E Company, 506th Infantry Regiment (United States)

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"Easy Company" redirects here. For the DC Comics fictional unit, see Easy Company (comics).
E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne
506InfRegtCOA.svg
Easy506pir.jpg
Easy Company
Active
  • 1942–1945
  • 1954–present
Country  United States of America
Branch  United States Army
Type Infantry company
Role Airborne
Size 140 soldiers listed, but "162 soldiers and officers" is said in part 7 of Band of Brothers because of replacements
Nickname(s) "Easy Company"
Motto "Currahee" (We Stand Alone)
March Blood on the Risers
Engagements World War II:
* Battle of Normandy
* Battle of Carentan
* Operation Market Garden
* Battle of the Bulge
Commanders
Colonel of
the Regiment
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel Robert Sink
Notable
commanders
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Richard Winters
US-O3 insignia.svg Capt Herbert Sobel
US-O3 insignia.svg Capt Ronald Speirs
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lt. Norman Dike
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lt. Frederick Heyliger
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lt. Thomas Meehan 

Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the "Screaming Eagles", is one of the best-known companies in the United States Army. 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.

History[edit]

The 506th PIR was an experimental airborne regiment created in 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Easy Company missions were to involve being parachuted from C-47 transport 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."[1]

Before attending paratrooper training, the unit had to perform the standard battle drills and excruciating amounts of physical training that comes with being in the parachute infantry. One of the more famous exercises in the television series was the regular running of Currahee, 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 of Herbert 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. This type of training was ahead of the rest of the army, which didn't adopt formation running until the 1960s. The purpose of this training was to push the soldiers to their limits, and to teach them how to work together as a team.

Missions[edit]

Operation Overlord (D-Day)[edit]

For Operation Overlord, Easy Company's mission was to capture the entrances to and clear any obstacles around "Causeway 2", a pre-selected route off Utah Beach for the Allied forces landing from the sea a few hours later. The company departed from Upottery airbase in Devon, England, and dropped over the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy, France in the early hours of the morning of 6 June 1944. After assembling on the ground, the men of Easy Company disabled a battery of four German heavy guns on D-Day that threatened forces coming along Causeway 2. There was a town in France called Carentan. This town was crucial for American soldiers to capture because it would link Omaha and Utah beaches together so the soldiers can move equipment through. The Germans knew that so they wanted to keep the town out of allied hands. In one of Donald Malarkey's article's he stated that Lieutenant Winters made him mortar sergeant of second platoon. Easy Company, along with Dog and Fox Companies, was walking down the road to Carentan when they came to an intersection and one or two German machine gun teams suddenly started firing on them. Mortars and tanks soon joined the fight. The American soldiers all jumped into ditches for cover. Winters saw this and as Malarkey states, Winters "got hotter than I've ever seen him." It was a fast attack, at the end of which Malarkey states that he could hear moans and groans of wounded soldiers and occasional gun shots. Also at the end of the battle Winters was slightly wounded in his lower right leg by a ricocheting bullet fragment. The Germans mounted a counter attack, but 2nd battalion held onto Carentan.[2]

Eindhoven, the Netherlands[edit]

Easy Company was assigned to support the British forces around Eindhoven, by defending the roads and bridges, so that the British armored divisions could advance into Arnhem and force a crossing over the major bridge across the Rhine River in September 1944. The story of the ill-fated Operation Market Garden is told in the book A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan.

Easy Company landed on its designated drop zone in the Sonsche Forest, north west of Son and marched down the road into Son behind the 2nd Battalion's other two companies. When the 2nd Battalion reached the Son Bridge they were met by enemy harassing fire whilst the bridge was destroyed by the Germans. After the Regiment's engineers constructed a makeshift crossing, Easy and the rest of the 506th moved out for Eindhoven. These events were omitted from Band of Brothers, with Easy having been portrayed as landing in the Netherlands and then marching into Eindhoven to join up with the British Army advancing from the south.

On 19 September, Easy departed for Helmond accompanied by six Cromwell tanks of the British 11th Armoured Division.[3] Their advance was halted by the German 107th Panzer Brigade outside Nuenen and they were forced to retreat to Tongelre.[3] During the days following the link up, Easy successfully defended the towns of Veghel and Uden until XXX Corps infantry took up the task of defending the area. As Market Garden progressed, Easy and the rest of the 101st joined the 82nd Airborne on "the island" north of Nijmegen.

At the conclusion of Market Garden, the company relieved the British 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division in Zetten.[4] On 5 October 1944, 1st platoon fought in the battle of "the island" that lay between the Lower Rhine and the Waal river. Along with a platoon from Fox Company and support from the Royal Artillery, they routed two Waffen-SS companies on 5 October 1944.[5] Colonel Sink issued a general order citing 1st platoon of Easy for gallantry in action, describing their attack a "daring act and skillful maneuver against a numerically superior force".[6]

Easy Company was involved in the rescue of over 100 British troops trapped outside Arnhem. Operation Pegasus was a military operation carried out on the Lower Rhine near the village of Renkum, close to Arnhem in the Netherlands. Overnight on 22–23 October 1944, the Allies evacuated a large group of men trapped in German occupied territory who had been in hiding since the Battle of Arnhem. On the south bank of a Dutch river, Canadian engineers and a patrol of E Company observed the signal and immediately launched their boats, but the British were some 500-800m upriver of the crossing point. Upon reaching the north bank E Company established a small perimeter while men headed east to locate the evaders.[7][8] The men quickly moved downstream and in the next 90 minutes all of them were evacuated,[8] with the exception of a Russian who was captured by the Germans.[9] The Germans opened fire sporadically and some mortar rounds fell near the crossing, but the fire was inaccurate.[10] Once on the other side the escapees were led to a farmhouse for refreshments, before being driven to Nijmegen where Dobie had arranged a party and champagne.[11] The men were later flown back to the UK, rejoining the men who had escaped in Operation Berlin.

