D-Day: Statue of 'Band of Brothers' hero Richard Winters unveiled

(CBS News) Along the Normandy coast in Saint-Marie du Mont France, people gathered to unveil a statue to Maj. Dick Winters and to all junior officers who led American men on D-Day, 68 years ago.

Wednesday marks the 68th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, D-Day.

On that day, 73,000-thousand American GI's stormed Normandy's beaches and helped save the world. But 13,000 paratroopers had already jumped behind enemy lines hours before.

Sgt. Bill Guarnere, now 89, was one of them. In June of 1944 Guarnere was a 21-year-old from South Philadelphia. He belonged to Company E of the 101st Airborne, nicknamed "Easy Company." None of them had ever seen combat.

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More about Dick Winters

Easy Company's commander had been killed in the jump. Lt. Dick Winters found himself in charge. The 26-year-old's first battlefield was part of the largest amphibious assault in history.

"He led us all the way," Guarnere said of Winters.

The heroics of Easy Company inspired the acclaimed HBO series, "Band of Brothers," based on historian Stephen Ambrose's best-selling book.

Eight hours after they landed, Winters led a dozen men in an attack in Brecourt Manor. Fifty German soldiers in trenches guarded an artillery battery and its four heavy guns shelling Omaha Beach.

Winters improvised an attack on a fixed position that's still taught at West Point. Easy Company destroyed all four guns. He personally seized military maps revealing the German army's positions all along the Normandy coast.

Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest medal for valor. He retired to his hometown of Lancaster, Penn., and died last year at 92.

Watch: Andy Rooney on D-Day (1979)

Jordan Brown also lives in Lancaster. In Winters' heroism, Brown discovered a cause. "Letting them know that they are not forgotten, that they are remembered," Brown said.

D-Day hero returns to Normandy 67 years later

Two years ago, when Jordan was 11, he read about people raising money to build a statue of Winters in Normandy. Jordan began selling bracelets inscribed with Winter's motto: "Hang Tough." The Winters statue costs $250,000. Jordan alone raised $99,000.

Jordan spoke last today at the ceremony honoring Winters. He represents a new generation saluting the Greatest Generation.

"He was always honest with his men," Jordan said. "Therefore they trusted him. He never thought of himself as anything special. Not even after the war."

Winters never sought attention. He was known for his humility as much as his heroics. But in 2000, he gave an interview that closed the "Band of Brothers" saga.

"My grandson asked me, 'Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?'" Winters said. "Grandpa said no. But I did serve in a company of heroes.

Guarnere still lives in South Philadelphia. Until "Band of Brothers" came out, his son, a Vietnam veteran, never knew what his father had done during the war.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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