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C. Carwood Lipton, 81; D-day Paratrooper Was a Member of the 'Band of Brothers'

December 28, 2001|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He was among the wave of American paratroopers who dropped behind Utah Beach in Normandy during the early hours of the D-day invasion on June 6, 1944.

He lost his rifle and ammunition on the way down and landed in the walled-in backyard of a house. Climbing over a gate, he realized he was separated from his unit and several miles from the target area. But at a roadside, he heard the familiar metallic click from a dime-store cricket toy--a signal from a fellow member of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

C. Carwood Lipton, one of the original members of the Army combat company immortalized in Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 bestseller "Band of Brothers," has died. He was 81.

Lipton, one of many Easy Company veterans interviewed by Ambrose and the one who provided the historian with the title for the book on which the recent HBO series was based, died Dec. 16 of complications from a lung condition at a hospital in Pinehurst, N.C.

After reuniting with his fellow Easy Company paratroopers on D-day, Lipton helped wipe out a German gun battery, for which he earned a Bronze Star.

By war's end, the 25-year-old West Virginian had been awarded a second Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts--along with a battlefield commission to second lieutenant--in action that included parachuting into Holland and Belgium, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, and capturing Adolf Hitler's Eagle's Nest retreat at Berchtesgaden.

Only 19 From Original Group Survive

Word of Lipton's death echoed among the remaining original members of the company, who now number 19.

"All the fellas are calling and sending cards," said Lipton's wife, Marie, from her home in Southern Pines, N.C. "Like I say, they are a band of brothers."

Among the callers was Donnie Wahlberg, who played Lipton in the 10-hour HBO series that aired in the fall. The actor got to know the retired glass company executive during filming of the series in England.

"I don't think I spent one day in front of the camera that I did not speak to him the night before," Wahlberg said. "He was so clear in his recollection of things. I would take what he and I talked about and I'd bring that to the set every day and try to incorporate it."

But the first time he spoke to Lipton, Wahlberg said, "was very intimidating."

"He was an amazing soldier, and to step into someone's shoes who was as accomplished as him with no experience in that world myself was scary," Wahlberg said. "And I knew the responsibility to play this man--and for all of us to play these men--was a great responsibility."

A native of Huntington, W. Va., where his father ran a contracting business, Clifford Carwood Lipton was a star running back in high school. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was a 21-year-old freshman at Marshall University in Huntington.

By August 1942, he had joined the 506th Regiment, an elite unit of volunteers going through training in Camp Toccoa in hot and humid northern Georgia.

In September 1943, those who made it through the rigorous training boarded a converted British cruiser bound for England--and, eventually, D-day.

After the war, Lipton returned home to Huntington, where he finished his last three years of college and earned a degree in engineering. In 1948, he was hired by Owens-Illinois, a glass manufacturer, where he worked for 35 years and rose to be director of international development.

Lipton's first wife, JoAnne, whom he married during the war and with whom he had three sons, died in 1975. He and his second wife, Marie, were married 25 years.

Until Ambrose interviewed him, Marie Lipton said, her husband hadn't talked much about the war.

"All the fellas were busy making a living and raising a family [after the war]," she said. But they did talk at their annual reunions, beginning with the first in 1947, although they tended to talk more about the funny things they saw during the war, she said.

A King's Call to Glory

Lipton, a fan of Shakespeare, suggested the title for Ambrose's book. He found it in a battlefield speech in "Henry V," in which the king tells his troops:

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

Last summer, Lipton joined other Easy Company veterans who went to the Utah Beach memorial in Normandy for the premiere of "Band of Brothers," held on the 57th anniversary of D-day.

"I look on World War II as the seminal event of the 20th century," Lipton told People magazine in October. Yet back then, he said, "we did not think of ourselves as saviors of humanity or even saviors of our country. We looked on ourselves as capable--I might say accomplished--soldiers who could do a difficult job."

In addition to his wife, Lipton is survived by his sons, Clifford of Anderson, S.C., Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, and Michael of Kalamazoo, Mich.; a brother, Robert Dulaine of Las Vegas; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

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