Who were the 'Band of Brothers'? Bradford Freeman, last surviving member of Easy Company dies at 97

Freeman parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, fought in Operation Market-Garden, and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge


                            Who were the 'Band of Brothers'? Bradford Freeman, last surviving member of Easy Company dies at 97
Bradford Freeman who was a World War II veteran died at the age of 97 (Jacob Staples /Facebook)
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The last surviving member of the famed "Band of Brothers", Bradford Freeman who was a World War II veteran died at the age of 97, his family confirmed on Tuesday, July 5. Freeman died Sunday at Baptist Memorial Hospital–Golden Triangle, according to Lowndes Funeral Home in Columbus, Mississippi. Freeman was born in Artesia, Mississippi, and a graveside funeral service will be held Friday, July 8 in Caledonia, Mississippi, where he lived, according to the obituary.

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Bradford Freeman was born on September 4, 1924 in Mississippi. Before the war, he attended Mississippi State University but dropped out so he could enlist in the Army in December 1942. After he enlisted in the military in 1942, Freeman volunteered to become a paratrooper for the Army, which later assigned him as a mortarman in Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, known as Easy Company which he joined in England in February 1944.

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Freeman parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, fought in Operation Market-Garden, and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, later participating in the occupations of Berchtesgaden, Germany, and Austria. “After the war, he returned to Caledonia and married Willie Louise Gurley on June 29, 1947, and worked as a mail carrier for 32 years,” the obituary read.

The University of New Orleans historian Stephen E Ambrose’s 'Band of Brothers', which was a research-based book on the members of the Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, and its members during World War II served as an inspiration for the 2001 American war drama miniseries titled with the same title. It was created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who also served as executive producers, and who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan. 

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Freeman volunteered to become a paratrooper for the Army, which later assigned him as a mortarman in Company E in 1942 (Jason Johnson/Facebook)

Freeman parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, fought in Operation Market-Garden, and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, later participating in the occupations of Berchtesgaden, Germany, and Austria. “After the war, he returned to Caledonia and married Willie Louise Gurley on June 29, 1947, and worked as a mail carrier for 32 years,” the obituary read.

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The University of New Orleans historian Stephen E Ambrose’s 'Band of Brothers', which was a research-based book on the members of the Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, and its members during World War II served as an inspiration for the 2001 American war drama miniseries titled with the same title. It was created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who also served as executive producers, and who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan.

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Bradford Freeman (pictured) in 1942 (The Gettysburg Museum Of History/Facebook)

Who were the Easy Company?

The East Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division was created in 1942. In Easy Freeman was assigned to Sgt. Donald Malarkey's 4th squad in Dick Winters' 1st platoon. In addition to his other equipment, Freeman was weighed down by the eighteen-pound mortar baseplate that was strapped to his chest. Freeman fought in the Siege of Bastogne without incident but was wounded during the attack on Noville on January 14th, 1945. He and Private Ed Joint were hit in the woods outside of Recogne by the same German Nebelwerfer rocket.

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Freeman was a "kind, generous and humorous gentleman," family friend David Simmons said, NBC News reported. "He went to three schools, spoke, answered lots of questions, and it was apparent he had a brilliant memory of each event he experienced," Simmons said.

Freeman was a mortarman, dropping onto the French shore in 1944 with an 18-pound mortar baseplate on his chest, according to Columbus Air Force Base, which honored his service last year. Last year on September 4th, Freeman’s birthday, a flag was presented to him by the 43rd Flying Training Squadron and Barlow. During the celebration, at which the base presented Freeman with a challenge coin, he offered brief remarks thanking people at the gathering. "Me and my buddies did a job for America. … Now it’s time for new faces to take up the cause," Freeman said.

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Post-war, Freeman married Willie Girley, a childhood friend, in June 1947. The couple had two daughters. Freeman left behind his sister, two daughters, four grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. “Our dad was always astounded that a country boy from Mississippi was able to see so many places and meet so many interesting people,” the obituary said.

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