The last remaining member of World War II’s Easy Company, the inspiration for HBO’s Band of Brothers, has passed away. Col. Edward Shames was the last living member of the U.S. Army’s Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment 101st Airborne Division. The unit was involved in many of the significant battles of the European theater and ended up cemented in the book by Stephen Ambrose and the later series adapted from their experience.
Shames “passed away peacefully at home,” according to his obituary from the Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home and Crematory in Norfolk, Virginia. In the HBO mini-series, Shames was portrayed by Joseph May in the episode “The Breaking Point.” This chapter recounts the struggles in the Ardennes forest during the Battle of the Bulge.
The late Virginia native was drafted at 20 shortly after the Pearl Harbor attacks, and his first combat mission was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, parachuting behind enemy lines to gain a foothold in Europe against the Nazi forces.
His record includes taking part in Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Pegasus in the Netherlands. He reached lieutenant in 1944 and was remembered in his obituary as “a stubborn and very outspoken soldier who demanded the highest of standards from himself and his fellow soldiers,” according to HuffPost.
Shames also brought part of the world back with him, a memento with weight from when Easy Company had made broken through to Adolf Hitler’s Eagles Nest. There he found “a few bottles of cognanc, a label indicating they were ‘for the Fuhrer’s use only.’ Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.” Shames was preceded by his wife Ida after 73 years of marriage.
Band of Brothers still lives on as one of the more accurate World War II tales in the media, alongside Saving Private Ryan. It premiered on HBO in 2001 and featured a slew of famous names that have become staples today, including Donnie Wahlberg, Damian Lewis, Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and many others.
It was followed by a mini-series titled The Pacific that aimed to tell a similar story through the setting of the Pacific Theater of the war.