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History class hosts WWII ‘Band of Brothers’ vet

June 29, 2009 : Angelica Atkins

The Liberty University campus was honored by a visit from Don Malarkey, WWII veteran from the elite Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on Monday, June 29. Malarkey was the guest speaker at a summer WWII history class taught by Liberty’s history department chair, David Snead.

Malarkey’s company was portrayed in the popular Band of Brothers television miniseries. He is also mentioned in the “Band of Brothers” book by Stephen Ambrose, on which the series was based.

During Ambrose’s research for the book, Malarkey told the story of his friend Fritz Niland who had three brothers, two of whom died on D-Day and another who was missing in action and thought to be killed. This storyline became the premise for the plot of Steven Spielberg’s film, Saving Private Ryan.

On Monday, people and places came alive as Malarkey recounted his experiences from his company’s paratroop drop into Normandy to their elimination of a German artillery unit. According to Easy Company’s Maj. Richard Winters, Malarkey spent more days in active combat than any other veteran in the company.

Malarkey described his D-Day experience vividly. “I had to zigzag across that meadow the best I could,” he said. “I had guns firing from the side of me and from behind me. And how those … Germans couldn’t hit me I’ll never know.”

The presentation was an informal interview conducted by Vance Day, Oregon lawyer and friend of Malarkey. The pair has lectured at venues all over North America and Europe, including Congress and the White House. “We do it because we just like to have fun together,” Day said.

After the class, Malarkey took time for autographs and pictures. The event drew more than just Liberty students, with some audience members making a special trip from other universities.