E Company, 506th Infantry Regiment (United States)

E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the "Screaming Eagles", is a company in the United States Army. The experiences of its members during World War II are the subject of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers based on the book of the same name by historian Stephen Ambrose.

E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
Distinctive unit insignia of the 506th Infantry Regiment (United States).svg
Active
  • 1942–1945
  • 1954–present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army
TypeInfantry company
RoleAir Assault Forces
Nickname(s)"Easy Company"
Motto(s)"Currahee" (We Stand Alone)
MarchBlood on the Risers
EngagementsWorld War II
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
Robert Sink
Notable
commanders
Herbert Sobel
Ronald Speirs
Richard Winters
Frederick Heyliger
Paratroopers of Easy Company, 506th Infantry Regiment in Austria, after the end of World War II, 1945

HistoryEdit

The 506th PIR was an experimental airborne regiment created in 1942 to jump from C-47 transport airplanes into hostile territory.

E Company was established at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Before attending paratrooper training, the unit's troops performed the standard battle drills and physical training that comes with being in the parachute infantry. One of the exercises was running Currahee, a large, steep hill whose trail ran "three miles up, three miles down". E Company, while training at Toccoa, was under the command of Herbert Sobel, who was known for his extreme strictness.

Also as part of their physical training, the members of E Company performed formation runs in three-four column running groups. This innovative type of training was adopted by the Army in the 1960s.[citation needed]

As a result of the harsh physical training Easy Company underwent while at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, the unit was in such impeccable physical condition that they were able to skip the physical training portion of Jump School.[1]

CompositionEdit

One of its commanders, Major Richard Winters, said E Company originally "included three rifle platoons and a headquarters section. Each platoon contained three twelve-man rifle squads and a six-man mortar team squad. Easy also had one machine gun attached to each of its rifle squads, and a 60mm mortar in each mortar team."[2]

World War IIEdit

Mutiny protesting Sobel's leadershipEdit

While waiting for the invasion of Normandy, Easy Company was located at Aldbourne, Wiltshire, England.

The tension that had been brewing between Winters and Sobel came to a head.[citation needed] For some time, Winters had privately held concerns over Sobel's ability to lead the company in combat. Many of the enlisted men in the company had come to respect Winters for his competence and had also developed their own concerns about Sobel's leadership.[citation needed] Winters later said that he never wanted to compete with Sobel for command of Easy Company; still, Sobel attempted to bring Winters up on trumped-up charges for "failure to carry out a lawful order".[citation needed] Feeling that his punishment was unjust, Winters requested that the charge be reviewed by court-martial. After Winters' punishment was set aside by the battalion commander, Major Robert L. Strayer, Sobel brought Winters up on another charge the following day. During the investigation, Winters was transferred to the Headquarters Company and appointed as the battalion mess officer.[citation needed]

Following this, though Winters tried to talk them out of it, a number of the company's non-commissioned officers (NCOs) gave the regimental commander, Colonel Sink, an ultimatum: either Sobel be replaced, or they would surrender their stripes.[citation needed] Sink was not impressed and the two Platoon Sergeants that were considered to be the ringleaders of the NCOs, Terrence 'Salty' Harris and Myron Ranney were subsequently demoted to Private and transferred out of the company, to A Company and I Company respectively.[3] Shortly after being transferred, both men joined the Pathfinders, which consisted of around 80 volunteers from every unit, who would land first and guide the way for the main waves of the invasion. Being a Pathfinder was a very difficult job, and it meant being out in front and facing the German Army alone.[4] However, shortly before the invasion, Ranney wrote to Winters, pleading his case, and five days before the invasion, orders came in transferring Ranney back to Easy Company.[3]

Sink realized that something had to be done and decided[citation needed] to transfer Sobel out of Easy Company, giving him command of a new parachute training school at Chilton Foliat.[5]: 57  Winters' court-martial was set aside and he returned to Easy Company as a Lieutenant of 1st Platoon. Winters later said he felt that despite his differences with Sobel, at least part of Easy Company's success had been due to Sobel's strenuous training and high expectations.[5]: 287 

In February 1944, First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan was given command of Easy Company.[5]: 57 

Operation OverlordEdit

 
The Memorial plaque near RAF Upottery, Devon, UK showing the names of those who died in transit from the base to France on 5 and 7 June 1944.

For Operation Overlord, E Company's mission was to capture the entrances to and clear any obstacles around "Causeway 2", a pre-selected route off Utah Beach for the Allied forces landing from the sea a few hours later.

