HBO's acclaimed historical miniseries Band of Brothers follows the paratroopers of Easy Company, 506th Infantry Regiment and their leader, Richard D. Winters, from their early training days at Camp Toccoa through to the end of World War II. But for Winters and the other members of E Company who survived the war, their stories didn't end there.
2021 marks two decades since Band of Brothers first premiered on HBO. The miniseries was created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, and was based on the book of the same name by Stephen A. Ambrose, who interviewed the real veterans of Easy Company extensively to learn about their experiences in the war. Band of Brothers depicts both their greatest triumphs and their most terrible hardships, including the loss offriends like Alex Penkala, Warren "Skip" Muck, and Albert Blithe.
Those veterans of Easy Company who survived the war went on to record their experiences in a number of memoirs and historical accounts, especially after theBand of Brothers book and miniseries spurred mass public interest in the 101st Airborne and E Company. Here's what happened to Major Richard Winters and the rest of Easy Company after World War II ended.
What Happened To Dick Winters After Band of Brothers
ThoughRichardWintersmay seem like a born military leader in Band of Brothers, he originally had no aspirations to serve in the US Army. His decision to enlist was driven by theSelective Service Act of 1940, which required men between the ages of 21 and 35 to serve on active duty for 12 months if they were drafted. In 1941 Winters had just completed a business degree, but with the war going on and the possibility of America becoming involved, Winters was concernedthat he might begin a career only to have it interrupted by the draft and compulsory military service."I made a decision, 'Look, I'm going to volunteer, take care of this military obligation,'" Winters recalled in an interview featured in the documentary Dick Winters: Hang Tough. "And then when I have that taken care of, then go get a job. Then I don't have to worry about interrupting my livelihood." Just a few months after he enlisted, however, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese military, prompting America's entry into World War II. Winters realized he was "in for the duration."
As depicted in Band of Brothers, Winters' accomplishments and his rise through the ranks meant that he was faced with a choice as World War II came to an end: stay in the military, or return to his original plan of a career in business.He opted for the latter, going to work at his friend Lewis Nixon's family company, Nixon Nitration Works.In 1948 Winters married a woman named Ethel, and they had two children together. Winters had never planned to return to the military, but the draft meant that he was still in the army reserves, and when the Korean War began in 1951 he was called to service again - much to his dismay. "I had seen enough of war," Winters wrote in his autobiography, Beyond Band of Brothers. In lieu of active duty, he agreed to report to Fort Dix in New Jersey in a training role, but quickly grew frustrated by the quality of the officers he was supposed to be turning into battalion commanders. "Compared to my wartime experience, training at Fort Dix was simply terrible," Winters wrote. "Training new officers who couldn’t care less about attending classes exceeded my patience."
Shortly before Winters was set to be deployed to Korea on active duty, there was a change of orders that permitted him to resign from his commission - an opportunity he took gladly. In 1951 he had purchased a farm in Pennsylvania, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, and by 1960 he was able to move himself and his family out there permanently. "Here, I finally felt I had found the peace and quiet that I had promised myself on D-Day," wrote Winters. He didn't return to Europe until 1987, when he revisited Normandy and the field at Brecourt Manor where he and the other members of Easy Company had captured the German guns targeting Utah Beach on D-Day:
"Walking across the field that housed the German 105mm howitzer battery created an eerie feeling. In the recesses of my mind, I could see 'Popeye' Wynn, 'Buck' Compton, Bill Guarnere, Joe Toye, Don Malarkey, Carwood Lipton, and the other members of our small band who had conducted an assault against overwhelming odds. Words simply escaped me as I traversed the area from every conceivable direction. The hedgerows and drainage trenches had largely disappeared, but the tree lines and the locations of each gun remained very distinguishable."
Throughout his life, Winters maintained contact with the other veterans of Easy Company through phone calls and occasional visits. In 1980 hewas finally able to take time away from running his businessto attend one of the company's annual reunions. In 1990 he met Band of Brothers author Stephen A. Ambrose for the first time, and became involved with the writing of the book that would make Easy Company's exploits famous. In 2002 he attended the Primetime Emmy Awards and joined Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg onstage as they collected Band of Brothers' award for Best Miniseries. Winters passed away in January 2011, at the age of 92.
