felt the difference between being the Scoutmaster and holding any of the other jobs in a Boy Scout Troop. There’s nothing in Scouting that is like the responsibility of being Scoutmaster. It is an autonomous position, where you have the solid connection to individual Scouts and, meagre as the comparison is, it is also the highest you can rise and still have that connection. When I think of how much seeing my Scouts succeed meant to me, I can only begin to understand what emotional peaks and valleys a company commander undergoes.

So, how does this relate to my emotional connection, via David Schwimmer, to Herbert Sobel? Well, in Episode 1, Colonel Sink has Sobel sitting in his office, bourbon glass in hand (in a chair that looks a little too big for Schwimmer/Sobel, which was another good choice by the director), and speaks to him in a fatherly voice, it now strikes me. I “lost” my Troop when I chose to retire from being Scoutmaster and it was a hard thing to do. Dale Dye, as Colonel Sink, uses that voice my mother would use when I wasn’t going to get what I wanted, but I would get “something even better”, which wasn’t better, but we needed to pretend it was.

Sink says to him, “Herbert, Division has established a parachute training school at Chilton Foliat. The idea is for non-infantry types who’re vital to the coming invasion, such as doctors and chaplains to take jump training there. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone more qualified to command such a school than you are.”

Sobel is stunned. “Sir?” he asks.

“I’m reassigning you to Chilton Foliat.”

And David Schwimmer, as Herbert Sobel, looks on, in utter confusion and despair, and, after a long pause says, “I’m losing Easy Company?” He didn’t have me at hello, but he had me there.




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