|Birth||March 13, 1923 (Clinchco, Dickenson County, Virginia, U.S.A.)|
|Death||June 17, 2009 (Clinchco, Dickenson County, Virginia, U.S.A.)|
Staff Sergeant Darrell C. "Shifty" Powers (13 March 1923 – 17 June 2009) was a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Powers was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Peter Youngblood Hills.
The 2011 book Shifty's War by journalist Marcus Brotherton, published by Penguin/Berkley-Caliber, captures Sgt. Powers' full life story. Powers was one of the twenty contributors to the 2009 book We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers.
Powers was born in Clinchco, Dickenson County, Virginia. His father was an excellent rifle and pistol shot, and taught him how to shoot when he was young. Shifty spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, hunting game prior to joining the service. This experience proved useful later as many of the skills he obtained helped him as a soldier. He learned most of his shooting during this period of time, and he got to the point where he could throw a coin in the air and hit it with a rifle.
Powers graduated from high school and took a machinist course in a vocational school in Norfolk. There he befriended Robert 'Popeye' Wynn, and the two went to work in the shipyards in Portsmouth after finishing the course. When they found out that they were about to be frozen to the jobs, they went to sign up for the Army. Powers enlisted on 14 August 1942, at Richmond, Virginia.
Powers' nickname "Shifty" originated from his basketball days and his ability to be 'shifty' on his feet.
Powers and Wynn both volunteered for the paratroopers, and became members of Easy Company. They received training in Camp Toccoa, Georgia under Captain Herbert Sobel. In Camp Toccoa, Powers was one of the two members in Easy Company who qualified as expert riflemen; the other one was Buck Taylor, and both received a three-day pass. Powers wanted to go home, but did not have enough money, so Wynn took a helmet with him and walked through the barracks, saying, "Shifty's got three days off and doesn't have enough money to get home. Everybody chip in a bit. Here - I'm going to start it with five dollars." Everybody else threw in some money, and when Powers counted the money, and it was more than what he would need. Wynn grinned, "Then give me my damn five dollars back."
Powers followed Easy Company to station in Aldbourne, England. He was shocked to see that the residents there were prepared to defend themselves against the Germans with only garden implements. He thought it would have been a massacre if the Germans had indeed invaded Aldbourne.
Powers jumped into Normandy on D-Day, missing his drop zone. He joined two others from the company and the three linked up with Easy Company several days later to fight in Carentan. Powers participated in the Allied military operation Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands.
Powers also fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. On 29 December 1944, when Easy Company was staying in the woods, Powers noticed a tree that was not there just the day before and reported it to First Sergeant Carwood Lipton. The "tree" was ultimately discovered to be part of the camouflage the Germans put up for their anti-aircraft battery. Lipton got approval for full battery fire to attack the area despite the short supply of artillery ammunition and the area was deserted within an hour. Many lives were probably saved with the destruction of the German anti-aircraft battery. Lipton commented, "It all happened, because Shifty saw a tree almost a mile away that hadn't been there the day before." It was one of Powers' most truly remarkable achievements and a testament to the extraordinary gifts his backwoods upbringing brought to Easy Company.
On 13 January 1945, when Easy Company was attacking Foy, several of the men were pinned down by a sniper which nobody could locate. Suddenly, Powers yelled, "I see him!" and fired his rifle, killing the sniper. Later, when Carwood Lipton and Wynn found the sniper's corpse, they were shocked to see the bullet hole centered in the middle of his forehead. Wynn commented, "You know, it just doesn't pay to be shootin' at Shifty when he's got a rifle."
Powers was one of the very few who was never wounded in combat. Partly because of that, Powers lacked the sufficient points to return home under the military point system, although he was there every day when Easy Company fought on the line. Powers joined the lottery that was organized to allow one man from each company to return home early on a furlough. He won this lottery after the rest of the company rigged it in his favor by removing their own names, and thus was set to return stateside. During the trip to the airfield, the vehicle that Shifty was in was involved in an accident and he was badly injured. He spent many months recuperating in hospitals overseas while his comrades in arms arrived home long before he did.
Honorably discharged from the Army in the postwar demobilization, Powers became a machinist. He was married to his wife Dorothy for 60 years at the time of his death. He moved to California, got a machinist job there and stayed there for three years with his family. He was laid off when the company he worked for lost a government contract, so he returned home. He worked as a machinist for the Clinchfield Coal Corporation for more than twenty years.
Powers, in his later years, was in declining health and depressed. The Powers family noted the release of the Band of Brothers TV miniseries and the subsequent speaking engagements brought Powers out of the depression and speculated that the series bought Powers extra years of life.
Powers is listed as one of 20 men from Easy Company who contributed to the 2009 book We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers, published by Penguin/Berkley-Caliber.
Powers died of lung cancer on 17 June 2009, in Dickenson County, Virginia. He is buried at Temple Hill Memorial Park, Castlewood, Russell County, Virginia.
Band of Brothers
In the first edition of the book Band of Brothers, author Ambrose wrote that on 23 December 1944, Powers disobeyed a direct order from Lieutenant Edward Shames to go out on patrol because he was discouraged. Both Shames and Powers denied that had happened, with Powers calling the insinuation "a slap in the face." Upon request and verification, Ambrose deleted that story from the later edition of the book.
Powers was a character in the HBO Band of Brothers TV miniseries. In the episode "The Last Patrol", Powers was shown to be one of the soldiers participating in the patrol mission; in reality, Powers was not on that patrol, which was confirmed by Earl "One Lung" McClung, one of Powers' best friends in Easy Company.
Medals and Decorations
||Bronze Star with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster|
||Presidential Unit Citation with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Good Conduct Medal|
|American Defense Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|
||European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 service stars and arrow device|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|Army of Occupation Medal|
|Croix de guerre with palm|
|French Liberation Medal|
|Belgian World War II Service Medal|
|Combat Infantryman Badge|
|Parachutist Badge with 2 combat jump stars|