What Happened To Lewis Nixon After Band of Brothers
Lewis Nixon III first became friends with Dick Winters during their time in Officer Candidate School, and the two of them remained close throughout the war and after its end. Band of Brothers shows the toll that the war took on Nixon, compounding his dependence on alcohol, but in spite of these struggles he distinguished himself many times in combat. "I still regard Lewis Nixon as the best combat officer who I had the opportunity to work with under fire," Winters wrote in Beyond Band of Brothers. "He never showed fear, and during the toughest times he could always think clearly and quickly." He remarked that it was a sign of their close bond that, during their training, Nixon trusted Winters enough to keep his precious stash of Vat 69 whisky in Winters' footlocker.
After the war ended, Nixon had several difficult years during which he struggled with alcoholism and his two failed marriages. That changed in 1956 when he married his third wife, Grace Umezawa, a Japanese-American woman who had been placed in an internment camp in 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Dick Winters was the best man at their wedding. With Grace's support, Nixon was able to overcome his demons. "Until Lewis met and married Grace, he had never found or experienced true love," wrote Winters. "It was only after his marriage to Grace that he found true happiness, peace within himself."The couple travelled extensively around the world, but Nixon and Winters always kept in touch. When Nixon passed away in January 1995,Winters delivered the eulogy at his funeral.
What Happened To Buck Compton After Band of Brothers
Portrayed by Neal McDonough in Band of Brothers, Lynn Davis Compton adopted the name "Buck" when he was still a child, because he thought Lynn would always be a girl's name.According to the New York Times, Compton got work as an extra in films during his youth in Los Angeles and actually got kicked off the set of Modern Times after he angered its star, Charlie Chaplin. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant after completing the ROTC program at UCLA, and underwent parachute training at Fort Benning before joining Easy Company. He was wounded during Operation Market Garden in Holland, but returned to active duty and spent a brutal winter holding the line in Bastogne.
In Band of Brothers, Comptonleavesthefront line after seeing his friends Joe Toye and Bill Guarnere get caught in the artillery shelling that left both of them amputees. In his memoir, Call of Duty, Compton praised Band of Brothers for using McDonough's portrayal of him to depict the shell shock that many soldiers were afflicted by in the war. However, he also said the scenes were largely fictionalized, and that "although I was affected by the horrors of Bastogne, I do not believe I was clinically shell-shocked." According to Compton, the main emotion he felt after seeing Toye and Guarnere mutilated was abject fury at the fact that Easy Company's leader, Lieutenant Norman Dike, was nowhere to be found. When Compton vented his frustrations to Colonel Robert Sink, commander of the 506th, the colonelseemingly observed how physically and emotionally exhausted he was and said, "I think you need a rest, Lieutenant." Sink used thepretext that Compton was limping (nothing unusual - "hell, we all were limping," wrote Compton) to relieve him from active duty on medical grounds.
After the war Compton attended law school, joined the LAPD in 1946, and married a woman called Donna Newman in 1947. He became a detective and then a district attorney, andthenwas appointed Associate Justice ofthe California Court of Appeal by Ronald Reagan,serving on the bench from 1970 to his retirement in 1990. When the Band of BrothersTV miniseries went into production, Compton had lunch with McDonough and the two of them bonded over their shared background as college athletes. The two of them "got along great," according to Compton, and they kept in touch over the years. "He says I made his career," Compton wrote in Call of Duty. "I think that's bunk. He's highly capable in his own right." Compton died in February 2012 at the age of 90, following a heart attack. He is survived by his twodaughters and four grandchildren.
What Happened To Bill Guarnere and Joe Toye
Band of Brothers episode 7, "The Breaking Point,"delivers a profoundly devastating depiction of the artillery shelling that Easy Company endured in the woods of Bastogne. Alex Penkala and Warren "Skip" Muck were killed instantly when a shell directly hit their foxhole, and Bill Guarnereand Joe Toye were hit simultaneously while Guarnere was trying to drag Toye to safety. Both men lost their right leg in the shelling and had to be evacuated from the front lines.
The remainder of Toye's leg was initially amputated below the knee, but later had to be amputated again above the knee after gangrene set in. He also had shrapnel embedded in his back until the day he died, and suffered nerve damage that left him with limited use of his right hand. Toye and Guarnere spentabout a year recuperating together at hospitals in Atlantic City. "They flew around in their wheelchairs, raising hell all over the boardwalks and bars," said Toye's son, Steve Toye, in an interview for Marcus Bretherton's book A Company of Heroes. It was in Atlantic City that Toye met his wife, Betty. They married in 1946 and Toye had four children and seven grandchildren by the time of his death in September 1995.
