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


Fools charge ahead in Ephrata
24 July 2013, 19:36
Filed under: Band of Brothers, Veterans | Tags: , ,

WarHistoryOnline reports that despite knowledge that neither Dick Winters nor his family wanted a monument to the Major personally, other than the one he grudgingly allowed in Normandy (with the express intent of honoring all veterans instead of just the ones highlighted in Band of Brothers), the committee is charging ahead with their tourist attraction. Since there is nothing in writing and no legal prohibition against the artist soaking up $90,000 more of the money that could be used to help specific veterans in need, the football coach, his committee and the greedy hangers on will be putting up a duplicate of the monument in Normandy.

In seeking to honor veterans and one veteran in particular, they dishonor his memory by completely disregarding his wishes. By claiming that Winters “belongs to the American people”, they feel justified in taking his likeness and using it for their own commercial gain. I can’t imagine a way to tarnish the memory of a true American hero any more deeply. Dick Winters was not Mickey Mouse. Dick Winters was not Snooki, seeking the limelight. Dick Winters was not at all comfortable with people placing him separate from other veterans, who efforts were every bit as deserving of honor as his.

Go read the seminal post on the Myth of the Band of Brothers in Mark Bando’s forum for a re-awakening. Easy Company of the 506th was a wonderful company. Dick Winters was a marvelous officer. However, exalting either the Company or the Major over others that the general public simply doesn’t know about dishonors the memory of those men as well as the many others who are equally deserving.

It reminds me of the hobby monument in Gettysburg, of Thomas Lowry’s fraudulent Lincoln pardon and Joe McKinney’s destruction of the Brandy Station Foundation from inside. While I want knowledge of history to spread, there are people who simply do it wrong.



Ephrata: Taking from these men

In Band of Brothers, then-First Lieutenant Dick Winters admonishes Second Lieutenant Buck Compton, “Never put yourself in the position where you can take from these men.” My friend, Joe Muccia, who is a dedicated historian of “Easy” Company often reminds the rest of us of not only the movie quote, but the reality of Dick Winters feelings on the subject.

Some people just don’t get it. Among them seems to be author Larry Alexander, who, in speaking to the Ephrata Burough Council last month said,

“Winters was an American figure. Maybe they won’t be happy about it, but remember, he (Winters) approved the one in Normandy himself. Bob Hoffman was one of his closets friends who told me that if Ephrata does not do it, Hoffman will work to place it in Hershey. They don’t have the perfect place but would create one.” Ephrata Review

So, Mr Alexander, the organizers of the effort and the Borough Council were all aware right from the start that the family likely wouldn’t be happy with Dick Winters being used like a neon sign to attract tourists to Ephrata. They must not have cared, because they moved forward with the project. They’ve fallen back on canards like “the proposed statue was not a statue of Winters but of his likeness.”

War History Online was way ahead of me on getting the word out about this, but it is important that we spread the word further.

Lancaster Online published an editorial titled “The lion in Winters” which they expressed the hope that “Perhaps it is not too late to establish better communications between the volunteers and the family, and agree on some project that would satisfy both.”

I firmly support our veterans, but this effort is all about taking from the men for personal profit, regardless of their wishes or those of their family.



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.



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.



Goodbye, Major

As this posts, the memorial service for Major Winters is starting in Hershey, Pennsylvania. While the accolades that have been bestowed upon him reflect things we should have noticed in many more officers during World War II and many conflicts since, I think it fitting and proper that we commemorate the service and the example of Dick Winters. He was a skilled and caring leader of men. There were others like him, but he’s the one we know the best.

There is a good slideshow of photos in tribute to the Major. You can also check a report on the ceremony held in late January for Major Winters in Carentan.

There is movement to erect a monument in Normandy, using his likeness and

identified as 1st Lt. Richard Winters, E-Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne, but will also be representative of ALL U.S. Army junior officers of all the divisions who were responsible for leading soldiers into combat in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and will showcase all the division names and corps of those who fought in Normandy in the very early stages of D-Day. The monument will prominently feature the words Leadership 6-6-1944 and a quote from Major Winters below his likeness which will read: “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” The monument will also have the words inscribed: Dedicated to all U.S. Army junior officers who led the way on June 6, 1944.

I do support this, because it is dedicated to all those junior officers, without whom failure of the whole enterprise would have been certain.



Weekend Wanderings Divisional Weekend
16 January 2011, 11:30
Filed under: Films, Weekend Wanderings, WWII | Tags: ,

This weekend is the weekend for NFL division winners to play. For those who enjoy American football, last weekend featured some really good games, so we have a right to expect more good ones this weekend, right? Well, this week, surfing the internet did provide a few interesting things that were WWII-related.

