January 28, 2011  

Delta Sigma Phi - January 28, 2011

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Richard D. Winters (1918-2011)
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2011 Kicks Off by Hosting 1000 Men in Leadership Programming
Foundation Announces McKee Challenge Winners
Omega Fi Contest Winners Announced
Convention Registration to Open February 1
Leadership Institute Applications Available February 7
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Alpha Lambda and Kappa Delta Make the Grade
Beta Mu Hosts Annual Cereal Eating Contest
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North-American Interfraternity Conference
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Richard D. Winters (1918-2011)

On June 6, 1944, Dick Winters and other paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, dropped behind enemy lines in the early morning hours of D–Day.  The 101st suffered heavy causalities, and the entire headquarters section of E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was killed when its plane was shot down.  Winters collected a dozen men, assumed command of Easy Company, and led a frontal assault on a heavily defended German artillery position at Brecourt Manor.  By dawn, they silenced the four howitzers that were raining death on Allied troops struggling ashore at Utah Beach.  In a major achievement, Winters also captured maps of all the enemy defenses along the beachhead.  Winters’ courage and leadership that night and through the following days proved important to the success of the Normandy invasion and saved countless lives of American soldiers. 

In September 1944, Winters made a second airdrop with the Screaming Eagles, this time in the Netherlands.  After several months of combat, he detected an enemy force attempting to penetrate the American lines.  He led 20 men of Easy Company in a direct charge against more than 300 German soldiers, routing the enemy into panicked flight.

When U.S. troops were surprised and overwhelmed by Hitler’s massive counterattack in Belgium, the Americans fell back.  While they retreated, Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower rushed the Screaming Eagles to the front at the Battle of the Bulge. They were outmanned, outgunned and short of ammunition and other supplies, even C-Rations.  Easy Company was positioned along the perimeter of the town of Bastogne, fighting in snow and freezing weather, without winter uniforms and wholly encircled by the enemy.  Snipers and artillery shells gradually reduced Easy Company, but Dick Winters’ leadership kept the survivors fighting for a week until reinforcements arrived.  The American victory at the Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest battle of World War II and a turning point in the war.

Easy Company remained at the front as the U.S. Army broke through the Siegfried Line and pushed into the heart of Germany.  Dick Winters and his men took the war plants in the Ruhr, and liberated the prisoners who remained alive at the Dachau concentration camp.  Easy Company was the first to arrive at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest high in the Alps.  The Fuehrer’s mountaintop retreat was abandoned; Hitler had committed suicide a few days earlier in Berlin. The War in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.

After the war, Winters sought peace and quiet in his home state of Pennsylvania, raised a family, and became a successful business owner. He remained in close contact with his comrades in arms.  They called their combat commander the hero of Easy Company and revered him for demanding more of himself under enemy fire than of them.  He led from the front, they said, with conviction, courage and compassion for his men.

Born January 21, 1918, Dick Winters entered Franklin and Marshall College, his hometown school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He selected Delta Sigma Phi from among a dozen fraternities and participated in intramural football and basketball as a member of Upsilon Chapter.  He had to give up wrestling, his favorite sport, and most of his social activities, for his studies and the part-time jobs that paid his way through college.  He graduated in 1941 with the highest academic standing in the business college.  The war had broken out in Europe, and he enlisted in the Army.

Stephen E. Ambrose told the story of Easy Company in his best-selling book, Band of Brothers, in 1992. Major Dick Winters instantly became respected and beloved around the world when the film of the same name was aired as an HBO miniseries in 2001.  A private and modest man, he is featured in several additional books and archival films.  To better document the actual circumstances Easy Company faced during the war, he published his war memoirs, Beyond Band of Brothers, in 2006.  The tactics he developed on the spot against the fixed position at Brecourt Manor are still taught in military academies, and he lectured on leadership at West Point.  A much decorated but reluctant celebrity, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army's second highest decoration for valor. Winter's other decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat.  On behalf of the U.S. Army, Dick Winters accepted the Four Freedoms Award the Roosevelt Institute issued in 2001 to veterans of World War II.  He was at the Emmy Awards in 2002 to receive a trophy for the TV film on behalf of the men of Easy Company.


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