Guarnere married his sweetheart, Frances, after returning from Europe, and together they had two sons."Wild Bill" played a very active role in organizing and documenting Easy Company's annual reunions over the years. In the Band of Brothers documentary We Stand Alone Together, Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron returned to the woods of Bastogne where Guarnere had lost his leg and their friends had lost their lives. Guarnere and Heffron also collaborated with writer Robyn Post on a book, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends, which laid out their version of the Band of Brothers story and what happened in their lives after the war. By the time of his death in March 2014 at the age of 90, Guarnere had nine grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.
What Happened To The Rest Of Easy Company
Starting in 1946, Sergeant Mike Ranney, Sergeant Bob Rader, and Corporal Walter Gordon began the tradition of annual Easy Company reunions. Bill Guarnere took overorganizing the reunions in 1947 and ran them for almost 60 years thereafter."He made it so the men didn't have to lift a finger," said Babe Heffron in Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends. "It's because of Bill that we've all stayed so close." In his own memoir, Winters wrote that initially the reunions were only attended by a few veterans of Easy Company, but over the years more and more former paratroopers began attending. There typically weren't many commissioned officers in attendance at these events, but Winters, Nixon, Compton, Moose Heyliger, Harry Welsh, Clarence Hester and Bob Strayer all attended the 1980 reunion.
Of the Easy Company paratroopers depicted in Band of Brothers, only two are still alive today: 1st Lieutenant Ed Shames, who was played by Joseph May in the miniseries, and PFC Bradford Freeman, who was played in a non-speaking role by James Farmer. Freeman celebrated his 96th birthday in September 2020. Shames was promoted to the rank of colonel after World War II, and will celebrate his 100th birthday in June 2021.
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After Richard Winters was assigned as 2nd Battalion Executive Officer (XO), First Lieutenant Heyliger took command of Easy Company from Winters' first replacement.
Winters died on January 2, 2011, at an assisted living facility in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania, 19 days before his 93rd birthday. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease for several years. Winters was buried in a private funeral service, which was held on 8 January 2011.
Bradford Clark Freeman, the last surviving member of Easy Company's Band of Brothers, dies at 97. Bradford Freeman fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
After his discharge from the U.S. Army in 1945, Major Richard Winters returned to civilian life. He worked for a while for Nixon Nitration Works, the family firm of his wartime friend Louis Nixon.
Sobel had some mental problems from his war experience and he was found to be bitter at life and at Easy Company. For an unknown reason, in the late 1960's, Sobel attempted suicide by shooting himself through his temple, but the shot only severed his optic nerves, blinding him for life.
The 101st is recognized for its unmatched Air Assault capability, its ability to execute any combat or contingency mission anywhere in the world, and is still proving its mettle as “tomorrow's division in today's Army.” Read more of the history of 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) on our Unit History page.
After the war, Nixon married Grace Umezawa in 1956, and gave up alcohol. He and Winters remained good friends all their lives. Winters was best man at Nixon's wedding to Grace. They lived at Grace's hilltop home in Sherman Oaks, CA until his death on January 11, 1995 due to complications from diabetes.
As of December 3, 2021, there are no more surviving officers from Easy Company. The last one being Col. Edward Shames. As of July 3, 2022, there are no more surviving enlisted soldiers from Easy Company.
After the war, Major Winters led a quiet and peaceful life on his farm in Fredericksburg and in his home in Hershey, Pennsylvania until Band of Brothers — the book as well as the TV series — put him into the international spotlight. He was a true WWII hero who was never comfortable being called one.
Numerous times during the first episode "Currahee", Lieutenant Sobel demands that Easy Company runs up Currahee mountain in 15 minutes. They describe it as "3 miles up, 3 miles back".
The Allied troops were supported by more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft. More than 9,000 troops were killed or wounded in the D-Day invasion. Far fewer than that are still alive now. The National D-Day Memorial website estimated that fewer than 3,000 veterans of D-Day were still living in 2021.
Lewis Nixon (naval architect) (1861–1940), shipbuilding executive, ship designer, and political activist. Lewis Nixon III (1918–1995), World War II US Army officer in the 101st Airborne Division, known for his portrayal in the miniseries Band of Brothers, grandson of the above.
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Unit||Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division|
E Company, 506th Infantry Regiment (United States)
|E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)|
|Country||United States of America|
In 1970, Sobel shot himself in the head with a small-caliber pistol in an attempted suicide. The bullet entered his left temple, passed behind his eyes, and exited the other side of his head.
In 1995, Joseph Toye died of cancer in Reading, Pennsylvania. Major Richard Winters delivered his eulogy. He is buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Laureldale, near Reading, PA alongside his wife.
Presently, the 506th Infantry Regiment legacy continues through its infantry battalions which continue to serve within the 101st Airborne Division.