Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Speirs

an “officer with a reputation”

In a military career spanning 22 years, Speirs has been lauded as a hero, embroiled in controversy and celebrated in both print and TV. This website looks at the real man behind the reputation.

Lieutenant Colonel RONALD C. SPEIRS

His Reputation

Letters

rs-letter-s

Letter from Ronald Speirs to Forrest Guth 11th June 1945

 

Quotes

“The memories came flooding back. How did we make it thru that war. I did not expect to survive.”
Letter to Richard Winters     Ronald Speirs

“I was scared to death and never thought I would survive the war.”
Letter to Richard Winters     Ronald Speirs

“All the E Company people hold a special place in my heart. Our camaraderie will never die.”
Letter to Carwood Lipton     Ronald Speirs

“Smiled when you wrote Sparky – that was bestowed on me by Derwood Cann.”
Letter to Richard Winters     Ronald Speirs

“I have no recollection of the Foy incident where I took command, but it sure is flattering.”
Letter to Stephen Ambrose     Ronald Speirs

“Your questioning has taken me back to those exciting days long ago.”
Letter to Stephen Ambrose     Ronald Speirs

“For some reason I knelt down at the instant the German machine gun opened up cutting across the chest of my platoon sergeant standing besides me. He fell in my arms without a word, probably feeling nothing. Those are the guys I think about 50 years later – why them and not me?”
Letter to Richard Winters     Ronald Speirs

“Those were exciting and scary days.”
Letter to Richard Winters     Ronald Speirs

“My best days were as a platoon leader and company commander with you guys.”
Letter to Richard Winters     Ronald Speirs

“General Sink seemed like a father to me.”
Letter to Stephen Ambrose    Ronald Speirs

“The motivation of combat troops has always interested me. Why soldiers fight and die as they do seems clear to me. They so it for the small unit, the squad or platoon. The infantry solider is aware of the regiment, the division or the democracy he belongs to, but his fighting spirit and good morale is caused and nurtured by his buddies, the guys in the foxholes with him. That is the reason men persevere in battle.”
Letter to Stephen Ambrose     Ronald Speirs

“I always had the greatest respect for my uncle Ronnie”
Family Relative – American side of the pond    Robert Speirs

“When we were young children, our father’s favourite movie was ‘A Bridge too Far’ – which of course, is about Operation Market Garden. There’s a scene which shows an American Army Officer being soaked with water as a bridge is being blown up. At that point in the movie, our father would always point to the screen and say, “that’s my cousin Ronnie”. We use to laugh. It was only years later that we appreciated that it wasn’t entirely a joke. You see, my father’s mother, Allison had a sister called Martha – who was Ronald Speirs’ mother.”
Family Relative – English side of the pond    Niall Thomson

“My uncle Ronnie was mentioned many times in both the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe as details of his military achievements and awards became known. He was very celebrated.”
Family Relative – American side of the pond    Virginia Grace Speirs Reyerse

“Speirs was an officer with a reputation. Slim, fairly tall, dark hair, stern, ruggedly handsome, he cultivated the look of a leader, and acted it.”
Band of Brothers    Stephen E Ambrose

“His voice was hard and harsh, eyes cold and narrow, teeth stained with tobacco, but his smile was honest and sincere.”
Parachute Infantry: An American paratrooper’s memoir of D-Day and the fall of The Third Reich   David Kenyon Webster   

“He was a brave man in combat, in fact a wild man, who had gotten his silver star, bronze star and three purple hearts legitimately. Speirs swears by common sense, combat noncoms, and training with the emphasis on battle, rather than the book. I like Speirs…”
Band of Brothers    Stephen E Ambrose

“One of his fellow D company officers, Lt. Tom Gibson, described him as ‘tough, aggressive, brave, and a resourceful rifle platoon leader.”
Band of Brothers    Stephen E Ambrose

“I respected him as a combat leader because he made good decisions in combat”
Beyond Band of Brothers    Dick Winters & Cole C Kingseed 

“Our CO is now Lieutenant Speirs from D company. I think he’s the best one we’ve had yet”
Letter from Johnny Martin to Bill Guarnere, Brothers in Battle, best of friends    William Guarnere, Edward Heffron and Robyn Post

“My own assessment was that Lieutenant Speirs was one of the finest combat officers in 2nd Battalion”
Beyond Band of Brothers    Dick Winters & Cole C Kingseed

“Lt Ronald Speirs gained recognition as one of the deadliest combat officers in the WWII airborne division.”
Avenging Eagles: Forbidden Tales of the 101st Airborne Division in World War 2    Mark Bando

“He took a lot more risks than the average person.”
Paratrooper, D Company, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne   Art DiMarzio

“Captain Speirs, for all his bluster and reputation, cared for his men”
Band of Brothers    Stephen E Ambrose

“He was a close companion, a good combat companion.”
Paratrooper, D Company, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne   Art DiMarzio

“As a combat leader you couldn’t find anyone better than Ronald Speirs. He had this mind-set around him: ‘Don’t worry about getting killed because you’re already dead.  Just move forward and when it’s your time, it’s your time.’  Which I guess worked out perfectly for him.”
Silver Eagle: The official Biography of Band of Brothers Veteran Clancy Lyall    Clancy Lyall & Ronald Ooms

