Letters to Easy Company

historicalawesomeness:

Private First Class Alex M. Penkala, Jr. (1924 - January 10, 1945) was a paratrooper with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Penkala was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byTim Matthews.

Penkala was born inSouth Bend, Indianain 1924. He had 12 brothers and sisters. His mother died when she had her thirteenth child, and Alex’s sister, Irene, looked after Alex and the others. His family was from Finland. He dropped out of high school during his sophomore year. Enlisting in the army on February 27, 1942 atToledo, Ohio, he also became a cook

In August 1942 after training inCamp Toccoa,Georgia, Penkala made his first combat jump on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) as part ofOperation Overlord. In September 1944, he jumped into occupiedHollandas part ofOperation Market Garden, which eventually failed. After being pulled off the line, Easy Company returned to France, where they were transported toBastogne, Belgium to fight in theBattle of the Bulge. Alex Penkala was killed in action, just outside theBelgiantown ofFoy, by fire from Germanartillery. His friendSergeantWarren “Skip” Muckwas in the same foxhole at the time and was also killed. Penkala is buried at the American cemetery inHamm, Luxembourg.

historicalawesomeness:

Private First Class David Kenyon Webster (June 2, 1922 - September 9, 1961)was an American soldier, journalist and author. During World War II he was a private with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division. Webster was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byEion Bailey.

Born in New York and educated atThe Taft School,Watertown, Connecticut, he volunteered for the eliteparatroopersin 1943 before having a chance to finish his studies as an English literature major atHarvard University.

Webster originally trained with Fox Company, jumped onD-Daywith Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, then requested a transfer to Easy Company and served in the Company until discharged in 1945.

From a wealthy and influential family, Webster could have arranged an officer’s commission stateside, but he wanted to be a “grunt” and be able to see and document the war from a foxhole. By most accounts, he did not like what he saw and had great disdain for Germany’s audacity in creating the war. As would any soldier, he found himself being forcibly changed by the shock and panic, awe and horror, insanity and instances of dread.

OnD-Day, Webster landed nearly alone and off-course in flooded fields behindUtah Beach, and was wounded a few days later. He also jumped into theNetherlandsinOperation Market Garden. Later in this campaign, he was wounded in the leg by machine gun fire during an attack in the no-man’s land called “the Island,” nearArnhem, where the company was relocated after Operation Market Garden ended. He was fighting with Private Nicholas Fazio and witnessed his death shortly before he was wounded. Fazio had been of Italian descent and more importantly, of royal descent, and Webster never trusted him.

While recuperating back inEngland, Webster missed theBattle of the Bulgefighting and rejoined his unit in February 1945 after being formally released by the hospital  What he found was a decimated regiment, exhausted, weary and bitter over the loss of friends. Soon thereafter Easy Company discovered their first concentration camp firsthand, witnessing the walking and also the unburied dead ofMemmingenConcentration Camp. Later, Easy Company viewed firsthand the excesses of life style of the German high command. The contrast left an indelible imprint on Webster, generating a perplexing wonder that he could never resolve.

He was the last of the surviving Toccoaveterans who had fought in Normandy to be sent home. He returned to work as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News and found great enjoyment sailing, studying oceanography and sea life. During those years he worked on his wartime memoirs and occasionally approaching magazines with an article from them but deferred any wholesale treatment of the war perhaps in favor of reflecting and trying to make sense of it.

He had a wife (Barbara), whom he married in 1951, and had three children.His interest in sharks led him to write a book on the subject entitled Myth and Maneater: The Story of the Shark. However, Webster’s interest in sharks eventually led to his demise, as he was lost at sea off the coast ofSanta Monica in 1961.

Webster’s wartime diary and thoughts remained unpublished except for a few short stories in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.

Unable to see a salient theme for his greater wartime experience, publishers showed little interest in another memoir. However,Stephen Ambrose, a tenuredLSUSystem professor (University of New Orleans) who had studied Webster’s writings, was so impressed by the historical value of Webster’s unpublished papers that the professor encouraged Webster’s widow to submit the writing package to LSU Press. This she did and with Ambrose’s foreword; a book was published by LSU in 1994.

Titled Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich, it presented Webster’s first-hand account of life as an Airborne infantryman. His trained eye, honesty and writing skills helped give the book as well as the miniseries a color and tone not available in other G.I. diaries.

On September 9th, 1961, David was lost at sea off the coast ofSanta Monica, California. His cause of death was probable drowning as his body was never recovered.

