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.”