Men You Wish You Were: Major Richard Winters

Every month Primer is recognizing a different individual for their accomplishments, cultural significance, and general awesomeness. This month: Major Richard Winters.

You are to me the greatest soldier I could ever hope to meet… I would follow you into hell.”

– Sergeant Floyd Talbert in a letter to Major Winters.

An old photo of Richard WintersAnyone who has seen HBO’s miniseries Band of Brothers already knows about Major Dick Winters (and if you have cable and a working set of eyes chances are you know).  So I don’t need to spend much time telling you about how he was the commander and leader of one of the most skilled and effective fighting forces in all of WWII: The 101st Airborne’s E-Company.

You already know about how his fearlessness and tactical skills on the battlefield were second to none even if his modesty would never allow him to admit as much.  He received a myriad of medals and decorations during his service, including the Distinguished Service Cross (The Army’s 2nd highest honor).

Winters was very much respected and adored by the men he served with during the war.  In a company that saw a revolving door of incompetent C.O.s for much of their tour of duty, Winters was a constant rock, a beacon that guided the men through the most brutal of campaigns.

A mild mannered soul, who very rarely ever drank or cursed, Winters retired from the military after the war ended.  After serving as an instructor during the Korean War, he settled down on a Pennsylvania farm, where he still lives to this day.

All of those who knew Winters counted themselves lucky to have had him in their lives.  These men’s sentiments are perhaps best expressed in the words of Sgt. Robert “Burr” Smith in a letter written to Winters.

I’ve been a soldier most of my adult life.  In that time I’ve met only a handful of great soldiers, and of that handful only half or less come from my WWII experience… The rest of us were O.K. … good soldiers by-and-large, and a few were better than average, but I know as much about “Grace Under Pressure” as most men, and a lot more about it then some.  You had it.”

An old photo of a man

Read more about Maj. Richard Winters from these books:

Band of Brothers : E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest

Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

Kevin MacLean

Kevin H. MacLean currently resides in Brooklyn, NY where he enjoys people watching, writing, and dominating all comers in four-square. You can keep tabs on him at his blog