Bradford Freeman, the last remaining member of the real band of brothers, has died. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
The last member of World War II’s “band of brothers” has died at the age of 97. Bradford Freeman — a private first class with Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division — died on July 3 at his home in Columbus, Mississippi. At the time of his death, Freeman was the last surviving paratrooper of the storied unit.
Freeman joined the Army in 1942 and quickly volunteered for the newly formed parachute infantry. He was part of a mortar squad during D-Day, jumping into Normandy with a heavy mortar base plate strapped to his chest. He went on to fight in every major engagement of the European theater, including Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and even played a role in the occupation of Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest.”
Freeman was wounded outside of Bastogne when a “Screaming Mimi” — a nickname given to the German Nebelwerfer for the distinct sound it made after being fired — hit him in the leg. He later described the feared weapon to the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas, saying, “You could hear them coming, but you couldn’t get out of the way.”
Freeman and the rest of Easy Company were immortalized in Stephen Ambrose’s popular book and HBO’s miniseries adaptation. In the series, American actor James Farmer plays Freeman and actor Scott Grimes plays Freeman’s squad leader, Donald Malarkey, who was one of the primary characters in the miniseries.
Following the end of WWII, Freeman worked as a mail courier for 32 years and was able to return to Normandy in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of the battle. Freeman is survived by two daughters, four grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. Following an interview with the American Veterans Center in 2018, Freeman was asked whether there was anything else he’d like to add about his service during WWII. “I’m just proud I made it,” he said.
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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