The real Band of Brothers return to airfield

PUBLISHED: 13:54 22 July 2008 | UPDATED: 22:07 15 June 2010

THE real life Band of Brothers met again at Upottery airfield where they left for battle 64 years ago.

THE real life Band of Brothers met again at Upottery airfield - where they left for battle 64 years ago.American heroes Donald Malarkey, 87, and Earl McClung, 85, returned to the airfield last Tuesday to see again the place they had boarded C47 war planes for their mission in Normandy on June 5, 1944.A crowd turned out to meet the veterans of the infamous Easy Company, of the Airborne 101st division, along with an original C47 warplane, which performed a poignant fly-past.Among those visiting were locals who remembered seeing as children the regiment in training during the war. Dropped behind enemy lines in the first few minutes of D-Day with their comrades, both men were honoured for their bravery and their regiment was epitomized in the hit TV series co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.Played by Holby City actor Rocky Marshall in the drama, Mr McClung said: "It could have been any division they based the series on. Every man has a story to tell. They just can't write everybody's. "All the incidents in the book and series are true. But who did what and how - that's strictly Hollywood."Band of Brothers follows the troops' epic journey across Europe to their eventual capture of Hitler's mountain retreat, the Eagle's Nest. "It was night when I arrived at the Eagle's Nest," said McClung. "It was known as a tea house for Hitler and Eva - but I wasn't invited for tea and certainly didn't want to hang around."Inspired by Stephen Ambrose's account of the company, Hanks teamed up with Spielberg to make the series after working on Saving Private Ryan - also based on the 101st division.Malarkey, played by ER actor Scott Grimes, echoed there had been some 'artistic license': "The actor playing me was shown at a concentration camp and then at the Eagle's Nest - when I had been in hospital at that time."I'm glad to be back at the airfield. I've been back to England, but never to here. "We spent our time here eating and gambling. It was a relaxing week before the final jump."Contrary to the dramatic depictions, Malarkey said he was not nervous about the mission.After being forced to take a tablet for air sickness, he fell asleep."I fell asleep while crossing the Channel and didn't wake until we were south of Guernsey," he mused.Amateur historian Neil Stevens helped arrange for the duo to travel in a C47 plane. He said it was possible that it was the same plane they had travelled in back on June 5, 1944!He said: "This is an historical airport - not only for what happened during the war, but also because it's still here. "I believe it's only the second one in the country still in use."Brothers Peter and Derek Clist, from Dunkeswell, reminisced on seeing the soldiers when they themselves were children.Peter said: "We saw them marching around, singing songs. I remember my mother said 'a lot won't be coming back'. I wondered why they were going."And Churchinford resident William D-Day Peters - so named as he was born on June 6, 1944 - had particular interest in the event. He said the doctor had suggested the name and it had brought him some notoriety."I was registered with this name and have had to live with it ever since," he said.

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