Battle of the Bulge[edit]

Names of E Company fallen on the monument in Foy, Belgium
One of the still existing foxholes in the Jacques woods, occupied by the Easy Company in December 44 and January 45

During December 1944 and January 1945, Easy Company and the rest of the 101st Airborne Division fought in Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge. The 101st was in France in December when the Germans launched their offensive in the Ardennes. They were told to hold the vital cross-roads at Bastogne and were soon encircled by the Germans. Easy Company fought in cold weather under German artillery fire without winter clothing and with limited rations and ammunition. The Allies defeated the German offensive. Afterward, Easy Company and the rest of the 506th PIR moved into Germany. The 101st Airborne Division was awarded a unit citation for holding the line at Bastogne.[12] Between the days of January 1st through the 13th Easy company was to take control of the Bois Jacques woods in Belgium. The woods were between the town of Foy and Bizory. Easy Company's assignment was to take the town of Foy. The initial plan for this attack was to protect the men with covering fire. This plan did not work because the leader of the assault Lieutenant Dike hid behind haystacks. He gave an order from behind the haystacks which proved to be his downfall. The order was for 2nd and 3rd platoon to join him behind the haystacks. This caused a halt in movement for the company. The soldiers were easy targets for the Germans to shoot at. Major Winters saw that and ordered Lieutenant Ronald Speirs to take over the attack. He did so and relieved Dike of his command. This boosted the moral of easy company because they were confident in the new leader. He barked out orders to each platoon commander and sent them on their way. I company was cut off on the other side of town without a radio. Speirs heard about that situation and ran through open area to get through to them. Carwood Lipton later stated that "the Germans were so shocked at seeing an American soldier running through their lines - they forgot to shoot!" Once he linked up with I company he came back across enemy lines back to his platoon. Still to this day he is most remembered for this act of bravery. After the action had been stopped and Easy Company took the town Major Winters requested that Dike be relieved of command and have Speirs be the new Company Officer. Colonel Sink agreed and gave the position to Speirs.[13]

Occupation duties[edit]

Toward the end of the war, Easy Company was assigned to occupation duty in Germany, specifically to Berchtesgaden, which was home to Adolf Hitler’s famous Eagle's Nest. Following Berchtesgaden, Easy Company moved into Austria for further occupation duty. The company mostly attended to various patrols, awaiting the end of the war.

Post-war[edit]

Easy Company and the rest of the 506th PIR was disbanded in November 1945 and reactivated in 1954 as a training unit.

Personnel[edit]

One hundred forty men formed the original Easy Company in Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Three hundred sixty-six men are listed as belonging to Easy Company by war's end, due to transfers and replacements. Forty-nine men of Easy Company were killed in action.[14]

Senior officers[edit]

  • Major General Maxwell Davenport Taylor (101st Airborne Division CO) (26 August 1901 – 19 April 1987)
  • Brigadier General Anthony Clement McAuliffe (101st Airborne Division Artillery Officer, later acting 101st Airborne Division CO) (2 July 1898 – 11 August 1975)
  • Colonel Robert Frederick Sink (506th Regiment CO) (3 April 1905 – 13 December 1965)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Strayer (2nd Battalion CO, later 506th Regiment XO) (1910 - 19 December 2002)
  • Major Richard D. Winters (2nd Battalion XO, later acting 2nd Battalion CO) (21 January 1918 – 2 January 2011)

Company commanders[edit]

Richard Winters in 2004.
  1. Captain Herbert M. Sobel (26 January 1912 – 30 September 1987)
  2. First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan III (8 July 1921 – 6 June 1944)
  3. Major Richard D. Winters (21 January 1918 – 2 January 2011)
  4. Unnamed officer [15]
  5. First Lieutenant Frederick Theodore "Moose" Heyliger (23 June 1916 – 3 November 2001[16])
  6. First Lieutenant Norman Staunton Dike, Jr. (19 May 1918 – 23 June 1989)
  7. Captain Ronald C. Speirs (20 April 1920 – 11 April 2007)

Junior officers[edit]

Non-commissioned officers[edit]

Don Malarkey with US soldiers in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait (September 2008).
Forrest Guth, Clancy Lyall and Amos Taylor in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait (September 2008).
In order of rank, then alphabetically by last name.

Enlisted men[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beyond Band of Brothers, pages 16–17. ISBN 978-0-425-21375-9
  2. ^ http://www.thehistoryreader.com/modern-history/easy-company-france-d-day/
  3. ^ a b Ambrose, Stephen. page 127.
  4. ^ Ambrose, Stephen. page 143.
  5. ^ Ambrose, Stephen. page 149.
  6. ^ Ambrose, Stephen. page 153.
  7. ^ Ambrose, p159
  8. ^ a b Waddy, p187
  9. ^ Van der Zee, p 135
  10. ^ Digby Tatham-Warter
  11. ^ Waddy, p188
  12. ^ "Easy Company, 1942-1945" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhd4J2kbxG8
  13. ^ http://www.ronaldspeirs.com/military/ww2/belgium-bastogne/
  14. ^ perspective, We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from Band of Brothers
  15. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1992). Band of Brothers. 
  16. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Heyliger&GSfn=Fred&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=19080521&df=all&

External links[edit]