The Men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, came from different backgrounds, different parts of the country. They were farmers and coal miners, mountain men and sons of the Deep South. Some were desperately poor, others from middle class. One came from Harvard, one from Yale, a couple from UCLA. Only one was from the Old Army, only a few came from the National Guard or Reserves. They were citizen soldiers.
Stephen E. Ambrose | Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest  (via irenenesserr)
I’ve thought about this often. That man and I might’ve been good friends, we might’ve had a lot in common. He might’ve liked to fish, he might’ve liked to hunt. You never know, you know. Of course, they were doing what they were supposed to do and I was trying to do what I was supposed to do. But, under different circumstances, we might’ve been good friends.
Darrell ‘Shifty’ Powers on men in the German army. (via octobones)

“I’m just one part of the big war. That’s all, one little part. And I’m proud to be apart of it. And sometimes, it makes me cry.” — Bill Guarnere.

“I’m just one part of the big war. That’s all, one little part. And I’m proud to be apart of it. And sometimes, it makes me cry.” — Bill Guarnere.

historicalawesomeness:

First Sergeant Floyd M. Talbert (August 26, 1923 – October 10, 1982) was a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Talbert was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Matthew Leitch. Talbert’s life story was featured in the 2010 book A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us.

Floyd Talbert grew up in Kokomo, Indiana with his four brothers. After the Great Depression, Talbert and his brothers worked odd jobs in carpentry and on farms throughout high school in order to help out at home. After he graduated from high school, he worked for Union Carbide at Haynes Stellite.

Drawn by the daring nature of the new group called the paratroopers, Talbert enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 24, 1942 at Fort Benjamin Harrison, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tab had volunteered for the paratroopers. He was assigned to E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at Camp Toccoa under the direction of Captain Herbert Sobel. Like many of the men of Easy Company, Talbert made his first combat jump on D-Day. Also, Talbert jumped in Operation Market Garden in Holland, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne.

In May 1945, Talbert obtained one of Adolf Hitler’s ‘bulletproof’ staff cars. He was ordered to turn it over to the brass, but he first conducted an experiment whether or not the windows were bulletproof. He discovered that armor-piercing ammo could break the glass. Next, he drained the water from the radiator. Only then did he turn it over to Regimental Staff.

Major Winters had described Talbert as his “guardian angel.”

After the war, he chose not to associate with fellow Easy Company veterans until he showed up at an Easy Company reunion shortly before he died. In the book “Band of Brothers”, author Stephen Ambrose described Talbert as having become a drifter and alcoholic, and living as a mountain man in California in his later years. Talbert’s family members have made a number of efforts to correct this impression. According to one of Talbert’s brothers:

He attended Indiana University after his discharge from the service and immediately accepted a position with the Union Carbide (Haynes Stellite Division in Kokomo, Indiana). He then transferred with the same organization to Alexandria, Indiana, and worked there for several years. He decided to become a full-time farmer and purchased land in that area. Later, he became a plant manager for the General Tire and Rubber Company. He also was a successful car salesman both in Indiana and California.

The life he was living in California was exactly what he wanted to do. He told us that many times and appeared happy with his activities. He settled in Redding, California, and lived there for many years. He loved to hunt and fish and he fell in love with that geographical area including Lake Shasta.

His daughter was very disturbed and upset with Ambrose when she read his book. I told her that I did not blame Ambrose, for he was only printing what he had derived from interviews. I told Ambrose the same thing. However, it did hurt the family somewhat because he was not a drifter. In addition, prior to his death in 1982, according to his daughter, he had managed the drinking problem very well and had his finances and his life in order when he died.

Another brother gave additional information as follows:

…Tab’s move to California was prompted by a diagnosis of a terminal disease and that Tab simply decided that he wanted to spend his remaining time outdoors.

Talbert died of complications of a heart condition on October 10, 1982 in Shasta, California.

Thank you to all who have served in the military and especially to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

You will never be forgotten. 

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historicalawesomeness:

Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles”, is one of the most well-known companies in the United States Army, and personaly my favorite. Their experiences in 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. In 2009, twenty of the last few remaining survivors from Easy Company recounted their stories in the oral-history book project We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories From the Band of Brothers.

The 506th PIR was an experimental airborne regiment created in 1942 atCamp Toccoa, Georgia. Easy Company missions were to involve being parachuted fromC-47transport airplanes over hostile territory.