There is a reason that Gen. Mattis and ADM Stavridis are such supporters of the study of history – as all professionals are – it is because it gives you a window into the future and provides a foundation to making decisions today.

  • If you have been thinking about an e-reader, Eric Wittenburg compares Nook and Kindle in layman’s terms, thanks to some notes from Dave Powell. I have Kindle on my android phone and may get one eventually. We bought my mother a Nook because her local library does e-lending in Nook format, but not in Kindle.


Dick Winters passes
9 January 2011, 17:25
Filed under: 101st, Officers, Veterans | Tags: , ,

Sad news today. Of course, if you follow the obituaries, there seems to be sad news every day, as World War II veterans pass in the hundreds every day. Dick Winters was the most well-known living company commander from World War II and it is indeed sad that he is no longer with us. The men of Easy Company were lucky to have him and the rest of us were lucky to have his example to study and to follow. May he rest in peace.

Pennlive.com has a wonderful article about Winter’s passing and the most poignant part is about 11-year-old Jordan Brown, who’d been working to gather money for Tim Gray Media’s efforts to build a memorial to Major Winters:

“There’s no good way to tell your kid his hero has died,” Brown said. “But I told him he should take comfort in knowing Maj. Winters was happy with his efforts. In a way, [with his efforts] he’d joined the ‘Band of Brothers,’ too.”

Donald van den Bogert of the Para Research Team has put together a beautiful collection of photos and stories about Major Winters that I highly recommend.



Leadership

The other day, I was watching the “Day of Days” episode of Band of Brothers. I was struck yet again how good a job they do of demonstrating leadership.

In my years as a Scoutmaster, I was always looking for ways to make the lessons I’d learned on leadership strike home with the Scouts. Despite the fact that I am a voracious reader, I have never been able to read through any book on leadership other than the ones published by the Boy Scouts. Those spend a lot of time on the organizational roles and not so much time on how to lead. So, though I put copies of those books into Scouts’ hands when they take their Junior Leadership Training classes, I know they won’t learn a lot about how to lead from them. When I teach the classes, the Scouts have trouble absorbing best practices in leadership when it’s theoretical as well as when “role-playing” a leadership situation.

So, when Band of Brothers came out and I watched Lieutenant Dike fail in the attack on Foy, I knew there were some lessons there about leadership. So, I began using that as a visual tool for them to see good and bad leadership techniques. Watching Winters prepare Dike you see a variety of techniques from Winters to try to ensure Dike’s success, from expressing confidence to ensuring he understands and including physical reinforcement as he pats him on the back. Dike flops in a colossal manner and we see Winters torn about what to do. The Scouts are certain to experience nearly every angle of that sequence of events during their career in Scouting (except for the part about getting shot at!) Spiers demonstrates marvelous calm leadership and demonstrates personal commitment to the task. Watching all of that and discussing it turned on far more lightbulbs than I’d ever seen without that video sequence as tool.

I always encourage the Scouts at the end of that video session to start paying attention to the leaders in the war movies they watch. Which of them are effective? What techniques do they use? Will those work for them? Boys may watch war movies twenty times, memorizing lines and being able to tell you who did what at every step of the way, but without this higher focus on leadership, it’s just entertainment to them.

So, the other day, watching Lieutenant Winters and Private Hall, moments after they’ve landed, Band of Brothers instantly demonstrates why Winters really is a leader. They aren’t simply going to tell us the men respected and followed him. They are going to demonstrate Why they do. Hall is very jittery in this scene, worried that he’s lost his radio and that his Lieutenant is going to yell at him. Winters assures him that he’s a rifleman first (guess the Marines have the right idea!), but Hall remains unsettled by the fact that they’re lost. Winters then uses a time-tested military leadership technique – if someone is busy thinking themselves into worry, give them something to do! He also does it in a decidedly friendly way. He asks Hall to watch out for landmarks and, as he goes through the list of potential landmarks, he even injects humor, asking him to look for familiar trees. Right there, he’s won Hall over and when he sticks around for Brecourt Manor, it makes complete sense to us.

I drew the name for this blog from that scene. While in Normandy, our tour guide, Dale Booth told us that the confusion about John D. Hall or John D. Halls misses out on the fact that the soldier was actually a Sargeant, not a private, so my blog changes Winters’ line from “We’re not lost, Private. We’re in Normandy.”




%d bloggers like this: