Col. Edward Shames, the last surviving member of the World War II military unit portrayed in HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” died Friday at age 99.
Shames was part of the U.S. Army’s Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, a highly regarded unit of parachute infantrymen who saw combat in many of the conflict’s most famous battles.
He “passed away peacefully at home,” according to an obituary posted by Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home & Crematory in Norfolk, Virginia.
In “Band of Brothers,” a 10-part miniseries about the company that debuted in 2001, Shames was portrayed by the actor Joseph May in one credited episode, “The Breaking Point,” in which the company holes up in the freezing Ardennes forest amid near-constant shelling. Damian Lewis starred as Maj. Richard Winters alongside a cast that included Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender, Ron Livingston, David Schwimmer and, briefly, Jimmy Fallon.
The series earned an Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series in 2002.
The real Shames, a Virginia native, was drafted into the military in 1942 at age 20.
His first combat mission involved parachuting into Normandy on D-Day as part of Operation Overload, and he later fought with Easy Company in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and in the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, France, according to his obituary. He also volunteered for Operation Pegasus, carried out in the Netherlands.
“Ed gained a reputation as a stubborn and very outspoken soldier who demanded the highest of standards from himself and his fellow soldiers,” the obituary read. He was promoted to second lieutenant in 1944.
Shames was the first member of his unit to set foot in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany just days after its liberation, according to the obituary.
When Germany surrendered, Easy Company made its way up to Adolf 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,’” per the obituary.
“Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah,” it said.
Shames was preceded by “his devoted and beloved wife, Ida,” to whom he was married for 73 years.