Richard Davis Winters (January 21, 1918 – January 2, 2011), usually known simply as Dick Winters, was an officer of the United States Army and a decorated war veteran. He is best known for having commanded Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, during World War II. He was eventually promoted to major and put in command of the 2nd Battalion.
As a first lieutenant, Winters parachuted into Normandy in the early hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944, and later fought across France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and eventually Germany.
Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters (2006)
- Never, ever give up regardless of the adversity. If you are a leader, a fellow who other fellows look to, you have to keep going. How will you know if you have succeeded? True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to successful leadership is to earn respect- not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character. In the military, the president of the United States may nominate you as a commissioned officer, but he cannot command for you the loyalty and confidence of your soldiers. Those you must earn by giving loyalty to your soldiers and providing for their welfare. Properly led and treated right, your lowest-ranking soldier is capable of extraordinary acts of valor. Ribbons, medals, and accolades, then, are poor substitutes to the ability to look yourself in the mirror every night and know that you did your best.
- p. 290
- I was extremely blessed to have been the commander of Easy Company. No single individual "deserved" the privilege of leading such a remarkable group of warriors into battle. And to this day, I am humbled by that experience.
- p. 291
- The shadows are lengthening for those of us who fought in World War II. In the twilight of our lives, our thoughts return to happier days, when we struggled together not as individuals, but as a team- a team that willingly sacrificed itself to protect its members. Sixty years after our final victory, these men remain different. Not one man walks around wearing his wings or medals on his chest to stand out. It is what each man carries in his chest that makes him different. It is the confidence, pride, and character that make the World War II generation stand out in any crowd. I'm proud to have been a small part of it. I certainly harbor no regrets. And not a day goes by that I don't think of the men I served with who never had the opportunity to enjoy a world of peace.
- p. 291
- I wish to convey a final thought- and I hope it doesn't sound out of place- but I would like to share something as I look back on the war. War brings out the worst and the best in people. Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men. War is romantic only to those who are far away from the sounds and turmoil of battle. For those of us who served in Easy Company and for those who served their country in other theaters, we came back as better men and women as the result of being in combat, and most would do it again if called upon. But each of us hoped that if we had learned anything from the experience, it is that war is unreal and we earnestly hoped that it would never happen again.
- p. 292
- 1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
2. Lead from the front. Say, "Follow me!" and then lead the way.
3. Stay in top physical shape- physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can't do a good job if you don't have a chance to use your imagination or your creativity.
6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don't wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
7. Remain humble. Don't worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect- not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
10. Hang Tough!- Never, ever give up.
- Leadership at the Point of the Bayonet: Ten Principles for Success, p. 293
Quotes about Winters
- Easy Company had a reputation- because of our captains, Herbert Sobel and Dick Winters- as the toughest and best. Since the Army lacked manpower, we were always sent in to take up the slack. As trained as we were, as good as we were, it was chaos, death was all around, you knew any minute could be your last. We froze, we starved, we were covered in filth, we were exhausted, we lost good kids every day, we saw things people don't see in ten lifetimes. When we thought we were beaten down as far as we could go, we were kept on the front lines. I never expected to survive a day, let alone the whole war. We lost a lot of men, but we inflicted more casualties on the Germans than they inflicted on us. In Bastogne, they had three times the men and three times the firepower. I have no idea how we done it. I still can't believe we won the war.
- William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story (2007) by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron with Robyn Post. New York: Berkley Caliber, p. xix-xx
- Winters gave the order to go. Lieutenant Welsh ran out with a few men from 1st Platoon behind him, and all hell broke loose. The Germans opened up on us with an MG-42 straight up the road. Everybody froze in the ditch. We were pinned down by machine-gun fire. If you lifted your head it would get blown off. Winters didn't care, he wanted everyone to move out, he wanted us right behind Welsh. He was yelling "Go! Go! Go!" but no one budged. He ran into the middle of the road, bullets flying by his head, running from one side of the road to the other and back, screaming and yelling like a lunatic, trying to get us to move out. Everybody was looking at each other saying "Is he friggin' nuts? He thinks we're going to get up?!" I never saw Winters that mad in my life. I think we figured Winters was going to get himself killed, so we better get the hell up. We ran right through the machine-gun fire, and I think Welsh took out the main gun with a grenade.
