Col. Edward Shames — a World War II veteran who fought in some of the most significant battles and was the last surviving officer of the company that inspired the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" — has died at age 99.
Shames died peacefully at his home in Virginia Beach on Friday, according to an obituary posted by the Holomon-Brown Funeral Home & Crematory. Shames was preceded in death by his wife — Ida — who died in 2019 after 73 years of marriage. He is survived by his sons Douglas and Steven, four grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
Shames was a member of the renowned "Easy Company," 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Easy Company was the subject of Stephen Ambrose's 1992 book "Band of Brothers." The book became the inspiration for the 2001 HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Shames wasn't interested in being drafted for the war, but he wanted to be part of "something different." He read a newspaper advertisement for an experimental parachute infantry.
In 1942, he went to Ft. Monroe in Virginia to sign up for the brand new 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Shames was 19 years old at the time, but applicants for the new unit had to be at least age 21 or have written permission from a parent. Shames wanted to be part of the new military unit so badly that he lied to the recruiter and said that his mother was outside sitting in the car. He forged her signature to allow him to enter the parachute unit.
There were 7,000 young men who tried out for the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, but the U.S. military only wanted the top 2,500. Edward Shames made the cut of "2,500 of the finest men in the country," according to the military legend.
"After a grueling training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, Shames helped plan the Normandy invasion by constructing a 3D model of the beaches using a large box filled with soil," the Virginia-Pilot reported.
Shames made his first combat jump into Normandy, France, on D-Day as part of Operation Overlord.
"He volunteered for Operation Pegasus and then fought with Easy Company in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne,” according to the obituary.
"Frightening, scary, wondering if you're going to be alive the next morning – that's about the description of the jump itself," Shames said in an American Veterans Center video.
Shames was the first member of the 101st to enter the Dachau concentration camp in Germany days after its liberation.
"When Germany surrendered, Ed and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler's Eagle's Nest where Ed managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, 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," the obituary noted.
After WWII, Shames worked for the National Security Agency as an expert on Middle East affairs. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve Division, and would retire as a colonel.
Easy Company Veteran Edward Shames describes combat with the 101st from D-Day to the Eagle's Nestwww.youtube.com