Band of Brothers: the last living participant dies at age 99

Edward Shames, the last surviving member of the men who featured in the television series Band of Brothers, died of heart failure on Tuesday at the age of 99.

Shames was among nearly 40 second lieutenants in the 33rd Infantry Division who fought with the 82nd Airborne Division in Italy’s Passicino in the summer of 1944. Shames was the last of the group still alive, according to his family.

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Band of Brothers marked a turning point in soldiers’ interest in the war. The 10-part series inspired by the book by Erik Larson about the real life adventures of four men, whose band of brothers and sister-in-law was also dramatized for the series, was seen as a inspiration for veterans all over the world.

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Shames had not seen the 10-part series before it debuted on HBO, but he immediately recognized the level of authenticity and skillful storytelling, his family said. He provided the producers with a sample scene from the film and reviewed scenes and dialogue.

“He gave us some details and then we got on a conversation,” said Linda Sullivan, a producer of the series. “His main point was that he really appreciated how authentic the soldiers were portrayed.”

Shames served as an infantryman in Italy during a pivotal period of the second world war. Near the end of the war, he participated in the liberation of Rome, and for years lived in a nursing home near his home in Fresno, California.

Band of Brothers won 11 Emmys during its run.

The show went on to become a bestseller as well, with the first edition re-entering bestseller lists after its first episode. A musical adaptation was commissioned in 2002, and in 2005 it was filmed as a film, with Richard Dreyfuss, Martin Sheen and Bill Paxton leading the production.

Shames was born on 1 December 1918 in Fishers, Indiana. The family moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Shames served in the US army. He studied at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and Indiana University.

Shames served as a rifle sergeant in the 33rd Infantry Division from 1944-45. His unit was assigned to carry out ambushes against Japanese positions in Italy. His real-life battle-plans were widely published in journals for other officers.

Shames’ wife of 63 years, Betty Baker, died in 2014.

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