“From this day to the ending of the world
But we in it shall be remembered
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”
When I sit here and say “Band of Brothers”, you will have hundreds of scenes come to mind. You might think of “3 miles up, 3 miles down”. You might be thinking of the woods in Bastogne, just before the chaos starts.
Me? I can hear a voice saying – “Malarkey, that’s slang for b-s isn’t it?” – the minute I heard that immortal line spoken by David Schwimmer as Captain Sobel, I knew I needed to find out more about this gentleman. Who was Malarkey?
Donald Malarkey, native of Astoria, Oregon, was born on 31 July 1921. His parents Helen and Leo Malarkey also had two other sons named John and Bob. The family was complete with a sister, Marilyn. Donald entered high school, and three years later in 1939 he graduated. He found work in his home town at the Liberty Grill in Astoria and saved for college. He was welcomed into the University of Oregon in 1941.
After being turned down from the Marines, as well as being discouraged from the Army Air Corps he was drafted to the Army and sent to Fort Lewis. He volunteered for the Airborne and was assigned to the Mortar Squad of 2nd Platoon in East Company. Airborne. He was assigned to the Mortar Squad of 2nd Platoon, in Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Camp Toccoa was now home. It was here, thanks to 1st Lieutenant Herbert Sobel, that he was called “Private B***s**t” Malarkey proudly earned his jump wings and headed with his division to Aldbourne in the UK.
Donald participated in D-Day Landings on 6 June 1944, landing near the town of Ste. Mere-Eglise. After landing safely, He found himself hooked up with Sgt. William Guarnere, Cpl. Joe Toye and men from other units.
They helped take out a German patrol. Then, Malarkey, Guarnere, and Toye broke away from the group, and met up with “Popeye” Wynn, Lt. Winters, Sgt. Lipton, Able Company soldier Pvt. Hall and two 82nd Airborne soldiers, privates Olsen and McDowell.
After entering Ste. Marie-du-Monte, Malarkey struck up a conversation with a German POW soldier from Eugene, Oregon who had joined the Germans after his family ‘answered the call’ for all ‘true Aryans’ to return to the homeland. Malarkey was gifted a different perspective on the war with this simple conversation. The fact that the people you could be shooting at could have lived only 100 miles from you was incomprehensible at times. .
While walking away, he brushed past 1st Lieutenant Speirs. He then heard gunfire shortly after and turned only to see the Germans had been murdered. He looked questionly at Speirs when the lieutenant walked back up the road
Malarkey took part in the Brecourt Manor attack and it was at that time, he made a break and run towards a dead German soldier in the open field. He was after a Luger. The Germans were pretty sure he was a medic dealing with their soldier, so didn’t fire…..for a while!
Add into his combat experience, Operation Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge, Foy, Noville and Rachamps.
Donald then went onto Hagenau, where battle fatigue saw him sit out a patrol.
What happened after the war?
Malarkey went home after the war. He went back to the University of Oregon, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree. He then met and married Irene Moore.
While war experiences can change and break men, Donald used his experiences and detailed them in a 2008 autobiography entitled “Easy Company Soldier” Donald was asked on occasions to speak about his experiences. He lectured at West Point and made trips to to talk to wounded soldiers in Kuwait and Germany.
Scott Grimes, who portrayed Malarkey in Band of Brothers, said
“Don Malarkey was a very private man, as were most of the men. For the first year I knew him, he hardly wanted to talk at all, and when he did he would get emotional. I believe it was because he was alive and some of his best friends died in front of him, and why would you want to talk about that?
Donald has been described as the “heart of the company”. Someone who you could be with and you knew what to expect. That is evident through the book ‘Easy Company Soldier’ Less than 20% of the book was “battle” and the rest was about the men and the relationships and scars that battle gave them. He has shared the physical and emotional scars that he was left with. The fact that he was willing to be so open. said a lot about him, as a person and his principles.
The final words should be Donalds. Donald wrote of the summer of 1942,
“So this was the beginning of the most momentous experience of my life, as a member of E Company. There is not a day that has passed since that I do not thank Adolf Hitler for allowing me to be associated with the most talented and inspiring group of men that I have ever known.”
Thank you Sir, for your service.