Failure is Not an Option – Darrell Powers

15 03 2011

Staff Sergeant Darrell C. Powers “Shifty” was a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II.  Powers was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Peter Youngblood Hills.  The 2011 book Shifty’s War, by journalist Marcus Brotherton, captures Sergeant Powers’ full life story.

Powers was born in Clinchco, Dickenson County, Virginia and volunteered for the paratroopers with his good friend, Robert “Popeye” Wynn. Shifty spent a great deal of time in the outdoors hunting game prior to joining the service.  This later proved useful as many of the skills he obtained helped him as a soldier. He graduated from high school.  Powers enlisted on August 14, 1942 at Richmond, Virginia.

Powers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, missing his drop zone. He eventually came in contact with Floyd Talbert and the two made their way to Easy Company. He also participated in the Allied military operation Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, and the Battle of the Bulge in Foy, Belgium. While in Foy, a German sniper shot three members of Easy Company, and everyone hid for cover.  With the aid of C. Carwood Lipton, Shifty made a heroic attempt and silenced the German with his M1 right between the eyes.  Company members say Powers saved many lives that day.  He was generally considered to be the best shot in Easy Company. One of his most truly remarkable achievements, and a testament to the extraordinary gifts his backwoods upbringing brought to Easy Company, was the story documented in the Ambrose book, Band of Brothers, about the time in Bastogne when Shifty mentioned to his commanding officer that he noticed a tree in the distant forest that was not there just the day before. The “tree” was ultimately discovered to be a camouflaged German artillery piece. Were it not for Shifty’s keen observations and outdoors experiences, many lives may have been lost, had that enemy weapon not been spotted from a distance of nearly a mile away and amongst a literal forest of other trees.

Because many men serving in the 101st lacked the minimum points required to return home, a lottery was put in place.  Shifty Powers won this lottery after the rest of the company rigged it in his favor by removing their own names, and was set to return stateside.  During the trip to the airfield, the vehicle that Shifty was in was involved in an accident and he was badly injured.  He spent many months recuperating in hospitals overseas while his comrades in arms arrived home long before he did.

Powers was awarded many medals and decorations including Bronze Star with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 service stars and arrown device, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Croix de guerre with palm, French Liberation Medal, Belgian World War II Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Parachutist Badge with 2 jump stars.

Honorably discharged from the Army in the postwar demobilization, he became a machinist for the Clinchfield Coal Corporation.  Powers died on June 17, 2009 of cancer in Dickenson County, Virginia.  He was 86 years old at the time of his death.

The above information was found from Wikipedia.  The information below is from a June 20, 2009, article about Power’s death.  The article below was written by Roger Brown, Bristol Herald Courier.

Band Of Brothers Hero, Darrell ‘Shifty’ Powers Dies

“The world depended on them. They depended on each other.”

That was the tagline for “Band of Brothers” – an award-winning 2001 HBO mini-series drama on the World War II experiences of Easy Company, a U.S. Army unit that fought bravely and fiercely across Europe.

But for Bristol’s Margo Johnson – daughter of Darrell “Shifty” Powers, one of the soldiers depicted in “Band of Brothers” – two more lines could be added to describe her heroic father: “The world truly admired Darrell Powers. I absolutely adored him.”

“I loved everything about my daddy,” Johnson said. “He never bragged about what he did in the war. And for a lot of years, he never even talked much about what he did – unless someone asked him about it.

“But he truly was a hero to me,” Johnson said. “Just like he’d been to the people who know him as a soldier in a [mini-series].”

Powers, a Dickenson County native, died earlier this week at age 86 following a battle with cancer. His funeral service will be held today in Clintwood.

“He was a brave man, even to the end of his life,” Johnson said of her father. “He’s helping me be brave now, too.”

Bravery – and dignity – was a constant, running thread in the life of “Shifty” Powers, both during and after his life as an Army sharpshooter in the actual “Band of Brothers.”

During the war, he fought brutal battles against the German army across France and Belgium.

After the war, Powers served as an eloquent representative for the men he fought with: At one point during the “Band of Brothers” mini-series, he appeared on camera to talk in moving, humane fashion about his grim but necessary task during the war – killing the enemy.

And, too, Powers served as a loyal, steadfast representative for the country he fought for: from graciously meeting with a former enemy German soldier to eagerly accepting any chance to speak with modern-day members of the U.S. military.

Ivan Schwarz, a producer on the “Band of Brothers” HBO series, remembers Powers as a “kind, generous soul with a great sense of humor.”

“Shifty was an incredibly humble human being,” said Schwarz, now executive director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission in Cleveland, Ohio.

“He was like most of the other [Easy Company] soldiers we met for the series. They were good guys who were kind of shocked that, 50 years later, people were making a big deal over them for just doing their duty.

“That’s exactly how [Powers] was, too,” Schwarz said.

Attempts were unsuccessful to reach Peter Youngblood Hills – the English actor who portrayed Powers in the “Band of Brothers” miniseries, through both HBO and his former publicity firm, Hamilton Hodell in London, England.