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WWII’s ‘Band of Brothers’ last surviving officer dies at 99

Col. Edward Shames of the Band of Brothers in 2013. (Staff Sgt. Jennifer Rechtfertig/Minnesota National Guard)
December 07, 2021

Col. Edward Shames, the last surviving officer and oldest surviving member of the “Band of Brothers” who fought together in World War II, passed away peacefully at his home on Friday at the age of 99.

According to an obituary from the Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home & Crematory, Shames was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 13, 1922. In August 1942, Shames joined the war as part of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, famously known as the “Band of Brothers.”

“We mourn the loss of this legend,” the United States Army tweeted. “We will continue to be worthy of your service.”

Shames was part of some of the most critical battles of the war, including making his first combat jump into Normandy on D-Day as part of Operation Overlord. He also volunteered for Operation Pegasus and 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,” the obituary stated.

Shames was the first non-commissioned officer in the Third Battalion to be commissioned in Normandy. He was also the first member of the Band of Brothers to walk into Dachau concentration camp after its liberation.

When Germany surrendered, Shames joined his brothers in arms in Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where he obtained several bottles of cognac featuring labels that stated they were “for the Fuhrer’s use only.”

Shames later used the cognac to toast his son’s Bar Mitzvah.

Roughly one month before his death, the American Veterans Center honored Shames at its annual Veterans Conference and Honors program, presenting him with the distinguished Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Wings of Valor Award.

Shames retired as a Colonel and was preceded in death by his devoted and beloved wife, Ida, to whom he was married for 73 years.

The WWII veteran is survived by his beloved family: his sons, Steven (Linda) and Douglas (Ilene); his grandchildren, Sarah (Matthew), Samuel (Holly), Aaron (Rachel), and Rebecca (Anthony); and his 12 great-grandchildren.

“This feels like the end of something,” 18 Airborne Corps tweeted. “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.”

The last surviving member of Easy Company is 97-year-old Bradford Freeman, Deadline reported.