Leadership from the Biggest Brother

Here’s an excerpt from a book I’m writing right now. The time is ripe for a book on Leadership in our world. I’m looking at the leadership qualities of a man who led an elite unit of men in the U.S. Army in World War II. My intent is not to glamorize war, far from it. But the horrors of war brought to the forefront qualities of leadership in these men in the 1940’s that our world could use today.

Dick Winters looked to the west as the C-47 headed south and east toward the coast. The sun was setting here. It was still shining back home. It was lunchtime at his parents’ house in Pennsylvania. It was dawn in California. It was quiet back home. But where he was – at Upottery Field in England, it was very busy in the failing light of June 5, 1944.

Winters was the last one on the plane and he would be the last one to jump out. He was part of the first stages of the largest invasion force the world had ever seen. He was scared but he did his best to keep his fear under control. He had been training for nearly two years for this moment. All those runs up Currahee at Camp Teccoa. All the exercises under the leadership of Herbert Sobel, C.O. of Easy Company, Robert Strayer, Battalion Commander and Robert Sink, Regimental Commander made Winters and the men of Easy Company tough, confident, and ready to do what they were called upon to do – nothing less than save the world from the evils of Nazi Germany.

Richard Winters was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby Ephrata. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1941 with a degree in business; while in college, Winters painted electrical towers for extra money. There was nothing special about him, at least nothing we would associate with being special. He was just an ordinary man.

Dick Winters enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1941, thinking he would get his one year required duty out of the way and then get on with his life. December 7th changed all that. After basic training he entered Officer Candidate School and upon graduation and commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant, he volunteered for paratrooper training. He was made executive officer in Easy Company – the group of men who would forever be known as “The Band of Brothers.”

On D-Day, when the CO of Easy Company – Thomas Meehan’s – plane was shot down and all aboard were killed, Winters became the CO.

Winters was gifted by God with leadership. This would be put to the test throughout France, Holland, and eventually Germany.

Dick Winters would later identify qualities of leadership. It was these qualities that caused the men under his command to follow him into bloody battles that would become vital to bringing victory to the Allies in World War II.

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