By JOSEPH DITZLER • STARS AND STRIPES • July 6, 2022
The last surviving member of Easy Company, the World War II unit made famous by the “Band of Brothers” book and miniseries, has died.
Bradford Freeman died July 3 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, in Caledonia, Miss., according to his obituary. He was 97.
Freeman was a paratrooper and private first class with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during the war. A mortarman, he parachuted into France at age 19 with a base plate attached to his chest on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
At a September 2020 event at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., Freeman said every moment of that jump into Normandy stays with him.
“He was in every major engagement in Europe during World War II,” a Columbus, Miss., local historian, Rufus Ward, said during the event for Freeman’s 96th birthday, according to the Air Force. “He’s a true American hero and we need to honor those people … we owe them more than we could ever repay them.”
Freeman also parachuted into Operation Market Garden and was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. He recovered, rejoined his unit and participated in the occupations of Berchtesgaden in Germany and Austria, according to his obituary.
Freeman was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers,” by actor James Farmer, according to IMDb. The series was based on the bestselling 1992 book, “Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest,” by Stephen E. Ambrose.
After the war, Freeman returned to Mississippi, married Willie Louise Gurley on June 29, 1947, and worked 32 years as a mail carrier.
Born Sept. 4, 1924, in Artesia, Miss., Freeman graduated from Artesia High School in 1942. He was a freshman at Mississippi State when he volunteered for the paratroopers. He entered the service on Feb. 4, 1944, according to his obituary.
He is survived by a sister, two daughters, four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
“Our dad was always astounded that a country boy from Mississippi was able to see so many places and meet so many interesting people,” according to his obituary from Lowndes Funeral Home in Columbus.
Freeman was the last of a unit made famous by a series that brought to life the exploits of a generation that largely kept its accomplishments to itself. The “Band of Brothers” series made familiar names of Freeman’s comrades Maj. Richard Winters, played by Damian Lewis, Capt. Lewis Nixon, played by Ron Livingston, and many others.
Freeman was preceded in death by Edward Shames, the last surviving officer from Easy Company, who died Dec. 3, 2021, at his home in Virginia Beach, Va.