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Death Of A Hero: SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers

You know, the word “hero” gets tossed around a lot these days. That’s not to say there aren’t heroes in our midst, there certainly are, but sometimes it’s just a good idea to sit back for a second and reflect on the word and its real meaning.

If you’re a fan of the HBO series “Band of Brothers”, then you know what real heroes look like. The paratroopers of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division were soldiers we got to know during that series through the depiction of their heroic actions throughout the unit’s fight through Europe.

They became real people on the screen. That’s because we got to know the real people the actors were portraying in a series of interviews with the survivors of the unit which were cut in at intervals throughout the film.

Well, with little notice or fanfare, one of Easy Company’s heroes made his final jump on June 17th of this year. SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers has joined the 101st immortals, passing away last month as a result of cancer. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, his death barely got a notice.

SSG Darell "Shifty" Powers, E Co, 2/506th PIR, 101st Abn Div WWII

SSG Darell "Shifty" Powers, E Co, 2/506th PIR, 101st Abn Div WWII

Today, members of the milblog community are holding a virtual memorial for Shifty Powers, a man who helps define the word hero. Here’s a portion of an email that has gone viral which does a much better job than I can in giving you an idea of who Shifty Powers was:

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry.

If you’ve seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the “Screaming Eagle”, the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.

Making conversation, I asked him if he’d been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st.

I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made. Quietly and humbly, he said “Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . . ” at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?”

At this point my heart stopped. I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was.

At that point he said “I also made a second jump into Holland, into Arnhem.”

I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day. I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France, and he said “Yes. And it’s real sad because these days so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can’t make the trip.”

My heart was in my throat and I didn’t know what to say. I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats.

When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I’d take his in coach. He said “No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy.” His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Today is a day to remember what he did and reflect on that. Of course his understated “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy” doesn’t even begin to describe what jumping into Normandy entailed:

“I could hear bullets and shrapnel hitting the plane. As I jumped out the door, I could see that the left motor was on fire.” – Darrell Shifty Powers talking about jumping over Normandy, France, on D-Day.

Real heroes really don’t talk about it much, and they usually don’t include themselves when they do.

There are some real heroes that live among us and they deserve more than just a passing notice when they die. Shifty Powers was one of those heroes.

May he rest in peace and in the acclaim for his deeds he so richly deserves.

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother

~McQ

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13 Responses to Death Of A Hero: SSG Darrell “Shifty” Powers

  • God bless Shifty.

  • Never saw BoB until this Memorial Day. Since then I’ve watched it about 5 times end to end. The first 10 minutes of Ep. 2, Day of Days, it’s just beyond comprehension what occurred that day. I can’t thank them enough. Their service makes me feel small and pathetic, which of course, is a small price to pay for not having had to jump out of plane onto German-occupied France.
    (paraphrasing)— Shifty to Maj. D. Winters in Ep 10: How will I tell the folks back in VA what I saw and did here in Europe?
    Maj. Winters: Just tell them you were a good soldier. That’s all they’ll need to know.
     
     

  • Bravo McQ.  Lest they be forgotten.

  • band of brothers is only the best war series of all time, is all.  the only thing i’ve ever seen that humbled me to the point of being proud to be from the same country as men like that. if you haven’t sen it, buy it, rent it, beg borrow or steal: it’s really that good.  as for sgt powers, her’s all you need to know about him: in one episode, easy co. is being fired upon by a german sniper from 300? 400? yards away. sgt lipton – who was quite something his own self – took off running to draw the sniper’s fire, and to give sgt powers a clean shot. before lipton took off  running *towards* the guy with a sniper rifle who was trying to kill him, he said, “don’t miss, shifty.”
    shifty powers didn’t miss. winners win, and powers made the shot. RIP.

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  • my father served in Korea and Vietnam, and was in the Navy then the Air Force, wich he retired from. so i grew up having great respect for our countries military. And my respect goes out to you. as i type this i salute you. and as i do for vets when called for, im going to crack open a budweiser for you. to you shifty i say thanks.

    p.s. if you meet my dad up there let him know i drank one for him also

  • RIP, Shifty!! You did much more than your duty!
     
    And my sincere and profound thanks to you, Bruce, for that wonderful and moving account of Shifty’s life.
    As the adage goes, they just don’t make them like that anymore.
     

  • For those who fought for it peace has a meaning the protected will never know.  RIP

  • Shifty, like so many of your generation, you answered a call to duty. You didn’t have to, but you did. Speaking for my family, thank you for your devoted service to our country. May you rest in peace soldier for a job well done.

  • Rest in peace Shifty! You Guys gave to save “freedom”. Let us all be thankfull for our veterans. Airborne! “All the Way”