Don Malarkey is a true American hero and an Oregon member of the “Band of Brothers”. He served with distinction in WW II with the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” and parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. During his time in the service, Don met Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill, and was awarded the Bronze Star.
Don grew up in Astoria, Oregon and he was in his first semester at the University of Oregon in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
He became a member of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. He went to England in 1943 to participate in the largest amphibious invasion in history: D-Day. In the darkness of the morning of D-Day (June 6, 1944), Malarkey parachuted into France with his unit. Later that day, he received the Bronze Star for his heroism in a pitched battle to knock out a German artillery battery; an action now called the Brécourt Manor Assault (which is still taught at West Point).
He fought in Normandy, Operation Market Garden in Holland, the Battle of the Bulge (surrounded in Bastogne), Haugenau, France, and the Ruhr Pocket in Germany. Never seriously wounded, Don served more time on the front lines than any other member of Easy Company.
After the war, Don returned home to Oregon.
In 1987, Don was introduced to author and University of New Orleans Professor of History Stephen Ambrose at an Easy Company reunion in New Orleans. In 1989, Don traveled with Ambrose and other members of Easy Company, including Richard Winters and Carwood Lipton, to various sites where they had fought in Europe following the D-Day invasion. The oral history and first person recollections that Malarkey and the others provided became the basis for Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers, which was published in 1992 – and which later was made into an HBO mini-series (2001).
During Ambrose’s collection of anecdotal information for the book, Malarkey told of the saga of the Niland brothers of Tonawanda, New York, how two had died on D-Day and another was presumed killed. Fritz, one of the four Niland brothers, was close friends with Don. This episode was the impetus for the screenplay of Saving Private Ryan.