Donald Malarkey, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division’s famous Easy Company in World War II and one of the last surviving members of the “Band of Brothers,” has passed away at age 96. Famous for his D-Day heroism with the rest of the Normandy Invasion troops, he wrote an autobiography of his service as well as being featured in the book and miniseries, Band of Brothers. He was the oldest surviving member of WWII’s Easy Company when he passed away on September 30.
A recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Malarkey was also awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest military honor, in 2009. He volunteered to be a paratrooper following the attack on Pearl Harbor and was assigned to the Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. He would begin his WWII fighting on D-Day and continue through the Battle of the Bulge.
D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944, with the Allies storming the beaches of Normandy, France. From land, sea, and air, the U.S. military led the assault on five beachfronts along with troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries. The 101st Airborne Division parachuted onto Utah Beach. It was an intensely bloody and hard-fought battle, with an estimated 10,000 Allied casualties, but the Allies’ victory there paved the way for the liberation of the Western Front and the eventual defeat of the Nazis.
However, the heroics of Malarkey and the rest of Easy Company went far beyond that of D-Day.
Malarkey was part of the original Easy Company, comprised of 140 men, which dropped behind enemy lines ahead of the Allies’ arrival in Normandy on D-Day. They were joined by various other divisions, including the 82nd Airborne Division, the 4th Infantry Division, and the 90th Infantry Division on Utah Beach. After the victory, the U.S. troops made their way into France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Their many battles following D-Day included the long-fought Battle of the Bulge, which decidedly turned the tables of the war and led to the defeat of the Nazis.
Tech Sergeant Don Malarkey returned home to Oregon after the war, where he married, worked, and raised a family. However, his service stayed with him his entire life. He wrote an autobiography, Easy Company Soldier, detailing his time during World War II and the stories of the men he served with. He also made trips overseas to visit troops fighting in the Iraq War.
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“You could look back and with great pride realize that you had done a very significant thing and acted responsibly in what amounted to saving the world,” said Malarkey in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Malarkey and the other members of the Easy Company, 101st Airborne Division were immortalized in the book by Stephen E. Ambrose and television miniseries, both titled Band of Brothers. Actor Scott Grimes portrayed Donald Malarkey in the HBO miniseries. His legacy, and that of his fellow soldiers, is preserved for future generations to remember through the book and television show, as well as his own autobiography of his service, Easy Company Soldier.
He lived his life in Oregon, where he was born, and married Irene Moore after World War II. The couple had four children.
The Veterans Site remembers Donald Malarkey with respect and gratitude for his courage on the battlefield and his dedication as an American hero and family man.
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.