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.
Entertainers and newsman on deadline can talk all they want to about tension, bu they wouldn’t know tension if you dipped it in a bucket of water and hit them in the face with it - unless they had spent five days in a marshaling area, waiting to start the Invasion of Europe.
The only comparable sensation would be those last five days in the death house, when everybody is quiet and considerate and they feed you well and let you sleep late and write letters and give you little favors and comforts. The chaplain comes around to see you, the warden makes a speech, and maybe you write a letter to your mother.
If you have a mother and she still cares.
Or you write your girlfriend, who is probably going steady with somebody else by now, as ours were.
Finally there isn’t anything more to do. You eat your last meal and put on your clothes and walk down the corridor to the big flash. You go out of the world the way came in: surrounded by people and utterly alone. ~ David Kenyon Webster