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Researching and reporting on the lives of some really interesting people (RIP)



Edward Shames wartime
Edward Shames wartime (courtesy of WikiWand)

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, he was the fourth and youngest child of David, a grocery store owner and Sadie Winer. Both his parents were Jewish emigrants who had fled to the USA from Odessa (Ukraine) in 1904.

His older siblings were Anna, Simmie and George.

His father died when Edward was just five. Ben Winer, his mother’s brother moved in to care for the family and to run the store.

Aged 18, Edward married Lillian Hoffman, who was just 16. They went to live with her parents, Sam and Gussie.

In September 1942, aged just 19, he forged his mother’s signature to join the US Army. He had read about the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment so he applied to them and was accepted.

He was sent, as a private, to Toccoa in Georgia for training. This was extremely harsh. They had to walk 12 miles from their base to the training ground each day, and then 12 miles return in the evening.

Each Sunday there was a 25-mile route march scheduled. His unit were so used to walking, they completed it long before any other unit.

Lillian was unhappy with him joining up and very quickly this led to a divorce.

Then Edward was transferred to I (Item) Company in the 3rd Battalion and was sent to England, where he was promoted to become Operations Sergeant.

There he built the ‘sand tables’ that the airborne unit used, prior to the D-Day drop into Normandy. Sand tables are used by the military as the equivalent of maps, to show troops the terrain prior to attacking sandy areas (later used extensively in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan).

His first combat jump was on the 6th June 1944, D-Day, as part of Operation Overlord. Edward remembered shrapnel hitting their plane and tearing holes in some parachutes – but the drop still went ahead.

Edward was promoted in the field to Second Lieutenant. He was regarded stubborn and outspoken, expecting the highest standards of himself and of others. He became the first NCO in the 3rd Battalion to be promoted ‘in the field’.

He was then transferred to E (Easy) Company and put in charge of the 3rd Platoon. They were to become nicknamed the ‘Band of Brothers’.

He fought in Operation Market Garden and volunteered for Operation Pegasus, both in the Netherlands. In the latter, he was wounded in the left leg but carried on fighting.

Then he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. At Foy in Belgium, along with Sergeant Paul Rogers, he knocked out a German tank with a bazooka.

He was also there when the American Army came across the recently abandoned (by German troops), Dachau Concentration Camp at Landsberg in Germany. He was the first American to enter the camp and was appalled by what he saw. Being Jewish himself, it was particularly poignant.

From there, they captured Hitler’s lair, the ‘Eagle’s Nest’ at Berchtesgaden. He personally ‘liberated’ a case of cognac labelled “for the Fuhrer’s use only!” Years later, Edward used it to celebrate his eldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.

After the war he joined the National Security Agency as a Middle East specialist, where he remained until 1982.

He also married Ida Aframe in 1946 and they had two sons, Douglas and Steven.

Edward remained in the US Army reserve until 1973, when he retired as a Colonel.

In 1992, Stephen E. Ambrose wrote a best seller about his unit called the ‘Band of Brothers’.

In 2001, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg turned this into a TV series. Edward was advisor to the production.

Spielberg's Band of Brothers
Spielberg’s Band of Brothers (courtsey IMDb.jpg)

He was played by English actor Joseph May. In it, a Captain says, “Shames wouldn’t make a good leader. He’s seen too many war films and thinks he has to yell all the time.”

The scene with the bazooka and the tank, was recorded but was left out of the TV programme (for some unknown reason).

Ida and Edward travelled the world and made many lifelong friends. They were married for 73 years before Ida died in 2019.

Edward was the last surviving officer from the Band of Brothers.

One month before his death he was given the ‘Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Wings of Valor Award’ by the American Veterans Centre.

He died at his home in Virginia Beach, aged 99.

A tribute said, “The men of Easy Company personify honour, service, and decency. May they all rest in peace.”

The last survivor from the Band of Brothers was Private Bradford Freeman, who died in July 2022 aged 97.

RIP – Rescuer Invading (by) Parachute


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