In a letter shortly before his death, Floyd Talbert was quoted as saying, “Dick, you are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier who ever served under you. You are the best friend I ever had. You were my ideal, and motor in combat …you are to me the greatest soldier I could ever hope to meet.”
Dick Winters described Talbert as his “guardian angel.”
Life started for Floyd on August 26, 1923. Born in Kokomo, Indiana and growing up with four brothers, Floyd and his brothers worked odd jobs throughout high school, their prime focus was ensuring that they supported the family. In an interview with Marcus Brotherton in his book “A Company of Heroes”, Robert Talbert tells of how the Talbert children were headhunted by local residents. Their hard work and their conscientious nature and work ethic stood them in good stead within the community. They were solid and reliable and in the Depression era, that was a valuable commodity to have. Floyd demonstrated trust and integrity from an early age. After high school, Floyd went on to work for Union Carbide at Haynes Stellite.
Enlisting and Training
With a new group called the paratroopers gathering his attention, Talbert enlisted. The daring nature of the paratroopers drew his eye and on August 24, 1942, he signed on to be a member of the US Armed Forces. He was initially based at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Indiana, but following his volunteering for the paratroopers, he was assigned to E Company,2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Now he was located at Camp Toccoa under the watchful eye of Captain Herbert Sobel.
World War II
Like the men around him in 506E, Talbert made his first combat jump on D-Day. While in Normandy, he was mistaken for a German and bayoneted by Pvt George Smith. Talbert, while carrying a pistol and wearing a German poncho, had been trying to wake Smith. The famous poem “The Night of the Bayonet” was inspired!
Talbert also jumped into Holland to partake in Operation Market Garden, as well as the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. Talbert was described in Stephen Ambrose’s book ‘Band of Brothers” as ‘a genial man, appreciated by the enlisted men as he ignored red tape and worked by common sense rather than doing things by the book.”
During the war, he was a diligent soldier and reached the rank of First Sgt, a non-commissioned officer with 506E. However he later requested a demotion. While he would do any job that was sent his way, his heart lay with the men. He wanted and needed to be back amongst the men as a Staff Sgt. In Marcus Brothertons book, it was commented on how Talbert would often quote General Patton by using the following words: “The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.”
After the War
Controversy reigned for some time over what happened in Talbert`s later years. Rumours of Talbert becoming a drifter and alcoholic came out via Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers. While he had some issues with alcohol, he worked hard to manage that himself and was successful. The rumours were misconstrued and a family distressed over how their loved one was judged.
Talberts brothers were determined to make sure that the truth came to pass. His brother said, “He attended Indiana University after his discharge from service and immediately accepted a position with Union Carbide in Indiana. He then moved with the same organisation to Alexandria, Indiana, and had several years happily working there. Floyd made the decision to be a full time farmer, purchasing land in the area. Later in life, he became a plant manager at The General Tire & Rubber Company. He was extremely successful as a car salesman too, not only in Indiana but California too.”
His California life was exactly what he needed and wanted. He settled into Redding and spent many years there. He loved to fish and hunt, in particular around Lake Shasta. Something else he enjoyed throughout life was playing the guitar. He became a member of a small band and would be their guitarist on the weekends.
End of life
“The move to California came about on diagnosis of a terminal illness” explained Tabs brother Max . He went on to say “he simply decided that the remaining life he had was to be outdoors.” Talbert often said to his family that he was living life the way he wanted to, that life was for enjoying.
Floyd Talbert passed away in Shasta, California, on October 10, 1982, from complications of a heart condition. He was doing what he loved, living the life he wanted.
Quotes from & about Floyd Talbert
When Band of Brothers came to TV in 2001, Floyd Talbert was played on screen by actor Matthew Leitch.
The Night of the Bayonet
The night was filled with dark and cold,
When Sergeant Talbert the story’s told,
Pulled out his poncho and headed out,
To check the lines dressed like a Kraut.
Upon a trooper our hero came,
Fast asleep; he called his name.
“Smith, oh Smith, get up, it’s time
To take your turn out on the line.”
Private Smith, so very weary,
Cracked an eye, all red and bleary,
Grabbed his rifle and did not tarry,
Hearing Floyd, but seeing Gerry.
“It’s me!” cried Tab. “Don’t do it!” and yet,
Smith charged toute de suite with bayonet.
He lunged, he thrust, both high and low,
And skeweth the boy from Kokomo
And as they carried him away,
Our punctured hero was heard to say,
“When in this war you venture out,
best never do it dressed as a Kraut!”
Written by Erik Jendresen – Based on research completed for Band of Brothers.
Matthew Leitch, Thank you for the integrity and honesty you displayed in your portrayal of Floyd Talbert.
Floyd Talbert, Thank you for your service. May you rest easy.