Lynn Compton

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The life I've led has only been made possible because I'm an American. The astounding people I've met along the way, the astonishing experience I've had, and the amazing opportunities I've been given have far exceeded anything I could have ever hoped for or expected.

Lynn Davis "Buck" Compton (December 31, 1921 – February 25, 2012) was an American jurist, police officer, and soldier. In his legal career, he served as a prosecutor and California Court of Appeal judge, and is most notable as having been the lead prosecutor in Sirhan Sirhan's trial for the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Previously, he served with the Los Angeles Police Department. During World War II, he was a commissioned officer with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. Compton was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Neal McDonough.

Distinctive unit insignia of the 506th Infantry Regiment (United States)
US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge



Call of Duty: My Life Before, During and After the Band of Brothers (2008)

  • The life I've led has only been made possible because I'm an American. The astounding people I've met along the way, the astonishing experience I've had, and the amazing opportunities I've been given have far exceeded anything I could have ever hoped for or expected.
    • Preamble
  • In those first few days and weeks after the suicide, everyone we talked to was as shocked as we were. To this day nobody is sure what caused him to do it. I can only guess it was attributable to his sense of failure in overcoming the alcohol problem. The booze and the secrecy around it always caused chafing between him and my mother and me. I still bear a lot of guilt because of my conduct. What might I say to my father if I could? I'd say, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't more respectful. I'm sorry I wasn't a better son. I'm sorry I didn't treat him with the warmth I should have in spite of his drinking problem. Certainly his good qualities far outweighed what few bad things he did with his liquor- especially considering today's atmosphere. What he did was so minor. So, yeah, I owe him a hell of an apology.
    • p. 51-52
  • Sometimes the greatest signs of strength are demonstrated when you relive the hardest parts of your life. I'm not a man easily given to emotion. I hate to cry. Yet there are three things that cause me to tear up today. One is when I talk about the love I have for America. The second I'll tell you about later in this book. The third is whenever I remember by dad's suicide.
    • p. 53-54
  • As young people, my generation would see a lot of death. I don't think I ever grew accustomed to it. It came in darkness and fervor, by our airplanes, rifles, parachutes, and tanks. But there was something about that first death I experienced the summer of 1939 when I was just eighteen, years before the war, that stayed with me so strongly. Those first few seasons after my father died were dark indeed.
    • p. 54
  • Back at Toccoa, Easy Company had been led by Captain Herbert Sobel (portrayed in the Band of Brothers miniseries by David Schwimmer). Sobel was known for his excessive strictness, often revoking men's weekend passes for petty infractions and heaping up additional physical training on them during weekends and evenings. He once brought a court-martial against Winters for failing to inspect a latrine. Sobel's extreme training tactics paid off in some ways- he ended up creating a hardened and physically fit company. From all the tough training they received, Easy Company could boast the finest performance record in the regiment. Yet Sobel's men believed he lacked tactical and combat skills. After several of Sobel's noncommissioned officers refused to fight under him, believing him unfit to follow into battle, Sobel was reassigned to the Chilton Foliat Jump School, where he became a parachute instructor for noncombat officers. Lieutenant Thomas Meehan, a transfer from B Company, took over for Sobel. I never met Sobel personally, and it's been controversial as to whether Sobel was truly as inept as the miniseries made him out to be. Sobel's second son, Michael Sobel, has spoken out in his father's defense in recent years, and most veterans I know respect Michael for doing that. My good friend Don Malarkey, who was with Easy Company from the beginning, insists that Sobel had his good points. Sobel's contributions helped mold Easy Company into the formidable fighting force it came to be.
    • p. 94-95
  • But success in a military operation always feels short-lived. You shoulder your rifle and move on from there to the next battle.
    • p. 107
  • Secrets have power over us. Only when secrets are revealed can truth be known and freedom brought about.
    • p. 107
  • Sergeant Bill Guarnere sat with me on many of those nights. He was much more softhearted than he ever let on. In the series, it shows us together in a foxhole. In the background we can hear the Germans singing "Silent Night" not far away from us. I hand Guarnere a picture of my girlfriend back home, lamenting to Bill that she was finished with me- just in time for Christmas. I don't remember that ever happening, but this often did: Bill and I were supposed to take turns staying awake and sleeping. Often I'd wake up and he'd say in his South Philly accent, "Aw, go back to sleep, Lieutenant. I got it." I'd protest, but he'd always insist.
    • p. 137
  • Constantly we anticipated a large-scale nighttime attack. But day after day, night after night, it never came.
    • p. 137
  • Just before Christmas, 1944, we got word that the Germans had closed the circle around Bastogne. This meant that the 101st Airborne was now completely surrounded by the enemy. Dick Winters said once that being surrounded was no problem for paratroopers- we were used to that. For me, it's hard to describe the feeling of isolation. The heavy fog meant that we were cut off from any help from the sky. We were alone, out in the woods, surrounded, with desperately low supplies. We were in day-to-day survival mode. Build the occasional fire. Melt some snow. Find something to eat. Cook it in your helmet. Stay out of harm's way. Just do what you need to do to get through the day.
    • p. 138
  • Although I was affected by the horrors of Bastogne, I do not believe I was clinically shell shocked, as the series portrays me. In real life, while I was hollering for the medic, trying to figure out what to do, I remember two distinct thoughts: How are we going to help the wounded guys?...Maybe this is the time the Germans are really going to get us all.
