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


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.

Advertisements


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.



Weekend Wanderings, Late September 2011

The weather has started to turn cold and I’m still in the midst of trying to put the Operation Dragoon seminar sessions onto DVDs. The Colmar Pocket Seminar (8-11 December) will likely arrive before I finish. Of course, the good news is that Alex Apple should be on the team full bore by then, so progress should be more steady. Fortunately, I’ve still been finding more interesting things on the internet to share.



2LT Roy Gates turns 90
26 July 2011, 20:15
Filed under: 101st, Band of Brothers, Officers, Veterans, WWII | Tags: , ,

2LT Roy Gates must have gotten around a lot as a young man, even before he helped defeat the Germans in World War II. He was born in New York, enlisted in the Army in Texas and is now retired in Florida. Here’s wishing a happy birthday to Lieutenant Gates, who just turned 90.

Hat tip to Mooch, who leads the Easy Company reenactors.



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.



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.




%d bloggers like this: