In the 2001 American war drama mini-series titled Band of Brothers based on Stephen Ambrose’s non-fiction book, Captain Lewis Nixon III was one of the officers of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division when it aired on HBO beginning September 9, 2001. Perhaps the most interesting thing about him was that he made three combat jumps in WWII and the only shots he ever fired throughout the war were shots of his favorite blended whiskey, Vat 69.

A Wealthy And Privileged Beginning

Cpt Lewis Nixon
Cpt Lewis Nixon (US Army, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Born Lewis Nixon III on September 30, 1918, in New York City, he was the eldest of the three children of Stanhope Wood Nixon and Doris Ryer Nixon. His baby brother named Fletcher Ryer died as an infant, leaving him and his sister Blanche. He seemed to have taken his grandfather’s shipbuilding talent as he took third place in the model yacht regatta at Conservatory Lake in Central Park when he was seven years old, earning gold and bronze medals in the 35-inch boat class. His family soon moved to Montecito, California, where he lived as a youth. He was able to explore and travel the world extensively before the war tore apart the countries with Hitler’s rise to power— England, France, Germany, as they lived wealthy and privileged lives. He finished his high school at Cate School in Santa Barbara and attended Yale University in New Haven in Connecticut for two years before life snatched him into a different direction. Just shortly after he got married to his first wife, Nixon enlisted in the US Army in Trenton, New Jersey. A huge turning point in his life.

Preparing For War

By the end of 1941, Nixon was in and attending the Basic Training at Camp Croft in South Carolina, as he was selected into the US Army. At that same time, Richard Winters was doing the same. However, they would not meet until Army Officer Cadet School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where they would both graduate as Second Lieutenants. Even so, they did not become good friends yet as they parted ways after being assigned to different units. Nixon served as a Military Police unit after being ordered to Fort Ord, California. He then volunteered as a Paratrooper and was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion (Easy Company) of the 506th parachute Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. That’s where he got reunited with Winters and where they also met their nemisis, Herbert Sobel.

Sobel was the 1st Lieutenant and in command of the airborne training of Easy Company. He was strict as a leader in training but incompetent in the field and hated by his men who all but mutinied against him, resulting in his reassignment to a non-combat job.  Winters, on the other hand, became First Lieutenant while Nixon was made the commander of the second platoon.

The 506th regiment was independent until it became part of the 101st Airborne Division in June 1943. Soon, they went through the regimental unit training at many locations throughout the United States before they were shipped over to Aldbourne in England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.

Normandy Tales

American soldiers in Utah beach. (Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

On June 6, 1944, around 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel into France as the beginning of the Allied Invasion of Normandy. Nixon was one of them, arriving by parachute before rushing to locate Winters and then running three miles to Utah Beach so he could act as liaison in the chain of command.

After they fought in the Battle of Carentan, Nixon was promoted as an intelligence officer. Winters, on the other hand, was moved up to Captain. During Operation Market Garden, when they tried to recapture Holland from the Nazis, Nixon was almost killed when a stray bullet hit his helmet. Fortunately, he got nothing but a scratch on his head before the bullet exited on the other side.

Love For Whiskey

Throughout the war, and even when he spent much of his time on the front lines of the most intense battles, he never really fired a single shot in combat. And as portrayed in the Band of Brothers, he was never without whiskey, regardless of which company he was. His serious love for Vat 69 would play a part in his demotion from the staff at the regiment back down to the battalion level before the war ended. His alcohol problem got worse when he received the telegram version of a Dear John letter from his wife, letting him know that she was divorcing him. As Winters mentioned, “Nixon was a hard man to get out of the sack in the morning.”

A bottle of Whisky VAT69 (AlMareCC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Drinking aside, Nixon made the combat drop at Normany, and Operation Market-Garden and was assigned as an observer for the 17th Airborne Division drop behind the Rhine for Operation Varsity. On this, his last drop, the C-47 transport he was in was hit by flak near the drop zone, and only Nixon and three others made it out the door alive before it crashed.  Nixon was also present during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. On April 28, 1945, Nixon and Easy Company arrived at the Kaufering IV concentration camp in Landsberg am Lech and saw with their own eyes the horrors of the Holocaust— the Nazis decided to burn the camp barracks with the prisoners locked inside them as  Allied troops approached. Two days later, Hiter would commit suicide, and the 506th with Captain Winters serving as battalion XO would be tasked to recapture the dictator’s “Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden. When Winters discovered a vast underground cellar filled with stolen booze and wine collected by Herman Goering, he gave Nixon first choice of what he wanted.

When the war ended, and Nixon went back home to run the family businesses, he took Dick Winters with him and offered him a job in the management of the Nixon Nitration Works in New Jersey. Nixon had another failed marriage before he met his third wife and true love, Grace Umezawa, whom he spent the rest of his life traveling around the world just like in the old times. He eventually quit drinking and lived a happy life until his death on January 11, 1995. Winters was the one who delivered the eulogy, telling about the strong bond that they forged in a war that lasted throughout their lifetimes.

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