Its wartime exploits inspired a book and later a miniseries. Now Edward Shames, the last surviving member of the so-called ‘Band of Brothers’ battalion, has died.
Shames passed away in December last year at his home in Norfolk, Virginia, at the age of 99.
A member of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Shames was involved in some of the most important battles of the Second World War.
He was born in 1922 in Virginia and was called up aged 20 in the first year of the American war. He trained in Georgia and later England, ahead of the D-Day Landings in June 1944.
Easy Company was dropped into Normandy in the early hours of 6 June, tasked with clearing obstacles around a causeway off Utah Beach, where Allied forces would land by sea hours later.
Intensely active in the last year of the war, Shames fought with Easy Company in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne.
He was also the first member of the 101st to enter Dachau concentration camp near Munich, just days after its liberation, an experience that deeply affected him due to his own Jewish heritage.
According to his obituary, Shames was a ‘stubborn and very outspoken soldier’, who demanded the best from others. ‘He not only earned the respect of his men, but was recognised by command for outstanding leadership,’ it read.
In June 1944, he received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant, making him the first non-commissioned officer in the Third Battalion to receive a commission in Normandy.
After the war, Shames worked for the National Security Agency as an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. He served in the US Army Reserve Division, and later retired as a colonel.
Historian Stephen Ambrose wrote Band of Brothers in 1992, based on the diaries of Easy Company’s Major Dick Winters and interviews with other veterans.
It was made into an HBO television mini-series of the same name in 2001, a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. In the series, Shames was played by British actor Joseph May.
The show was an enormous success, garnering critical acclaim and scooping multiple awards, including seven Emmys.
Shames was the last surviving officer and oldest member of the ‘Band of Brothers’ battalion. In early November last year, shortly before his death, he was presented with the distinguished Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Wings of Valor Award by the American Veterans Center.
Shames’ wife of 73 years, Ida, predeceased him, but he is survived by his two sons, Douglas and Steven, as well as four grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.