    • p. 143
  • Ted Sten, the deputy in charge of the Long Beach office and my new supervisor, had a reputation for an acerbic personality and being difficult to work with. I reported for duty expecting the worst. To my surprise, Ted Sten greeted me warmly. "Hmmm. Buck Compton," he said. "You live where?" "North Hollywood." He grinned. "Boy, someone must sure be mad at you." He shook my hand. "Welcome aboard."
    • p. 191
  • I told the reporter that these so-called "peace protesters" were all incipient assassins. Free speech does not embrace any form of physical force, whether passive or active. A mob blocking the streets is using physical force and is not the same thing as protected free speech. People who are willing to resort to any form of physical force (because they are frustrated by the failure of their words to be effective) have progressed up the rungs of the ladder of violence. As each level of this ladder is climbed, history has shown that progressive degrees of physical violence fail to produce a desired political result, and it becomes easier to take the next step. At the top of this ladder is assassination. Cases in point: JFK, MLK, and RFK.
    • p. 229-230.
  • Paratroopers capture the attention of people due to the fact that we jumped out of planes. But we didn't have it as hard, for instance, as the guys in the 1st or 4th or 29th divisions, who were grinding it out day after day in Europe, many of whom were not pulled back from the line to England after thirty days like we were. Or beyond that, the poor guys who served in the Pacific. I wouldn't have traded with the guys in the Pacific for anything. None of them got the recognition we did.
    • p. 246
  • You have a tendency to think of wars as being fought in arenas set aside for fighting. But when you go through these farms and little towns, you realize wars are fought in people's backyards, stores, streets, and cities. It was all so very real then. It's real to me today.
    • p. 246
  • The word "freedom" is rather generic today, and in my mind, sadly, an ill-defined term. Many people think it simply means saying whatever you want and doing whatever you want whenever you want. But true freedom is easy to overlook today. Too many of our fellow citizens are willing to go to the polls and vote away the freedoms of themselves and others simply because they have been convinced of the supposed worthiness of some social goal.
    • p. 248
  • Freedom and socialism cannot coexist. Our Constitution stands as a bulwark against collectivism and guarantees us a free-enterprise capitalist economy, where we are free to contract for and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Freedoms that we fought for are being unthinkingly and frivolously squandered today in many places. Every time our fellow citizens fall prey to the class envy arguments and siren song of socialism, we dishonor those who have fought and died in previous wars. Collectivism as an ideology promises to redistribute wealth through the graduated income tax and estate tax. Collectivism sees nothing wrong with seizing private property without paying for it, all in the name of environmental protection. Collectivism ignores the precious blood that has been spilled in freedom's defense. The America I fought for was based on individual freedom, never collectivism. Think of it this way: The Nazis were socialists. The Communists in Korea and Vietnam were socialists. The terrorists of today are ideological socialists- they're certainly not proponents of individual freedoms. Terrorists want to knock out our form of government, which allows freedom of thought, travel, religion, and speech. They want to do away with our social climate, which allows us the room for dissenting and controversial opinions and practices. They want to destroy our economy, which allows for individual successes based on initiative and hard work.
    • p. 249
  • Saddam and his regime crushed his country's educational systems, economic opportunities, cultural activities, and women. He's the real enemy. In many senses, we are still fighting the first Gulf War today. It's not finished yet. Terrorist regimes such as these have vowed to destroy the United States, whom they refer to as "the great Satan." That's as much of a threat as Hitler's Germany ever was. People argue for "peace at any price." Well, peace is cheap. You can get peace with anybody as long as you're willing to surrender to their terms. We could have had peace with Hitler if they wanted.
    • p. 251
  • To try to distinguish between our objectives in World War II and the war we are fighting today- that one war was justified and the other isn't- is a complete fallacy. All wars are wars of choice. The Revolutionary War was a war of choice- we could have stayed British subjects if we had wanted. Equally so, we could have chosen not to fight World War II if we had wanted. But there were compelling reasons to fight both the Revolutionary War and World War II, as there are compelling reasons to fight the war against terror today.
    • p. 250
  • On closing this book, if I was to leave you with only one thought, it would be this: My life story could only happen in America. Look at my life: Here was a guy with very little observable potential- nothing much behind him except a couple loving parents. But because of the way this country functions I was able to make my way through and have a very good life. I don't think I had any special talent or ability. Anybody could do what I did if he wanted to. I've never resented anybody ho has something I didn't have, because I knew that in this country if I worked hard enough I could have it, too. The system in America allows for and welcomes success. That's worth fighting for if someone threatens to take it away. You can have anything or be anything you want in this country if you put your mind to it. Don't let anybody take that away from you.
    • p. 254

Quotes about Compton

  • In understanding the life of honor and service Buck Compton has bestowed upon his country, we glimpse anew the greatness that is America.
    • John McCain, in the Foreword of Call of Duty by Lynn "Buck" Compton
  • Buck never likes being called a hero, but that's what he is to me.
    • Neal McDonough, in the Epilogue of Call of Duty by Lynn "Buck" Compton, p. 255
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