It is with great sadness that I write this article about Earl McClung, Earl was one of the original members of the “Band Of Brothers”, Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
Most of you may know him from the book and HBO Mini-series, “Band Of Brothers”, Earl was portrayed by Rocky Marshall. I was actually watching part 6 of “Band Of Brothers” when I received the email of Earl’s passing.
Below is an excerpt from earls website Earl McClung.com
Adept, witty, with a sense of humor that will leave you laughing every time, Earl (often referred to as Mac) is a true hero of our time.
Born April 27, 1923 in Inchelium, Washington, on the Colville Indian Reservation, Earl was the second child of four born to Jess and Irene McClung.
Raised on the reservation, Earl was drafted into the Army his senior year at the age of 19. Because he worked as needed at home during his school years, his schooling was extended. He also gave four credits back to the school so that he could continue to play football. However, even though not graduated, the Army drafted him in 1943.
As a result, the school did graduate him with the class.
Earl’s biography is yet to be written, however there is plenty to be found in current books, the web and the HBO series: Band of Brothers.
Earl joined Company E (Easy Company), 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Ft. Bragg upon completion of basic training. He tells the story of how they offered him extra $$$, and Earl saw no reason not to take advantage of the opportunity. Earl was involved in all of the 101st Airborne Division’s major campaigns.
He reenlisted in 1946 at Greenville, SC as part of the school troops.
There’s a story there too.
Earl is a rare example of understated genius. Remarkably modest he recounts his adventures with little or no ego. His memory is as sharp as the knife he carried with him during battle, and to this day he can retell the events that shaped his career in the Army with unprecedented accuracy.
He often remarks how each of his Easy Company brothers has their own take on the conflicts, and how each remembers it from their own perspective. This is how history is made.
McClung made his first combat jump into Normandy on the night before D-Day. He landed in the town square of Ste. Mere Eglise. He and two other Easy Company members, James Alley andPaul Rogers, fought with the 82nd Airborne Division for several days. The three linked up with their own unit later to fight in Carentan.
McClung also jumped into the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden. The bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal was blown up by the Germans right after McClung got across the canal. He flopped down behind a tree just in time not to be killed by the explosion.
McClung was considered a very good combat soldier. He was an excellent shot, and even had the reputation for his ability to ‘smell’ Germans. However, he was said to be the worst garrison soldier. His comrades like Powers and William Kiehn had to shine his boots and pressed his pants for him for a retreat parade after the fights in the Netherlands, because they knew that he would not have done any of these things.
McClung participated in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. After Walter Gordon was hit by a sniper, McClung and Sergeant Buck Taylor went looking for the sniper. A German pointed his machine gun at McClung but misfired, otherwise McClung would surely have been killed. The two were able to kill the sniper at the end.
While in Haguenau, McClung was selected as the lead scout for the patrol mission across the Moder River to capture German prisoners. McClung followed Easy Company until the end of the war.
Below is his shadow box:
Earl participated in the following major battles of WWII:
- Operation Overlord
- Operation Market Garden
- Battle of the Bulge
The following is an excerpt from the website of the author of another book about Earl and the “Band Of Brothers”, Marcusbrotherton.com
Earl parachuted into Normandy on D-Day where he fought near the town of Sainte-Mère-Église. As he came down in the dark, two enemy soldiers shot at his parachute. Earl always jumped with his rifle in his hands and could see their silhouettes against the moonlight.
He killed the two men shooting at him moments after he hit the ground.
In the first part of the Normandy Campaign, Earl first fought with a smattering of men from the 502nd and 82nd, until he ran into Paul Rogers and Moe Alley, two paratroopers from his unit. For three days the loosely arranged group of paratroopers fought in Sainte-Mère-Église under heavy fire.
Somewhere during that time is when Earl received his nickname. He’d been on patrol all night, then came back to safer ground where he fell asleep. A lieutenant came up and asked Alley and Rogers who the machine gunner was. They both shrugged and pointed at Earl, who was sound asleep. Earl said,
So [the lieutenant] just put the machine gun by me. I wasn’t very happy about being made a machine gunner.
