Retired Army Col. Edward Shames — the last surviving officer of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division — passed away Friday at the age of 99.
Shames and his brothers-in-arms were immortalized in HBO’s miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which documented Easy Company’s movements from training and parachuting into Normandy on D-Day as part of Operation Overlord to the disastrous Operation Market Garden, and the turning point at Bastogne’s Battle of the Bulge.
This feels like the end of something.
Edward Shames, the final living member of the Band of Brother, Easy Company, 506th, has left us. He died peacefully at home at 99.
Ed jumped into Normandy, fought in some of WWII’s most critical moments, was memorialized on the HBO show. pic.twitter.com/4o57njMJ5k
— XVIII Airborne Corps (@18airbornecorps) December 4, 2021
Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home and Crematory posted Shames’ obituary on Saturday:
Ed was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 13, 1922, to the late David and Sadie Shames. In August, 1942, Ed was called to duty in World War II. During the war, he was a member of the renowned Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division now known globally as the “Band of Brothers.”
Ed was involved in some of the most important battles of the war. He made his first combat jump into Normandy on D-Day as part of Operation Overlord. He volunteered for Operation Pegasus and then fought with Easy Company in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne.
Ed gained a reputation as a stubborn and very outspoken soldier who demanded the highest of standards from himself and his fellow soldiers. He not only earned the respect of his men, but was recognized by command for outstanding leadership and on June 13, 1944, he received a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. This made him the first non-commissioned officer in the Third Battalion to receive a commission in Normandy.
According to the obituary, the Jewish officer was the first member of the 101st Airborne Division to walk into Dachau — the Nazi regime’s longest-operating concentration camp — just days after the men of New York’s 42nd Infantry “Rainbow Division” had discovered it. Dachau was the third camp to be liberated by Allied forces, and at the time housed 32,000 living prisoners. Corpses were stacked everywhere, from rail cars to empty barracks rooms.
“Nothing you can put in words would adequately describe what I saw there,” Division Assistant Chaplain (Maj.) Eli Bohnen wrote in a letter to home on May 1, 1945. “The human mind refuses to believe what the eyes see. All the stories of Nazi horrors are underestimated rather than exaggerated.”
When Germany surrendered weeks later, Shames and the men of Easy Company went into Hitler’s famed Eagle’s Nest — and Shames managed to steal several bottles of cognac that had been labeled “for the Fuhrer’s use only.”
“Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah,” the obituary continued. “On November 6, 2021, the American Veterans Center at its annual Veterans Conference and Honors program gave a final toast to Ed and presented him with the distinguished Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Wings of Valor Award.”
The last surviving member of the famed “Band of Brothers” is 97-year-old Bradford Freeman, an enlisted mortarman, who served as a consultant for the HBO miniseries and now lives in Mississippi.
Brad Freeman is the last surviving enlisted man and currently lives in Mississippi. pic.twitter.com/pV6Tjotcku
— Ricky Barksdale (@RickyBarksdale) December 5, 2021