Private First Class Alex M. Penkala, Jr. (1924 - January 10, 1945) was a paratrooper with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Penkala was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byTim Matthews.
Penkala was born inSouth Bend, Indianain 1924. He had 12 brothers and sisters. His mother died when she had her thirteenth child, and Alex’s sister, Irene, looked after Alex and the others. His family was from Finland. He dropped out of high school during his sophomore year. Enlisting in the army on February 27, 1942 atToledo, Ohio, he also became a cook
In August 1942 after training inCamp Toccoa,Georgia, Penkala made his first combat jump on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) as part ofOperation Overlord. In September 1944, he jumped into occupiedHollandas part ofOperation Market Garden, which eventually failed. After being pulled off the line, Easy Company returned to France, where they were transported toBastogne, Belgium to fight in theBattle of the Bulge. Alex Penkala was killed in action, just outside theBelgiantown ofFoy, by fire from Germanartillery. His friendSergeantWarren “Skip” Muckwas in the same foxhole at the time and was also killed. Penkala is buried at the American cemetery inHamm, Luxembourg.
Private First Class David Kenyon Webster (June 2, 1922 - September 9, 1961)was an American soldier, journalist and author. During World War II he was a private with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division. Webster was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byEion Bailey.
Born in New York and educated atThe Taft School,Watertown, Connecticut, he volunteered for the eliteparatroopersin 1943 before having a chance to finish his studies as an English literature major atHarvard University.
Webster originally trained with Fox Company, jumped onD-Daywith Headquarters Company of the 2nd Battalion, then requested a transfer to Easy Company and served in the Company until discharged in 1945.
From a wealthy and influential family, Webster could have arranged an officer’s commission stateside, but he wanted to be a “grunt” and be able to see and document the war from a foxhole. By most accounts, he did not like what he saw and had great disdain for Germany’s audacity in creating the war. As would any soldier, he found himself being forcibly changed by the shock and panic, awe and horror, insanity and instances of dread.
OnD-Day, Webster landed nearly alone and off-course in flooded fields behindUtah Beach, and was wounded a few days later. He also jumped into theNetherlandsinOperation Market Garden. Later in this campaign, he was wounded in the leg by machine gun fire during an attack in the no-man’s land called “the Island,” nearArnhem, where the company was relocated after Operation Market Garden ended. He was fighting with Private Nicholas Fazio and witnessed his death shortly before he was wounded. Fazio had been of Italian descent and more importantly, of royal descent, and Webster never trusted him.
While recuperating back inEngland, Webster missed theBattle of the Bulgefighting and rejoined his unit in February 1945 after being formally released by the hospital What he found was a decimated regiment, exhausted, weary and bitter over the loss of friends. Soon thereafter Easy Company discovered their first concentration camp firsthand, witnessing the walking and also the unburied dead ofMemmingenConcentration Camp. Later, Easy Company viewed firsthand the excesses of life style of the German high command. The contrast left an indelible imprint on Webster, generating a perplexing wonder that he could never resolve.
He was the last of the surviving Toccoaveterans who had fought in Normandy to be sent home. He returned to work as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News and found great enjoyment sailing, studying oceanography and sea life. During those years he worked on his wartime memoirs and occasionally approaching magazines with an article from them but deferred any wholesale treatment of the war perhaps in favor of reflecting and trying to make sense of it.
He had a wife (Barbara), whom he married in 1951, and had three children.His interest in sharks led him to write a book on the subject entitled Myth and Maneater: The Story of the Shark. However, Webster’s interest in sharks eventually led to his demise, as he was lost at sea off the coast ofSanta Monica in 1961.
Webster’s wartime diary and thoughts remained unpublished except for a few short stories in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.
Unable to see a salient theme for his greater wartime experience, publishers showed little interest in another memoir. However,Stephen Ambrose, a tenuredLSUSystem professor (University of New Orleans) who had studied Webster’s writings, was so impressed by the historical value of Webster’s unpublished papers that the professor encouraged Webster’s widow to submit the writing package to LSU Press. This she did and with Ambrose’s foreword; a book was published by LSU in 1994.
Titled Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich, it presented Webster’s first-hand account of life as an Airborne infantryman. His trained eye, honesty and writing skills helped give the book as well as the miniseries a color and tone not available in other G.I. diaries.
On September 9th, 1961, David was lost at sea off the coast ofSanta Monica, California. His cause of death was probable drowning as his body was never recovered.
First Lieutenant Frederick Theodore Heyliger (June 23, 1916 - November 3, 2001) was an officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during World War II. Heyliger was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byStephen McCole.