As far as I know that machine gun is still there. When I woke up there were some strong adjectives being thrown around. So Rogers [who was known for writing funny poems] wrote a poem about it with a line that went:
Who hung the gun on One Lung McClung?
Earl, Rogers, and Alley rejoined the rest of their company just in time for the house to house battle of Carentan.
During Operation Market Garden in Holland, Earl was first scout for Easy Company, whose task was to blow up the bridge across the Wilhelmina Canal. Earl walked ahead of his company across the bridge, then sat down behind a shade tree to rest and wait for the rest of the men to catch up. At that moment, enemy soldiers blew up the bridge first.
The tree protected him from flying debris. Earl said of the experience,
The timing of that explosion—if it had been just a few moments later, they would have got the whole damn company, a few moments earlier, they would have got me. The way it worked out it didn’t get anybody. It stopped us, but nobody got hurt. We could talk across the river, but there wasn’t anything anybody could do. So I just lay down behind the tree and went to sleep. There were no Germans around. By that time they were long gone.
While fighting in Holland, Earl was hit under his knee with a piece of shrapnel. Medics bandaged it and he limped for several days, but he was never evacuated. Earl was one of the very few men of Easy Company who made it all the way through the war without being seriously wounded or killed.
Herb Suerth, Jr., one of Earl’s friends in the company, tells a story about him when the men went to Mourmelon for some R&R.
Easy Company had come off the line from Holland in late November. Everyone celebrated Thanksgiving the day after that.
Within a day or two of that we had a full retreat parade—ODs, boot shined—the guys didn’t have half the stuff they needed, and some of the other guys definitely had other thoughts about the retreat. The way some guys talked, I thought there was going to be a mutiny.
Earl McClung’s bunk was next to mine. He wasn’t moving. Just before the retreat, somebody came to Mac and said, “Hey Mac, gimme your boots.” Mac handed them over and the guy started shining them for him. I wondered what was going on. Another guy came up and said, “Hey Mac, gimme your pants. He started pressing them for Mac, and so on ‘til Mac was completely ready for the retreat.
They were polishing McClung’s boots and pressing his pants for him! They knew he wouldn’t, and if everybody in the company didn’t participate, then nobody would receive any passes.
Over the years I’ve had to ask myself if I remember that story correctly. Now, you have to realize Earl McClung was one hell of a combat soldier, one of the best that ever was. That’s why the guys pressed his pants for him.
Well, one night years after the war McClung, and Shifty Powers and I were drinking Calvados together and McClung says, “Y’know, I wasn’t a very good garrison soldier.” I said, “Well Mac, my impression is that you were maybe the world’s worst.” He looked right at me and said: “You’re right!”
Earl fought in the harsh winter conditions of the battle of Bastogne. He wrapped his feet in gunnysacks to keep them from freezing.
He fought in Haguenau, when the enemy was right across the river.
With the company, he pressed into Germany and personally witnessed the horrible atrocities of the concentration camps.
The road up to Hitler’s hideout, the Eagle’s Nest, was blocked by rubble. Earl climbed up and over the rocks, and as far as known was the first American in Berchtesgaden.
In Kaprun, Austria, Earl’s job was to hunt and feed prisoners of war and displaced person. Earl said,
“Kaprun—I thought I had died and gone to heaven there. I just camped out. They saw me maybe once or twice a week.”
His wife of 76 years, Jean McClung, remembered him Friday as a wonderful man.
“He was real genial and likeable. He had so many friends and so many people who liked him,” Jean McClung said.
“There are still a few of the ‘Band of Brothers’ left. He was one of the last ones.”
The couple had three children and lived in Pueblo West for 15 years.
“He had a good life. I am going to miss him. There are a lot of people that really cared about him,” Jean McClung said.
One of their sons was KIA in Vietnam, he was a member of the Navy.
Earl died at his home in Pueblo West, Colorado, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, November 27, 2013, he was 90 years old.
We are slowly losing our “Greatest Generation”, and it is up to us to keep their memories alive, so that the sacrifices they made are never forgotten. I ask that you share this, so that everyone knows our heroes from WWII are slowly passing away.
Our thoughts and prayer’s go out to Earl and his family, and know that he will never be forgotten.