The company departed from Upottery airbase in Devon, England, and dropped over the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy, France, in the early hours of the morning of 6 June 1944. Easy Company flew in eight aircraft in Sticks #66-73, with about 17 paratroopers per stick.

Destruction of Stick 66Edit

Most of Easy Company headquarters section was assigned to Stick #66, with Robert Burr Smith and Joseph "Red" Hogan assigned to other planes to save weight.[6] The 17 members of Stick #66 included company commander Meehan and three of its most senior non-commissioned officers: 1st Sergeant Bill Evans, Staff Sergeant Murray Roberts (the Supply Sergeant) and Sergeant Elmer Murray (the Operations Sergeant).[7] Sergeant Carwood Lipton recalled later that he had strategized various combat situations with Sergeant Murray while the rest of Easy Company went to the movies the day before the jump.[8]

Plane 66 led a diamond formation that also included 67 to the left, 68 to the right, and 69 in trailing position. Over France, the plane carrying Stick #66 was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The pilot did a 180-degree turn and turned the landing lights coming on as the plane lost altitude, but it hit a hedgerow and exploded, killing all aboard.[9] The crash was witnessed by Ed Mauser of E Company's 2nd Platoon, who had leapt from plane (#69) after it was hit by flak and the pilot turned on the green jump light. Mauser's neck was snapped back by his plane's prop blast and he faced backward as he floated downwards, giving him a view of plane 66.[10]

Brecourt Manor AssaultEdit

With Meehan missing (it was only discovered later that he had been killed), Richard Winters was the most senior officer in Easy Company and took command. After assembling on the ground, the men of E Company disabled a battery of four German heavy guns on D-Day that threatened forces coming along Causeway 2.[11]

Leadership changesEdit

The loss of so many officers and NCOs on D-Day brought a few changes to Easy Company. Technically, Lieutenant Raymond Schmitz, 2nd Platoon Leader, was still with Easy Company, but got injured the day before D-Day after demanding Richard Winters wrestle him, and was replaced by Buck Compton.[12]

Position D-Day incumbent New leader Market Garden Bastogne Hagenau
Commanding Officer 1st Lt. Thomas Meehan 1st Lt. Richard Winters Capt. Richard Winters 1st Lt. Norman Dike Jr 1st Lt. Ronald Spiers
Executive Officer Vacant Vacant
1st Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Richard Winters 2nd Lt. Harry Welsh
2nd Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Warren Roush 2nd Lt. Buck Compton 2nd Lt. Buck Compton T/sgt Donald Marlarkey
3rd Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Robert Mathews 2nd Lt. Warren Roush
1st Platoon Assistant 2nd Lt. Harry Welsh Vacant
2nd Platoon Assistant 2nd Lt. Buck Compton Vacant 2nd Lt. Henry Jones
3rd Platoon Assistant S/Sgt. C. Carwood Lipton (acting) 2nd Lt. Francis O’Brien
1st Sergeant 1/Sgt. William Evans S/Sgt. James Diel 1/Sgt. C. Carwood Lipton 1/Sgt. C. Carwood Lipton
1st Platoon Sergeant S/Sgt. Leo Boyle S/Sgt. Leo Boyle
2nd Platoon Sergeant S/Sgt. James Diel Sgt. William Guarnere Sgt. William Guarnere
3rd Platoon Sergeant S/Sgt. C. Carwood Lipton S/Sgt. C. Carwood Lipton

CarentanEdit

The capture of Carentan would allow the Americans to link Omaha and Utah beaches, providing access for armor and equipment. The Germans were aware of its strategic importance and had established defenses. Donald Malarkey wrote later that Lieutenant Winters made him mortar sergeant of second platoon. E Company, along with Dog and Fox companies, were walking down the road to Carentan when they came to an intersection and one or two German machine gun teams began firing on them. Mortars and tanks soon joined the fight. The American soldiers all jumped into ditches for cover. Winters saw this and as Malarkey wrote, Winters "got hotter than I've ever seen him." It was a fast attack, at the end of which Malarkey said that he could hear moans and groans of wounded soldiers and occasional gun shots. Also at the end of the battle Winters was slightly wounded in his lower right leg by a ricocheting bullet fragment. The Germans mounted a counterattack, but 2nd Battalion held onto Carentan.