“He was a tough, tough solider.”
Paratrooper, D Company, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne   Art DiMarzio

“Speirs proved to be a fearless, capable combat commander and leader.”
Battered Bastards of Bastogne George E Koskimaki

“I was glad he was an American paratrooper”
Paratrooper, D Company, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne   Art DiMarzio

“I remember Speirs while we were at Toccoa. I remember him like it was yesterday. He was a competitor.  Always competing”
Rich Riley, Preserving the Memories & Sacrifices of Our Greatest Generation  Lt. Joe Reed

“You know all about our runs up and down that damn mountain?  Well I was in great shape and had a pretty easy time of running it.  On one particular day, Speirs and I happened to be running Currahee at the same time. I realized right away that Speirs wanted to race me.  I kept looking back, and there he was. I got to the top and quickly proceeded back down the mountain. Speirs was still behind me. I crossed the finish line and felt great. Speirs followed a short time later, coughing and wheezing from his effort to keep up with me.  After catching his breath, he gave me a respectful nod of his head and a smile, and went on his way.  I’ll never forget that day.”

(What Speirs probably never knew is that on that day, the soldier he picked to compete against was the absolute best in 2nd Battalion in terms of running Currahee – and he was neck and neck with him until the end.)
Rich Riley, Preserving the Memories & Sacrifices of Our Greatest Generation     Lt. Joe Reed

“There was this story about Speirs, that he had been a British Commando before he became an American paratrooper”
Paratrooper, D Company, 506 PIR, 101st Airborne   Art DiMarzio

“As a paratrooper who served with the 82nd Airborne, my dad was based at Fort Bragg during the 1940′s and his commanding officer was Captain Ronald Speirs. He often spoke about Speirs and said the men both admired and respected him. Speirs could have led them anywhere.”
Jeffery Spitery, in conversation with Paratrooper, 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne    Charles J. Spitery

Following the invasion of the Cotentin Peninsula, France, Lieutenant Speirs led his platoon without regard to his own physical condition. During the time, he sustained shrapnel wounds in the face and in successive engagements, was wounded in the hand, then in the leg, and finally in the back. Despite these wounds, he refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his platoon.
Excerpt from text, first award    Citation for the Bronze Star Medal

Throughout the Normandy Campaign, operations in Holland, and defence of Bastogne, Belgium, he rendered outstanding service as a Platoon Leader and Company Commander.
Excerpt from text, third award    Citation for the Bronze Star Medal

Assigned the mission of leading a patrol to the bank of the Neder Rijn River to determine enemy activity. He spend the entire day observing across the river. After dark he voluntarily swan across to the opposite bank alone where he found himself in unknown enemy territory. He located an enemy machine gun nest, and enemy headquarter and other enemy activity near the town of Wageningen. While returning to his own lines, he was wounded by fire from an enemy machine gun. Lieutenant Speirs was the first to cross the Neder Rijn River in this vicinity, and in so doing he paved the way for other patrols to make similar reconnaissances.
Excerpt from text     Citation for the Silver Star Medal

As Inspector General, Lieutenant Colonel Speirs demonstrated rare initiative, unusual professional knowledge, and exceptional organizational ability in the outstanding performance of the many complex duties required of his assignment.
Excerpt from text    Award of the Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant

Throughout his period of service, he displayed keen and intelligent insight into difficult problems, a realistic application of the viewpoints of others, and a quick and thorough understanding of any situation, thus enabling himself to grasp, evaluate, and solve the complex problems encountered as Inspector General.
Excerpt from text    Award of the Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant

Lieutenant Colonel Speirs’ praiseworthy service, outstanding devotion to duty, and superior soldierly qualities reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
Excerpt from text     Award of the Commendation Ribbon with Metal pendant

Lieutenant Colonel Speirs was directly responsible for the writing of several basic civil affairs policy documents on behalf of the Department of Defence. His personal participation in the preparation of these documents was marked by a clear, incisive approach to problems of national magnitude and scope and resulted in significant contribution of the overall politico-military policy of the United States.
Excerpt from text     Army Commendation Medal

By his interest and dedicated efforts and through his courteous, thoughtful manner and professional knowledge and ability, Lieutenant Colonel Speirs materially assisted in improving the capability of the Royal Lao Army. His outstanding performance of duty reflects great credit on himself and the United States Army.
Excerpt from text    Army Commendation Medal

Lieutenant Colonel Speirs added new status to civil affairs planning by initiating a systematic and realistic review of civil affairs support of all contingency plans taken under consideration by this Directorate.
Excerpt from text    Army Commendation Medal

Colonel Speirs’ outstanding effectiveness as a military leader, administrator, and organiser was of great value in furthering military objectives of major importance to the security effort worldwide.
Excerpt from text    Legion of Merit

By his inspiring leadership, professional competence, and devotion to duty, he contributed materially to the readiness posture of the armed forces of his country and to the defence effort of the Nation.
Excerpt from text    Legion of Merit

Colonel Speirs’ distinguished performance of duty represents outstanding achievement in the most cherished traditions of the United States Army and reflects the utmost credit upon himself and the military service.
Excerpt from text    Legion of Merit