The Men of Easy Company-Part I: Warren “Skip” Muck

by A Manly Guest Contributor on October 20, 2010 · 19 comments

in Blog

Editor’s note: In the weeks preceding the US observance of Veteran’s Day, we will be publishing a three part series of short profiles written by Marcus Brotherton about the men from WWII’s Easy Company. Brotherton is the author of several books about this famous Band of Brothers.

As a young man he swam the fast-flowing Niagara River at night as part of a fraternity initiation, fought battles on behalf of his unathletic older brother Elmer, worked part time jobs to buy clothes for his younger sister Ruth, and assumed the role of man in the family after his father, a traveling jazz musician, virtually abandoned his family for the sake of his career.

People who knew him say everybody simply loved Warren “Skip” Muck. Even today, more than 60 years after his death, people say they miss the man. This past summer the residents of his hometown, Tonawanda, NY, erected a war memorial with a special emphasis on remembering him.

What made Skip Muck a man we can learn from?

Like most people, Skip grew up with a mix of positive opportunities and painful givens. Yet despite his setbacks, he chose to see the world with optimism. It started at an early age. As a kid, Warren Muck never walked anywhere. He was a cheerful boy who found joy in the simplest of activities—like moving from point A to B. Whenever he moved, he skipped. That’s how he got the nickname, which stuck into his adult years.

When World War II hit, Skip enlisted to become a paratrooper with Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne, the men who would later become known as the Band of Brothers. Skip loved being a paratrooper, even though the training proved brutal. After a 120-mile march with full gear from Toccoa to Atlanta, his friend Don Malarkey’s legs were so sore from the weight and constant pounding of carrying a mortar unit on his back he could only crawl. He began to head to the mess tent on all fours. When Skip spotted Don he grabbed both mess kits and said, “No friend of mine crawls anywhere.” Skip went and filled both mess kits with food and came back to the tent to eat with Don.

PFC Tony Garcia was a replacement in Skip’s mortar squad, and under Skip’s command. Tony said that once he went off base one weekend without a pass while in England to have a little fun, and Skip found out about it. Skip could have turned him in and gotten him tossed out of Easy Company, but instead, he just chewed him out and ended it there. Tony was always grateful to Skip for his flexibility, and never put Skip on the spot again.

Little is recorded about Skip’s involvement with specific battles, but a clipping from the Buffalo Evening News names Skip as part of a small force of 101st Airborne paratroopers who turned the tables on a larger group of German paratroopers north of Nijmegan. Skip was awarded a Bronze Star for courage during this battle.

The battle would be one of his last. On January 9, 1944, Skip and his good friend, Alex Penkala, were huddled in the snowy Bois Jacques woods during an artillery barrage when an enemy shell hit their foxhole and exploded. A friend ran to check on Skip and Alex but found only pieces of their bodies and part of an old sleeping bag.

Today, the men of Easy Company are hesitant to talk about Skip. It still brings up too many painful memories. When they do talk, they describe him as the best-liked man in the company. 1st Sgt. Les Hashey said simply, “We all loved him.”

Actor Richard Speight, who portrayed Skip in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, and later spoke at the memorial dedication in Tonawanda, studied people’s recollections of Skip extensively as part of the preparation for the series and has remained a close friend of Skip’s family ever since. When asked what made Skip so admirable, Richard’s wrote:

I don’t think his legacy is a military one. I believe it’s more universal and grander in scope. Skip serves as an enduring example of one who thinks not of himself but of the people and the world around him. Those are the ones who truly make a difference.

It would be easy to attribute Skip’s heroism to some special power, some unique gift he and others like him possess that we regular folk don’t. But the truth is, he was just a man who dug down deep inside and found the courage, strength, and drive to do what was needed.

He has left me and countless others wondering if we would have made the same choices. Would we have found that courage in ourselves? Do I have the strength of character to do what needs to be done?

The Men of Easy Company Series
Part I: Warren “Skip” Muck
Part II: Robert Rader
Part III: Ron Speirs
___________________________________________

Marcus Brotherton’s most recent book is A COMPANY OF HEROES, where he interviewed relatives of deceased E Co veterans.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave October 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

One thing you might want to make clear, is that you are talking about Easy Company with the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. I’m sure there were multiple “Easy Companies”.

2 Dave October 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Awesome article by the way!

3 Bobby October 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Nice!! These are the types of articles we can all learn from, unlike articles about art and sweaters. For anyone who hasn’t watched the Band of Brothers HBO mini-series, I highly recommend it. These men are true American heroes.

4 Adam October 21, 2010 at 1:35 am

I will definately look forward to more articles about the men of Easy. They are true American heroes, unsung. If you have not seen the series make a point to buy it, you wont be disappointed.

5 Steve October 21, 2010 at 6:30 am

Good article, you can never read enough about the greatest generation.
One thing though, I hate to be a pedant, but it should read 9th January 1945, not 1944 upon which this brave man died.

6 David October 21, 2010 at 7:27 am

Does it mean anything that there are 5 comments on this post – and already there are 11 on trench-coats? Maybe – maybe not. People will draw their own conclusions…

But to my mind, these guys were the greatest generation, as Steve mentioned; and bring far more to the table of what it means to be a man than how to rock a Bogyesque trench coat. Not saying that both don’t have a place – just that the disparity between comments is telling.