CasualtiesEdit

By the time the company was pulled off the line, they had taken 65 casualties including 22 killed in action, including the 17 of Stick 66.[13] Out of the 139 men of Easy Company who had left England on the night of 5 June, Winters' roster shows that there was only five officers left (Winters; his three platoon leaders Buck Compton, Harry Welsh, and Warren Rousch; and Rousch's assistant Francis L.O’Brien), as well as 69 enlisted men.[9]

Eindhoven, the NetherlandsEdit

As part of the ultimately unsuccessful Operation Market Garden, E Company was assigned to support the British forces around Eindhoven by defending the roads and bridges that would allow British armored divisions to advance into Arnhem and force a crossing over the major bridge across the Rhine in September 1944.

E Company landed on its designated drop zone in the Sonsche Forest, northwest of Son, and marched down the road into Son behind the 2nd Battalion's other two companies. On reaching the Son Bridge they were met by enemy harassing fire whilst the bridge was destroyed by the Germans. After the Regiment's engineers constructed a makeshift crossing, E and the rest of the 506th moved out for Eindhoven. These events were omitted from the Band of Brothers series, with E having been portrayed as landing in the Netherlands and then marching into Eindhoven to join up with the British Army advancing from the south.

On 19 September, the company departed for Helmond accompanied by six Cromwell tanks of the British 11th Armoured Division.[14] Their advance was halted by the German 107th Panzer Brigade outside Nuenen and they were forced to retreat to Tongelre.[14] During the days following the link up, E Company successfully defended the towns of Veghel and Uden until XXX Corps infantry took up the task of defending the area. As Market Garden progressed, the company and the rest of the 101st joined the 82nd Airborne on "the island" north of Nijmegen.

At the conclusion of Market Garden, the company relieved the British 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division in Zetten.[15] On 5 October 1944, 1st platoon fought in the battle of "the island" that lay between the Lower Rhine and the Waal river. Along with a platoon from Fox Company and support from the Royal Artillery, they routed two Waffen-SS companies on 5 October 1944.[16] Colonel Sink issued a general order citing the company's 1st platoon for gallantry in action, describing their attack a "daring act and skillful maneuver against a numerically superior force".[17]

E Company was involved in the rescue of over 100 British troops trapped outside Arnhem. Operation Pegasus was a military operation carried out on the Lower Rhine near the village of Renkum, close to Arnhem in the Netherlands. Overnight on 22–23 October 1944, the Allies evacuated a large group of men trapped in German-occupied territory who had been in hiding since the Battle of Arnhem. On the south bank of a Dutch river, Canadian engineers and a patrol of E Company observed the signal and immediately launched their boats, but the British were some 500-800m upriver of the crossing point.

Upon reaching the north bank E Company established a small perimeter while men headed east to locate the evaders.[18] The men quickly moved downstream and in the next 90 minutes all of them were evacuated,[citation needed] with the exception of a Russian who was captured by the Germans.[citation needed] The Germans opened fire sporadically and some mortar rounds fell near the crossing, but the fire was inaccurate.[citation needed] The men were later flown back to the UK, rejoining the men who had escaped in Operation Berlin. Nine members of E company were killed in action in Holland with at least 40 wounded.

Battle of the BulgeEdit

 
Names of E Company fallen on the monument in Foy
 
One of the foxholes that still exist in the Jacques Woods, occupied by E Company in December 1944 and January 1945

During December 1944 and January 1945, E Company and the rest of the 101st Airborne Division fought in Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge. The 101st was in France in December when the Germans launched their offensive in the Ardennes. They were told to hold the vital cross-roads at Bastogne and were soon encircled by the Germans. E Company fought in frigid weather under German artillery fire without winter clothing and with limited rations and ammunition.

Between the days of 1 to 13 January, the company took control of the Bois Jacques woods in Belgium, between the town of Foy and Bizory. E Company was assigned to capture the town of Foy.

Division Headquarters ordered the attack to begin at 0900 hours. During the assault, newly appointed company commander Lieutenant Norman Dike led E Company forward, then ordered 1st platoon (led by Lieutenant Jack Foley) to the left and lost contact with them. Dike ordered the remainder of the company to take cover after coming under fire. With the unit unable to proceed, he was informed by his subordinates that they would get killed if they didn't advance into the town, as they were now unprotected from enemy fire. At the same time, Captain Richard Winters, former company commander and now battalion executive officer, radioed to Dike, telling him the same thing. Dike ordered 1st platoon on a flanking mission around the town,[19] and then found cover and froze, ignoring Winters' orders. As Carwood Lipton, first sergeant at the time, later put it: "He fell apart."