Heyliger was born inConcord, Massachusetts, a small suburban town inMiddlesex County, Massachusetts. Heyliger worked as a farm hand throughout his youth, he completed high school and went to college.Heyliger completed three years of college where he served with the Army National Guard. On November 25, 1940, he enlisted in theAir Corps(USAAC) and trained as an aviation cadet before entering and graduating from Officer Candidate School. In 1941, when the USAAC was abolished as an organization and transformed into a branch subordinate to theU.S. Army Air Forces(USAAF), Heyliger transferred to the US Army and volunteered for theParatrooperswhere he was eventually assigned to Easy Company.
Heyliger took part in theD-Dayinvasion force jump and was a part ofOperation Market Garden. AfterRichard Winterswas promoted to Battalion XO,First LieutenantHeyliger took command of Easy Company from Winters’ first replacement because that man failed to measure up. AsFirst Lieutenant, Heyliger was in command of Easy Company duringOperation Pegasuson October 23, 1944 and oversaw the rescue and evacuation of the British1st Airborne Divisionthat were stranded on the German side of the line after the failed Operation Market Garden, across theRhine. After the successful rescue of 138 men from the British 1st Airborne Division, for which he received the British Military Cross, he was accidentally shot on October 31, 1944 while on patrol and talking withRichard Wintersabout commanding Easy Company. He then underwent skin and nerve grafts before being discharged in February 1947
After Heyliger returned home toMassachusetts, he enrolled at theUniversity of Massachusettsand graduated in 1950 with a degree in ornamental horticulture. He married in 1964, to a woman named Mary. Heyliger died in 2001 inConcord, Massachusetts, at the age of 85.
Private Joseph A. Lesniewski (born August 29, 1920) is a former soldier with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Lesniewski was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Simon Schatzberger. He is one of 20 contributors to the 2009 book We Who Are Alive and Remain: untold stories from the Band of Brothers, published by Penguin/ Berkley-Caliber.
Lesniewski was born inErie, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Ciechaka Lesniewski. He graduated in 1939 from Erie Technological High School. He was a member of theCivilian Conservation Corpsand then worked on machinery forGeneral Electric. Joe enlisted and joined theArmy Air Forceon October 28, 1942. He tested and was accepted into the Cadet School to become a pilot. In August 1943, Lesniewski volunteered for theAirborne.
Lesniewski completed Airborne Infantry training atFort Benning, Georgia. Afterward, he was shipped toNorthern Ireland. Because he was fluent inPolish, he was sent to work with theOffice of Strategic Services. His mission was to jump intoNazi-occupiedWarsaw. TheRussiansoverran the area and the jump was canceled. Joseph was given the option of staying with his unit or being transferred to any other unit. He requested the101st Airborne. Joseph Lesniewski joined E Company in March 1944.
Lesniewski fought inBattle of Normandy,Operation Market Garden, and theBattle of the Bulge.
Lesniewski jumped at approximately 0100 hours on June 6, 1944 inNormandy. He landed near the town ofSainte-Mère-Églisealong with fellow E Company paratrooper Ed Joint. After several days, Lesniewski linked up with the rest of his unit and began the assault onCarentan.
During Operation Market Garden, Lesniewski was sent out on a patrol near adikealong with Art Youman,Joseph Liebgott, James Alley, and Roderick Strohl. After climbing to the top of the dike, Lesniewski came face-to-face with a German prepared to hurl apotato masherat him and his unit. Joe warned his comrades of the livegrenade, saving many of the men in his squad, though he was lightly wounded in the neck by shrapnel from the grenade blast. Lesniewski began lobbing grenades over the dike toward the enemy soldiers.It turned out they encountered an entire company ofGerman SS.
During theBattle of Bastogne, Easy Company was under constantartillerybarrages from the Germans. During one of the shellings, Lesniewski took cover in a shallowfoxhole. A shell came in and landed about 2 feet (0.6 m) in front of him. The shell was a dud. Lesniewski tied a handkerchief to a stick and stuck it in the ground where the shell was to warn of the danger.
Lesniewski went to work for theUnited States Post Officeas amail carrier. He is one of 20 contributors to the 2009 bookWe Who Are Alive and Remain: untold stories from the Band of Brothers, published by Penguin/ Berkley-Caliber.
Sergeant Warren H. “Skip” Muck (January 31, 1922 - January 10, 1945) was a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Muck was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Richard Speight, Jr. Muck’s life story was featured in the 2010 book A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us
Muck was born and raised inTonawanda (city), New York. He attended St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School, and graduated from Tonawanda High School in 1942. After working briefly for the Remington Rand Corp, he enlisted on August 17, 1942 inBuffalo, New York.
