Ronald Speirs

Enigma of valour

In his gripping memoir, “Parachute Infantry: An American Paratroopers’ Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich,” David Webster vividly recounted his impressions of Ronald Speirs. Webster painted a portrait of a man with a stern voice, cold and narrow eyes, tobacco-stained teeth, yet underscored by an honest and sincere smile.

Dick Winters, co-author of “Beyond Band of Brothers” alongside Cole C. Kingseed, expressed deep respect for Speirs as a combat leader, attributing it to his sound decision-making in the heat of battle. Another fellow paratrooper, Art DiMazio, noted that Speirs was not an average risk-taker, demonstrating a willingness to go above and beyond.

The intriguing question then arises: Who was Ronald Speirs, and what shaped the man behind the enigmatic persona?

Early life

Ronald Speirs’ journey began on April 20, 1920, in Edinburgh, Scotland. While the initial years of his life were spent in Scotland, his family later moved to Boston Massachusetts, in 1924. Speirs underwent military training in high school, rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

World War II

As World War II unfolded, Speirs found himself at Camp Toccoa, joining Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne. Moving from Baker to Dog Company, he earned the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Following training, he ventured to the UK, where he married a British widow in Aldbourne, eventually becoming a father to a son named Robert.


With the war continuing, it was time to go to fight. In “Fierce Valor”, authored by Erik Dorr and Jared Fredrickson, we are told of the moment of take off. “As plane #42-100843 taxied, Speirs and passengers experienced that same collective state of inner turmoil preceding battle. The heightened sensation of liftoff was otherworldly in nature. A sudden realization of historical significance entered the paratroopers’ stream of consciousness.” It was a realisation of what was to come.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Speirs displayed exceptional leadership. During the attack on Foy, Easy Company’s CO Lt. Norman Dike was wounded in the arm and halted the advance on the town, so Captain Richard Winters ordered Speirs to relieve Dike as Company Commander. Speirs ran through artillery and relieved Dike, before ordering rifle grenades and mortars at a sniper position. Bill Guarnere was quoted as saying “Speirs was as nutty as I was!’

After that, he led Easy Company to get in the town, before running past German artillery and machine guns to meet up with I Company, and then returning back. Due to this action, they were able to take the town of Foy and stop the Germans from retreating away from the town. 

After taking the town, Lipton thanked him for being the commander they needed, only for Speirs to correct him that Lipton himself, had been commanding Easy Company in Dike’s place. He then told him that Captain Winters had put him in for a Battlefield Commission and Colonel Sink had approved. First Sergeant Lipton was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant receiving his official commission in Haguenau. He congratulated him and left him to rest.

The enduring sentiment expressed in a letter from Johnny Martin to Bill Guarnere captures the essence of Speirs’ leadership: “Our CO is now Lieutenant Speirs from D Company. I think he’s the best one we’ve had yet.” It reflects the profound impact Ronald Speirs had on those who served alongside him, a testament to his remarkable leadership and courage.

It’s often been asked through questions and literature whether Lieutenant Speirs ever suffered from fear or whether he simply concealed it well? When asked this question during the war, he said “I was scared to death and never thought I would survive the war.”

After Belgium

After Belgium, Easy then went to occupy Germany on 2 April 1945. He and the Company liberated a Nazi concentration camp at Landsberg, and later Hitler’s Eagles Nest at Berchtesgaden. After Germany surrendered on 8 May, Speirs decided to stay and prepare to fight in Japan; however, Japan surrendered in August and the war ended.

Korean War

Despite his divorce from his first wife, who chose to remain in England, Speirs continued his military service during the Korean War, making a combat jump as a rifle company commander.

Spandau prison

In later life, Speirs attended a Russian language course, served as a liaison officer to the Red Army, and became the governor of Berlin’s Spandau Prison.


Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1964, he spent his final years with his family in California, passing away in Montana on April 11, 2007.


Speirs’ actions during the Normandy Campaign fuelled rumours about his enigmatic nature.

Did he shoot the German POWs? – Yes. This story is true and documented in ‘Fierce Valor’.  

Did he shoot a member of his unit? – Yes. In later years, Ron Speirs confided to Dick Winter’s that the platoon watched it happen.

Did he give Albert Blithe the speech about being ‘already dead?’ – We see this documented in the series.  Band of Brothers mistakenly documented that Blithe died when he lived on after the sniper wound in Normandy to serve in Speirs regiment in Korea.

Matthew Settle

Matthew Settle portrayed Speirs in Band of Brothers but sadly was denied the chance to speak with him. Settle found his information in other ways. Embarking on a personal odyssey, Settle meticulously retraced the footsteps of Speirs across Europe. His journey took him through the enchanting landscapes of France, where he immersed himself in the cultural richness of museums and diligently sought out the historic sites where Speirs had once fought.

Delving into the solemn atmosphere of Bois Jacques, Settle uncovered the very foxholes of Easy Company, each marking a chapter in the remarkable story of Speirs. With a sense of caution lingering in the air, he navigated through the hallowed ground, being warned of the lingering presence of live ordnance, a testament to the enduring impact of the past.

Upon reaching Foy, the site of Speirs’s iconic run, Settle traversed the expansive field, captivated by the resilient spirit of a town still bearing visible scars from the battles of yesteryear. The remnants of war etched into the town’s dwellings stood as poignant reminders of the sacrifices made.

Undeterred, Settle continued his odyssey, reaching as far as the Eagle’s Nest in Germany. The journey, akin to a pilgrimage, unfolded a tapestry of history, connecting the present with the valor of those who once walked the same path.

To Ronald Speirs – Thank you Sir for your service.

To the Speirs Family – Thoughts are with you always. 

To Matthew Settle – Thank you for such an amazing portrayal.