Lynn “Buck” Compton died two years ago today, February 25, 2012. Compton’s WWII service was with 2d Platoon, Easy Company, 2d Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division – known simply as “Band of Brothers” since Stephen Ambrose first chronicled their story in 1992.
Prior to joining Easy Company in England, Lynn “Buck” Compton had been an all-American catcher on the UCLA baseball team and played football for UCLA in the January 1, 1943 Rose Bowl game. (p. 48, Band of Brothers, Ambrose)
A glimpse into the heart of Buck Compton – Do you remember that gripping scene when Easy Company is pinned down in the foxholes above Foy, in Jack’s Woods, when Joe Toye and Bill Guarnere both lose a leg to artillery bombardment? After shouting for medics and getting his men loaded on stretchers, Compton is portrayed sitting down on a log, dropping his helmet onto the snow, and slumping forward, running his hands through his hair in anguish.
He, too, is taken off the front line.
Years later, in their reflections, the E-company men close to Buck expressed that he never adjusted to the rank and rigid structure of the Army, perhaps regarding his men as his teammates rather than himself as their commander. The sight of his friends, his men, the blood red snow of the carnage, dispirited him.
Compton returned to California after the War and, using the GI Bill, completed law school at Loyola University, although his poor academic record at UCLA nearly cost him admission. In 1968, Compton directed the investigation into the assassination of Robert Kennedy and served as the lead prosecutor for the district attorney’s office in the case against Sirhan-Sirhan.
After the astounding success of the series “Band of Brothers” and in his 80’s, Compton frequently made the arduous trip from the West Coast to Reading, PA, to attend WWII Days at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, sitting for hours to sign autographs and pose for photos. And he traveled to Hershey, PA, in March 2011 to attend the public memorial service for Major Dick Winters.
Compton’s autobiography Call of Duty is a great read – chronicling his life and his service and how the success of “Band of Brothers” impacted his life.