After training in Camp Toccoa, Georgia, Muck made his first combat jump on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) as part of the Battle of Normandy in Normandy, France. In September 1944, he jumped into occupied Netherlandsas part of Operation Market Garden, which eventually failed. After being pulled off the line, Easy Company returned to France, where they were transported to Bastogne, Belgium to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Muck and his friend Alex Penkalawere killed from a direct hit in their foxhole from German artilleryjust outside the Belgiantown of Foy.
Lewis Nixon III (September 30, 1918 – January 11, 1995) was a commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Nixon was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers byRon Livingston.
Lewis Nixon was born toStanhope Wood NixonandDoris Ryer Nixonon September 30, 1918 in New York City. He was the elder brother of Blanche Nixon (born 1923) and Fletcher Ryer Nixon (who died in infancy in 1922.) He was a grandson of shipbuilderLewis Nixon(1861–1940) and Sally Wood Nixon (died 1937). At age seven, Lewis took third place in the model yacht regatta at Conservatory Lake in Central Park on May 22, 1926, earning a gold and bronze medal in the 35-inch (890 mm) boat class. As a youth, Nixon lived inNew York CityandMontecito, California; he traveled the world extensively, including Germany, France, and England. Nixon graduated from the Santa Barbara school before attendingYale Universityfor two years.
He enlisted in the army on January 14, 1941 inTrenton, New Jersey.On December 20, 1941, he married Katharine Page ofPhoenix, Arizona.
After graduating fromArmy Officer Candidate Schoolin 1941 as asecond lieutenant, Nixon made the decision to join theparatroopers. He was assigned to Easy Company of the506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Nixon went through the regimental unit training and pre-airborne training atCamp Toccoa,Georgia, and Airborne School atFort Benning, Georgia, eventually training at many locations throughout the United States andEnglandfor theinvasion of France.
Nixon was appointed as the 2nd Battalionintelligence officer(S-2), and showed enough skill at his job to be moved up to theregimentallevel as 506th Infantry S-2, shortly afterEasy Companyfought in theBattle of Carentanon June 12, 1944. He served inNormandy, theNetherlands,Belgium, andGermany, though he never fired a shot. However, in the Netherlands he was hit by a stray bullet from a German MG-42 machine gun. The bullet went through Nixon’s helmet, but only grazed his forehead and left a small burn mark. His most notable contribution to the war effort occurred shortly after theBrécourt Manor Assault, when (then) Lt.Richard Wintershanded Nixon a map showing the locations of all German artillery and machine gun positions throughout that area of theCotentin Peninsula. Nixon, realizing this to be an essential piece of intelligence, ran the 3 miles toUtah Beachand passed the information up the chain of command. Command was so thrilled with the information provided by Nixon and Winters that it sent the first two tanks to reach Utah Beach to support the paratroopers. He developed adrinking problem, and was eventually removed and assigned back down to the 2ndBattalionas theoperations officer(S-3), where he continued to display his skill at planning and operations, but did not have to deal with the politics and high visibility at the regimental level. InBerchtesgaden, he had first choice of a captured, extensive wine collection originally assembled atHermann Göring’s orders, which were stolen from wineries acrossFranceand other occupied territories.
Nixon was one of the few men of the 101st Airborne to jump with another division or regiment. On March 24, 1945, Nixon was assigned by GeneralMaxwell Tayloras an observer with the17th Airborne DivisiononOperation Varsity. Nixon’s plane took a direct hit after he and three others got out. He is also one of a very few men in the 101st to earn threeCombat Jump Starson hisJump Wings.
He ended the war with the rank ofcaptainand did not fire a single shot in combat. He saw the defeat ofGermany, and returned home in September 1945.
He is known and remembered for his love of the blended whiskey Vat 69. This is commemorated several times in the book and miniseries Band of Brothers byStephen Ambrose. Lewis Nixon was also remembered as always having a source of whiskey no matter where the company was.
After the war, Nixon worked at the family-owned Nixon Nitration Worksin New Brunswick, New Jerseyalongside his father, Stanhope. Stanhope had his share of vices as well. Wartime friend Richard Winterswas offered a job by Nixon and eventually became a personnel manager at the firm. After World War II, the plastics industry evolved from nitrate-based products to acetate-based products, and the company failed to make the transition. In 1951, as the company downsized, it gave 48 acres (190,000 m2) of land, and a dam, to New Brunswick
Nixon had two failed marriages before marrying his last wife, Grace, in 1956.He got his life back together and overcame his alcoholism during their marriage.
Lewis Nixon died of complications from diabetes in Los Angeles, California, on January 11, 1995.