The U.S. has lost another living link to World War II history with the death of the last surviving officer of the U.S. military regiment that inspired HBO’s award-winning “Band of Brothers.”
Edward Shames, a member of the Easy Company unit whose actions formed the basis of the HBO miniseries and an earlier book of the same title, died Friday at the age of 99.
An obituary posted by the Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home & Crematory said Shames “passed away peacefully at home” in Virginia.
Shames, born in Norfolk, Virginia, on June 13, 1922, was a member of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He was involved in some of WWII’s most significant battles, making his first combat jump into Normandy on D-Day, volunteering for Operation Pegasus and fighting in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, according to the obituary.
Shames, who received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant in June 1944, “gained a reputation as a stubborn and very outspoken solider who demanded the highest standards from himself and his fellow soldiers,” the obituary said.
Later, he became the first member of the 101st to enter Dachau concentration camp after its liberation. “When Germany surrendered, Ed and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where Ed managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, a label indicating they were ‘for the Fuhrer’s use only.’ Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah,” according to the obituary.
Later generations became familiar with the achievements of Easy Company following the publication of “Band of Brothers,” Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 non-fiction book, and HBO’s Emmy-winning 2001 miniseries, which featured Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks as executive producers. Cast members included Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston and Donnie Wahlberg, with Shames portrayed by Joseph May, according to IMDb.
After the war, Shames worked as an expert on Middle East affairs for the National Security Agency and served in the U.S. Army Reserve Division, retiring as a colonel.
Shames, a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, was predeceased by his wife of 73 years, Ida.
He continued to receive honors in the weeks leading up to his death, when the American Veterans Center gave him the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Wings of Valor Award in November.
A graveside service was scheduled for Sunday.
Contributing: Associated Press