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.



New photo of Bizory damage
2 April 2011, 09:35
Filed under: Band of Brothers, Bizory monument | Tags: , ,

Well, I was able to get my good friend Brian to drive over from Luxembourg to Bizory this week and take new photos. The bad news is that the damage is still there and no likely to go away on its own.

I’d seen the photo that showed the monument in July of last year (the damage had been done in May) and been told that it worn away by September. Sadly, nearly a year after the monument was damaged, the vandalism is still apparent.

Here it is from July of 2010:

Image of Vandalism (unit numbers scratched in using a stone)

And now, the current photo:

Stone-scratched unit numbers as damage to Bizory monument

The lighting is a little different, so that may have something to do with the visibility of the markings, but they are still evident. One person told me that, if you know where to look you can find them, but if not, you wouldn’t notice. When Brian first got to the monument, he couldn’t figure out where the damage was, but when he re-read my email and went back, was able to find it and provide the photo.



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.



Information gathering in progress
7 March 2011, 09:14
Filed under: Bizory monument | Tags: , , ,

I’ve had a small breakthrough in my quest to learn more of what happened at Bizory and what the status is, but it has mostly prompted more questions for me and created a list of people I need to reach out for more information. I’m also going to be tasking a friend who lives in Luxembourg but isn’t involved in historical research or tours to visit the monument to get a photo, as there is no clarity yet on whether the damage persists or not.



Bizory update
11 January 2011, 18:06
Filed under: Bizory monument | Tags: , ,

Having noticed that the most consistent search terms that land people at my blog contain “Bizory monument” or “Mark Patterson”, I’ve been hunting for more information on the current status of the damage and potential for repairs. When I’ve got to various Airborne forums to search the old threads on it, they are sometimes already deleted (in forums that don’t seem to delete any threads) and without any updates, so I’ve started pinging all of my friends in Normandy and, now, hitting their friends in Belgium (I have them on Facebook, after all) to see if any current photos can be found. Marcus Brotherton offered to pass along my contact info to some folks as well, so I expect to be able to post a photo and provide an update within a week or so.

The initial word that I’m getting is that the vandalism is still visible, though in a photo from September it was apparently not as prominent as when initially damaged.



Revisionist monuments

This summer, I learned that one of the monuments in Belgium was desecrated by someone who scratched on more unit designations, since it was a monument to only one company. Of course, since Band of Brothers brought so much fame to E/506, it has also generated some resentment, since anything for them is more easily funded and more widely known.

It’s not hard to find people who either think that Easy Company was the best unit in the war, or those in the opposite camp, that think it despicable that the rest of the 101st Division or the rest of the Army gets so much less credit than these men. The individual who comitted the desecration falls into the latter camp and used to be the co-moderator of a forum on airborne history.

This individual felt compelled to modify the monument because he didn’t agree with it (he has publicly apologized, for what that’s worth). I’ve run across this attitude before – people who feel compelled to change the monumentation on a battlefield to better suit themselves. I would say that it’s to better explain the battlefield, or commemorate the deeds of the warriors, or to somehow enhance the value of the battlefield, but my impression of these people is that it’s rarely about anything but themselves.

In Gettysburg, the only Corps commander on either side who had no monument was General Longstreet. While it was odd and perhaps unfair, no monument had been made for the General while he was alive or in the early 20th century when the last veterans of the battle attended the last reunions. As such, to me, the lack of a monument to Longstreet was a story of the battlefield itself. Mentioning that he had no monument allowed one to explore why General Lee’s right hand wouldn’t have had a monument, leading to a discussion of reconstruction politics in the south, the relationship between Longstreet and Grant, as well as, perhaps, a discussion of the ‘Lost Cause’ movement. So, to me, the very fact that Longstreet had no monument was an integral part of the battlefield.

General Longstreet's monument in Gettysburg

General Longstreet's monument in Gettysburg

However, a number of people worked very hard to get a monument built to General Longstreet. Unfortunately, they succeeded in putting up what some refer to as the ugliest monument on the battefield, taking away the interesting story about Longstreet not having a monument and replacing it with a story of how a bunch of hobbyists were able to band together and put up a monument to their hero. Longstreet had long been abused by the Lost Cause for a variety of invented reasons, but now, he has a monument on the greatest battlefield of the war. He must feel better! Except, he’s been dead a long time and the monument put him at ground level, on a diminuitive horse and his proportions look neither herioc, nor completely human. The artist also ensured that it would ‘violate’ the typical rules of military monumentation – often, the number of hooves off the ground on the horse is an indication of whether the rider was wounded or died in battle. (see note below on “folk wisdom”) At Gettysburg, all the equestrian monuments follow this guideline (there is no written rule) and it feels to me as though this was done because it was different and because it would stand out. So, we have a bunch of hobbyists working to make a name for themselves by putting up a monument and an artist who makes a silly-looking monument that defies convention, giving the impression he wants the monument to say something about the artist, more than something about Longstreet. So, for me, despite the fact it is nominally a monument to the man, all I can think about is the people who put it up.

In Belgium, Mark Patterson wished to make a statement by scratching unit numbers onto the Easy Company monument in Bizory. While I think we all would agree that every unit that fought there deserves a monument, it happens that because of Band of Brothers, getting money to put up an Easy Company monument is probably simpler than putting up a monument to F/501. That said, scratching the numbers on a monument and letting people know you‘ve done it, and done it more than once, is not about recognition for those other men who fought there. If you wish to honor the others who fought there, gather money, get the veterans out and put up a monument to them. Walking around pretending to be the champion of the unrecognized heroes by desecrating Easy Company’s monument is not about honoring the other units, but entirely about one’s own image. Fortunately, almost everyone I’ve seen write about this finds his actions reprehensible.

Sometimes, when listening or reading someone’s revisionist theories about a battle or a war, I also get the same impression. That it’s not about understanding, but rather about the speaker or author wanting you to notice that they have figured out something noone else has. They wish you to be dazzled by their brilliance, rather than being concerned with whether the theory actually matches with the evidence. Some of these theories are concocted by starting with a theory and then hunting down bits and pieces of evidence, sometimes out of context that support the theory. The worst cases require that you first ignore anything you know about tactics or strategy.

If you want to see the opposite of these actions, check out the work of the Stoy’s (CPT Monika Stoy and COL Tim Stoy). This August, they again took money out of their own pockets to fund the commemoration of Operation Dragoon. This year, the conference ran for 3 days, with several authors giving talks and about 20 veterans attending. The Stoy’s also travel around Europe, working to get monuments to these warriors installed or repaired in small towns throughout France and Germany. Often, their work brings remembrance of a debt owed to these men, and the towns celebrate them. It doesn’t tear someone down to build someone else up, or attempt to draw attention to themselves. It’s about the veterans and about what they did.

Note on “folk wisdom”: Check the comments for a discussion about the hooves on the Longstreet statue. Neither the Gettysburg Battlefield Monument Association nor any other organization has ever wrote any guidelines on the hooves in equestrian monuments. At Gettysburg, the hooves on the monuments do seem to represent the riders fate, but outside of Gettysburg, it is merely coincidental that sometimes this is the case. Check the Snopes article by Barbara Mikkelson for a good explanation of the failure of this “folk wisdom”. Thanks to Craig Swann for prompting the clarification.




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