Perhaps it’s just easier (no pun intended) to talk about trenchcoats than it is to talk about men who died so long ago it almost borders on the irrelevant to us today, in a war that we mostly have no immediate experience of, for ideals that seems to be increasingly out of favor in our society. After all, I can buy a coat or look at a painting but how can I experience Easy Company-ness?

Which makes these articles all the more important. I cannot imagine being so loved by my brothers – that the mere thought of my memory causes deep emotions to churn. Speight’s words at the end of the article should make all men everywhere stop and reflect deeply on the choices they are making. Sure – buy a trenchcoat. It’s not ethically wrong to do so. But consider getting a coat for an unemployed friend ‘just coz’, or helping the neighbour paint his house because he’s too infirm (even tho the guy’s an ass!), buying your wife a coat instead. These are small things that will not generally cause you to die in a shelling, but Skip was not loved because he died – but because he was genuinely interested in thinking of others first before he died.

And that is something we all can do.

7 Brandon October 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

I never get tired of reading about these guys. I will thoroughly enjoy reading this series. AoM should do more….

8 Ismael October 21, 2010 at 9:50 am

Can’t wait for the next article. I bought “Band of Brothers” mini series and watched it with my son. Awesome…

9 Bill October 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

something that I think is often overlooked about these men, is after the war, they came back and went back to work, carrying with them the nightmares and memories of these events they lived through, the deaths of friends, the reality that they had killed, and so much more, but did their jobs without complaint.

I good friend of mine is the son of a man that was a replacement troop in WW2. He arrived one week after D-day. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, and only a handful of men in his platoon survived that battle. He was a 1919 gunner. He lived to his later 80′s, finally succumming to emphazema. When he returned from the war, he started a machine shop and built hot rods and dragster engines into the early 70′s. He was a 32nd level Mason and a Shriner.. He was a man.

10 Mark October 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Should say January 1945, not ’44

11 Eileen October 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Warren “Skip” Muck was my uncle…. my mother was his sister. Many thanks to Marcus Brotherson for telling his story again. The memorial dedication in the City of Tonawanda this past July 3rd drew close to 2,000 people, who gathered to honor “All Heroes” from our hometown, with special stones honoring Uncle Skip (one of the Band of Brothers) and the Niland Brothers (the basis for Saving Private Ryan). He was indeed a very special man…. I miss the man I never got a chance to meet.

12 Chris Kavanaugh October 21, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I was 5 years old and visiting my grandfather at the V.A. hospital. He was a artillaryman in WW1 and a ‘Polar Bear’ in the abortive Murmansk campaign vs the Bolsheviks. My uncle, a P 61 pilot told me to hold the door. I did and shook hands with a Spanish American War veteran. I remembered being afraid I’d slip into the huge men’s urinals. The younger vets were all Korea or Berlin Wall europe. Now my grandfather and his generation are gone, My uncle is and his generation rapidly dwindling.
And I’m in this twilight zone of a unpopular war and the only change is some of us somehow can’t even hit those urinals made small by aging eyes and we already have another generation who seem younger than we were at 18.
I wil not deny ‘The Greatest Generation’ I just wish somebody might affirm we’ve had lots of Skips in the ones that followed and to come. ‘Thankyou for your service’ rings about as hollow as ‘have a nice day.’ Better to give us movies and T.V.series with more empathy than M.A.S.H. and Apocalypse Now.

13 Mark October 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Thanks to Brett for another great post. The more stuff I read on this site…the more I think…where did things change, and where did manliness take a turn? It is very seldom that I see anything, in my day to day, that even comes close to the way men were back in the day.

14 Reg October 22, 2010 at 3:27 am

To be correct . Both Skip and Alex were KIA in thye Fazone Woods . Not the Jack woods .

Reg

15 Alex October 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

Thanks for a great article, I look forward to the rest. More people need to be aware of how great heroes defended our nation.

16 Egor October 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The first thing I would like to say is that it’s always wonderful when you can put a face to heroism. It gives people something concrete to relate to and is instrumental in passing on lessons of life and love to another generation. Men such as Mr. Warren Muck are what we should all strive to in a figurative sense.

However, the main point I would like to make is that throughout human history, but here, namely with respect to WWII, the truth is so obscured. Forgive me for interjecting with a statement slightly off-topic, but it always causes me great grief to see WWII with no mention of Russia and the Red Army. That war so completely permeates Russian history that when I hear the British speak as though they were the be all and end all in that conflict I want to scream. If I may be so bold I urge everyone with half an interest in the greatest conflict of, quite possibly, human history to take a minute and read about the Eastern front. Russia lost 20 million people in those five years, and what’s most painful is that post-war politics has reduced that sacrifice to something rather tenuous from the Western perspective.

On a positive note, however, it was a beautiful thing that this year, the Victory Parade on the Red Square in Moscow had representation from all over the world, France, U.K., the States; that sort of military friendship is the way to avoid conflict and promote peace.

Thank you for remembering our grandfathers.

17 Adam October 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Thanks for the great article! Skip was my great uncle (my grandfather was his brother Elmer).

When I was in elementary school I did a project where I had to interview my grandfather. As much as he tried, he couldn’t bring himself to talk about his lost brother. Thank you for sharing his story.

18 Elaince November 7, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Adam — we are closely related thru the Muck family. Please email me off-list at oharalibr@yahoo.com

19 Ronald February 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Warren skip Muck and Alex Penkala were KIA in Bois Gorsse Heze and not in the Fazon Woods

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