- William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story (2007) by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron with Robyn Post. New York: Berkley Caliber, p. 74
- I remember him as if it were yesterday. The old soldier emerged from the elevator in the hotel lobby at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, dapperly attired in a dark blazer with the crest of the 101st Airborne Division on his pocket. His neatly cropped gray hair reflected a military man far younger than his current seventy-nine-plus years. I am not sure what I had expected to see. At the time of our initial encounter, most veterans of World War II were in their late seventies or early eighties. Most veterans who visited West Point to share their reminiscences with the cadets walked with the aid of canes or walkers. In Winters's case, there was a noticeable spring in his step that belied his age.
This shy, quiet gentleman who introduced himself simply as "Dick Winters" immediately made an indelible impression on me. From the beginning, I was "Cole," he was "Dick." Never once for the next thirteen years did we ever address each other by rank or surname. Over dinner Dick and I discussed a myriad of topics, all associated with his wartime experience and his thoughts on leadership in war. Why were some commanders more effective than others in inspiring their men? How did you identify the best soldiers in your company? Had he relieved any commander in combat? To what did he attribute his success in Easy Company? Were his leadership principles applicable to the civilian and the corporate worlds? Minutes evolved into hours as we discussed leadership under a number of circumstances. Before we finished dinner, I had already decided that I would include Dick Winters in the book I was writing about combat leadership in World War II. To my great satisfaction, he invited me to spend a few days on his farm outside Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. By the time that the evening was over, I had received the best primer on leadership than I had obtained in twenty-five years of commissioned service.
- Cole C. Kingseed, Conversations With Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons From the Commander of the Band of Brothers (2014), New York: Dutton Caliber, paperback, p. xv-xvi
- I last visited Dick Winters on October 30, 2010. Three weeks earlier, I had grasped his hand and told him how much he meant to me and that he was my dearest friend. He looked at me and directed me to "hang in there." Now, at the end of October, Dick was definitely approaching his final days. He did not look very well, and I suspected he did not have much time remaining. Ethel, too, tired easily, but her spirits were high. When Mary and I entered the house, I wondered if it would be our final visit. Dick laughed when we reminisced about the first time he had met Mary and demanded, "Tell me about yourself!" I reminded Dick that to Mary's eternal consterntation, he would always remain my best friend and Mary merely my best female friend. He just smiled with that familiar twinkle in his eye.
While Mary and Ethel conversed, I took the opportunity to speak to Dick in muffled tones. I think we both realized that the end was approaching, but he refused to concede defeat. "I'm comfortable where I am now. I realize my time is short, but I am at peace," Dick said. I couldn't help but think that his mind was already over the next hill, where his wartime comrades were standing at attention, awaiting their commander's arrival.
We mostly spoke about the beauty of the autumn leaves, the birds, and the flowers outside his window. As I rose to leave, I leaned over and whispered, "Dick, the country was blessed to have had you in its hour of need. I will always cherish our time together. I love you as my brother." These were my final words to Major Dick Winters. "Don't ever change that," he responded with a tear in his eye.
- Cole C. Kingseed, Conversations With Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons From the Commander of the Band of Brothers (2014), New York: Dutton Caliber, paperback, p. 228-229
- The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Richard D. Winters (ASN: 0-1286582), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company E, 2d Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, in action against enemy forces on 6 June 1944, in France. First Lieutenant Winters with seven enlisted men, advanced through intense enemy automatic weapons fire, putting out of action two guns of the battery of four 88-mm. that were shelling the beachhead. Unswerving in his determination to complete his self-appointed and extremely hazardous task, First Lieutenant Winters and his group withdrew for reinforcements. He returned with tank support and the remaining two guns were put out of action, resulting in decreased opposition to our forces landing on the beachhead. First Lieutenant Winters' heroic and determined leadership exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 101st Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
- Citation for Winters' Distinguished Service Cross; Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 31 (July 1, 1944)