According to Clancy Lyall, Dike stopped because he had been wounded in the right shoulder (which Lyall saw), not because he had panicked.

In either case, Dike was immediately relieved by First Lieutenant Ronald Speirs under orders from Captain Winters. To countermand Dike's previous orders, Speirs himself ran through the town and German lines (as 1st platoon had no radio), linked up with the Item Company soldiers and relayed the order.[20] Having completed this, he then ran back through the German-occupied town. Carwood Lipton later stated that "the Germans were so shocked at seeing an American soldier running through their lines - they forgot to shoot!"[21] Speirs was reassigned as commanding officer of E Company and remained in that position for the rest of the war.[22]

With the capture of Foy, the Allies defeated the German line in Bastogne. Afterward, E Company and the rest of the 506th PIR moved into Germany. The 101st Airborne Division was awarded a unit citation for holding the line at Bastogne. E Company suffered 82 casualties including 15 killed in action.[citation needed]

Occupation dutiesEdit

Toward the end of the war, E Company was assigned to occupation duty in Germany, specifically to Berchtesgaden, which was home to Adolf Hitler's famous Eagle's Nest. Following Berchtesgaden, the company moved into Austria for further occupation duty. The company mostly attended to various patrols, awaiting the end of the war.

PostwarEdit

E Company and the rest of the 506th PIR was disbanded in November 1945, and reactivated in 1954 as a training unit. Under the Combat Arms Regimental System and U.S. Army Regimental System. Currently Easy Company's lineage and history is carried on as Alpha "Easy" Company, 2-506 Infantry, in Third Brigade Combat Team, "Rakkasan" in the 101st Airborne Division.

Notable personnelEdit

External video
  Panel discussion with Lynn "Buck" Compton, Bill Guarnere, Edward "Babe" J. Heffron, Donald Malarkey, and Earl McClung, 10 November 2006, C-SPAN

140 men formed the original E Company in Camp Toccoa, Georgia. 366 men are listed as having belonged to the company by the war's end, due to transfers and replacements. 49 men of E Company were killed in action.[23]

Company commandersEdit

 
Richard Winters in 2004.

Junior officersEdit

Non-commissioned officersEdit

 
Don Malarkey with US soldiers in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait (September 2008).
In order of rank, then alphabetically by last name.

Enlisted menEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1992). Band of Brothers. Simon & Schuster. pp. Chapter 2, second paragraph.
  2. ^ Beyond Band of Brothers, pages 16–17. ISBN 978-0-425-21375-9
  3. ^ a b A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories About the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us (2010, Marcus Brotherton, Chapter: S/Sgt Mike Ranney, P.156
  4. ^ A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories About the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us (2010, Marcus Brotherton, Chapter: S/Sgt Terrence "Salty" Harris, P255
  5. ^ a b c Winters, Richard D.; Kingseed, Cole C. (2006). Beyond Band of Brothers. Waterville, Maine: Large Print Press. ISBN 978-1594132360.
  6. ^ The Biggest Brother:The Life of Dick Winters, The man who led the Band of Brothers (2005), Larry Alexander, Chapter 3, P60 of 290
  7. ^ The Biggest Brother:The Life of Dick Winters, The man who led the Band of Brothers (2005), Larry Alexander
  8. ^ Band of Brothers (1999), Stephen Ambrose P.65
  9. ^ a b The Biggest Brother:The Life of Dick Winters, The man who led the Band of Brothers (2005), Larry Alexander, P79 of 290
  10. ^ https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/2016/11/16/ed-mauser-easy-companys-silent-brother/. Retrieved 9 September 2020
  11. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, 75 years from that long day in Normandy – we still have something to learn, The Jerusalem Post, 12 June 2019.
  12. ^ The Biggest Brother:The Life of Dick Winters, The man who led the Band of Brothers (2005), Larry Alexander, P85 of 290
  13. ^ "Easy Company in France - After D-Day". The History Reader.
  14. ^ a b Ambrose, Stephen. page 127.
  15. ^ Ambrose, Stephen. page 143.
  16. ^ Ambrose, Stephen. page 149.
  17. ^ Ambrose, Stephen. page 153.
  18. ^ Ambrose, p159
  19. ^ Ambrose, p.208
  20. ^ Ambrose, p.209
  21. ^ "Belgium - Lieutenant Ronald C Speirs". ronaldspeirs.com.
  22. ^ Winters, Richard D., with Cole C. Kingseed (2006). Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-425-20813-3.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ perspective, We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from Band of Brothers

External linksEdit