Major Richard Winters described the original organization of Easy company as follows:

“[Easy] company 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.”

The training was not easy. Besides attending the standard airborne school, the unit had to perform battle drills and excruciating amounts of physical training. One of the more famous exercises was the regular running ofCurrahee, a large, steep hill. The phrase “3 miles up, 3 miles down” was derived from this run. Easy Company, while training at Toccoa, was under the command ofHerbert Sobel, who was known for his extreme strictness.

Also as part of their physical training, the members of Easy Company performed formation runs in three-four column running groups. The purpose of this training was to push the soldiers to their limits, and to teach them how to work together as a team.

Oh and don’t worry if i start spamming you with Band of Brothers stuff, ever since i had my box set stolen i’ve been a little batty.

historicalawesomeness:

First Lieutenant Frederick Theodore Heyliger (June 23, 1916 - November 3, 2001) was an officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during World War II. Heyliger was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byStephen McCole.
Heyliger was born inConcord, Massachusetts, a small suburban town inMiddlesex County, Massachusetts. Heyliger worked as a farm hand throughout his youth, he completed high school and went to college.Heyliger completed three years of college where he served with the Army National Guard. On November 25, 1940, he enlisted in theAir Corps(USAAC) and trained as an aviation cadet before entering and graduating from Officer Candidate School. In 1941, when the USAAC was abolished as an organization and transformed into a branch subordinate to theU.S. Army Air Forces(USAAF), Heyliger transferred to the US Army and volunteered for theParatrooperswhere he was eventually assigned to Easy Company.
Heyliger took part in theD-Dayinvasion force jump and was a part ofOperation Market Garden. AfterRichard Winterswas promoted to Battalion XO,First LieutenantHeyliger took command of Easy Company from Winters’ first replacement because that man failed to measure up. AsFirst Lieutenant, Heyliger was in command of Easy Company duringOperation Pegasuson October 23, 1944 and oversaw the rescue and evacuation of the British1st Airborne Divisionthat were stranded on the German side of the line after the failed Operation Market Garden, across theRhine. After the successful rescue of 138 men from the British 1st Airborne Division, for which he received the British Military Cross, he was accidentally shot on October 31, 1944 while on patrol and talking withRichard Wintersabout commanding Easy Company. He then underwent skin and nerve grafts before being discharged in February 1947
After Heyliger returned home toMassachusetts, he enrolled at theUniversity of Massachusettsand graduated in 1950 with a degree in ornamental horticulture. He married in 1964, to a woman named Mary. Heyliger died in 2001 inConcord, Massachusetts, at the age of 85.

historicalawesomeness:

First Lieutenant Frederick Theodore Heyliger (June 23, 1916 - November 3, 2001) was an officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during World War II. Heyliger was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byStephen McCole.

Heyliger was born inConcord, Massachusetts, a small suburban town inMiddlesex County, Massachusetts. Heyliger worked as a farm hand throughout his youth, he completed high school and went to college.Heyliger completed three years of college where he served with the Army National Guard. On November 25, 1940, he enlisted in theAir Corps(USAAC) and trained as an aviation cadet before entering and graduating from Officer Candidate School. In 1941, when the USAAC was abolished as an organization and transformed into a branch subordinate to theU.S. Army Air Forces(USAAF), Heyliger transferred to the US Army and volunteered for theParatrooperswhere he was eventually assigned to Easy Company.

Heyliger took part in theD-Dayinvasion force jump and was a part ofOperation Market Garden. AfterRichard Winterswas promoted to Battalion XO,First LieutenantHeyliger took command of Easy Company from Winters’ first replacement because that man failed to measure up. AsFirst Lieutenant, Heyliger was in command of Easy Company duringOperation Pegasuson October 23, 1944 and oversaw the rescue and evacuation of the British1st Airborne Divisionthat were stranded on the German side of the line after the failed Operation Market Garden, across theRhine. After the successful rescue of 138 men from the British 1st Airborne Division, for which he received the British Military Cross, he was accidentally shot on October 31, 1944 while on patrol and talking withRichard Wintersabout commanding Easy Company. He then underwent skin and nerve grafts before being discharged in February 1947

After Heyliger returned home toMassachusetts, he enrolled at theUniversity of Massachusettsand graduated in 1950 with a degree in ornamental horticulture. He married in 1964, to a woman named Mary. Heyliger died in 2001 inConcord, Massachusetts, at the age of 85.