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French statue honors ‘Band of Brothers' soldier

May. 29, 2012 - 09:06AM   |   Last Updated: May. 29, 2012 - 09:06AM  |  
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HARRISBURG, Pa. — A statue in the likeness of a Pennsylvania native whose quiet leadership was chronicled in the World War II book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers" is being unveiled in France.

Maj. Dick Winters was a lieutenant when he led his troops during the D-Day invasion of France during World War II. Beginning June 6, the Richard Winters Leadership Monument will survey the Normandy landscape that was the site of the crucial operation that paved the way for the end of the war.

The 12-foot-tall bronze statue shows the Ephrata native with his weapon at the ready, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reported.

The monument in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont will be dedicated to all junior U.S. military officers serving that day, and World War II Foundation Chairman Tim Gray said that recognition was crucial in getting Winters to agree to the project before he died last year at age 92.

"It doesn't just recognize him. It recognizes all American divisions that landed there on D-Day. It was one of his requests," Gray said. "We knew when we approached him that he would feel the same way and that's how he felt."

The exploits of Winters and his "Easy Company" were featured prominently in the Stephen Ambrose book and HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers." On D-Day, Winters led a small unit of paratroopers to destroy a German artillery battery charged with destroying U.S. forces landing at Utah Beach.

"If they hadn't been dropped that night, it would've been a disaster on the beach from those guns," said Edward Heffron, 89, of Philadelphia, one of the remaining members of Easy Company.

Heffron said Winters, his company commander, deserves the monument and more, up to and including the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"He was the brains behind the whole thing and the whole courage and the other 12 men too," said Heffron.

Retired Col. James Helis, chairman of the Department of National Security Strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, said Winters represents an entire generation of young men who took on a leadership role in the growing Army.

"They provided the front line leadership that the troops needed," he said. "The generals do the big planning, but when it comes down to making contact with the enemy and fighting the battle and getting off that beach, that's done by the junior officers. Winters represents all of that."

The statue was designed by Stephen Spears, who sculpted the World War I Doughboy statue in Cantigny, France. The base of the statue bearing Winters' likeness features one of his quotes: "Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men."

As part of the project, Gray also plans to release a film documentary that will premiere later this year at Winters' alma mater, Franklin & Marshall College.

The unveiling ceremony will be hosted by former Gov. Tom Ridge and three-time World Series winning pitcher Curt Schilling.

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