At 2030 on the night of 5 June 1944, under an overcast sky, the 139 men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne, left their encampment at Uppottery Airfield in England, and marched for the C-47s that would carry them to France, and open the invasion of Europe. The C-47s of the 439th Troop Carrier Group, 50th Troop Carrier Wing were capable of hauling over three tons of cargo, or 18 fully loaded paratroopers.
One of Easy Company's most capable officers and a leader of the company since its formation in Toccoa, Georgia was 1st Lt. Richard Winters, from the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania. He had enlisted in the Army after college, volunteered for the paratroopers, and risen to become the company's second ranking officer. At 26 years of age, Winters commanded the company's 1st Platoon. Winters is standing bareheaded in the center of his platoon, holding a letter from Col. Robert Sink, which states in part " tonight is the Night of Nights". At 2225 the paratroopers climbed aboard, and at 2313, they were airborne.
13,000 paratroopers were carried to France that night, in 821 aircraft. Although chaos erupted, it was as confusing for the Germans as for the jumpers. Only 21 C-47s were lost to enemy fire, but the Company Commander Meehan was killed in a C-47 that went down, so on D-Day Winters assumed command of Easy Company, and they would spend the next 23 days in the combat zone. Dick Winters led the men of Easy Company across Europe until the end of the War.
A supplemental certificate accompanies this Signer's Proof lithograph of We Were a Band of Brothers, to guarantee the authenticity of the original signatures which appear upon it, as witnessed by the artist and / or its publishers. As noted on the main Certificate of Authenticity which accompanies all numbered prints in the edition, this is one of 150 Signer's Proofs, which although signed by the artist, are not numbered. In addition to the artist's signature, some may also bear various combinations of the 16 veterans who participated in signing other editions of this lithograph title in 2003, as listed on the main Certificate.
When publishing a limited-edition lithograph bearing original signatures, a certain quantity of the total lithographs printed are given as tokens of appreciation to the signers themselves, for their own use. When multiple World War II veterans are participating in a signing effort such as this, it is extremely difficult to predict the exact number of these special prints in advance that will be available for them once the numbered editions are signed. In view of this, they are given the notation "S/P" or "Signer's Proof", appearing near the artist's signature or just under the image itself. In the case of SPs bearing additional signatures, a notation is also sometimes made as to the location and dates the signing took place.
SIGNING WE WERE A BAND OF BROTHERS
In 2003, the various lithograph editions of John D. Shaw's painting We Were a Band of Brothers were signed in several locations in Pennsylvania and Florida by D-Day veterans who served with the 101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, "Easy" Company, made famous in the popular "Band of Brothers" book by Steven Ambrose and HBO Miniseries. A total of sixteen veterans contributed to this effort in these locations. The numbered editions offered for sale by its original publishers, Liberty Studios and Ghost Wings Magazine, were available with combinations of: artist-only, 2-signature, 8-signature, 13-signature,14 signature and 16-signature versions, noted in the "editions" box on the main certificate of authenticity.
Easy Company's wartime commanding officer, Major Richard Winters signed a quantity of prints at his home in Hershey, Pennsylvania, attended by his wife Ethel, artist Shaw of Liberty Studios, and Robert, Adam and Bryan Makos of Ghost Wings Magazine (which would later become Valor Magazine / Publishing). Shaw recalls of this day, "Major Winters projected a very strong presence; he took everything very seriously, though always with warmth. I was very impressed by the fact that whenever he would speak, he was extremely "thought-ful"; more than just about anyone I've ever met, he'd choose what he'd have to say very carefully, desiring even the smallest thing he had to say to be thoroughly understood. No wonder he was such an extraordinary leader."
The major quantity of prints were signed at two gatherings, first in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, including Easy Company veterans McClung, Strohl, Joint, Bellino, Shames, Guth, Lamoureux, Lesniewski, Lyall and Clark. A great time was had by all at this several-day event, where many stories were shared of their days together. Every one of them expressed enjoyment in participating in a "mission" together once again after many years, especially one which did not threaten life or limb! Following these few days together, another group met to sign, this time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "Wild Bill" Guarnere met his two old friends, Lynn "Buck Compton and Don Malarkey, who again shared many great recollections, humorous anecdotes and personal stories. After these events, each one of the signers was given at least three to five prints which had been signed by anywhere from 8 to 13 participants, and at least five signed by the artist only.
In Florida, two additional veterans signed prints as well; Buck Taylor, at his home on the central Atlantic coast, and C-47 pilot Bud Berry, who flew the paratroopers into Normandy during those fateful early morning hours on June 6, 1944. Both these great veterans enjoyed the opportunity to participate with the lithograph project, and regretted not being able to attend the larger previous gathering in Pennsylvania.Signatures include these Easy Company veterans, all of whom participated in the allied airborne invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944:SIGNATURES:
Major Richard "Dick" Winters
Salvatore F. Bellino
Maxwell M. Clark
Lynn P. "Buck" Compton
William J. "Wild Bill" Guarnere
Forrest L. Guth
Edward J. Joint
Paul E. Lamoreaux
Joseph A. Lesniewski
Clarence O. Lyall
Donald G. Malarkey
Earl V. McClung
Edward D. Shames
Roderick G. Strohl
Amos "Buck" Taylor
Bud Berry - 439th Troop Carrier Group pilot