Edward was born in Norfolk, Virginia on June 13, 1922 into a Jewish family of David and Sadie Shames. His father died in 1927 when Edward was only five years old. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1942 and saw service in the toughest battles of World War II. Before D-Day, as battalion operations sergeant, he created the sand tables the paratroopers used in planning the airdrop into Normandy and briefed the company about the operation (Read our earlier article - Wargames). He made his first combat jump into Normandy on D-Day and celebrated his 21st birthday in the midst of battle on June 13, describing it as the roughest day of his life. He was recognized by command for outstanding leadership and on the same day he received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. He also fought in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium. During his service, he got wounded three times thus he was awarded three Purple Hearts. He was the first member of the 101st to enter the Dachau concentration camp, a couple of days after its liberation. When Germany surrendered, he and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where Edward managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, a label indicating they were “for the Führer’s use only.” He used the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah. “There's two things that I'm proud of that I did in World War II,” said Edward in an interview. “The one was my battlefield Commission and the other was that I brought more men home from my platoon than any other of the 200 platoons in the 101st Airborne Division. The rest is what I was supposed to do, and how I was supposed to do it.” After the war, Edward worked for the National Security Agency as an expert on Middle East affairs between 1945 and 1982. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve Division and retired as a colonel in 1973.
He married his second wife Ida Aframe in 1946 and remained married for 73 years until Ida's death on February 21, 2019 at the age of 96. Jokingly, he used to say about marriage: “I didn’t know what war was until I got married – but I’m still in love”. Edward is survived by his two sons, four grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
The story of Easy Company was immortalized in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, and created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The series, where Edward was portrayed by British-Canadian actor Joseph May, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. With Edward’s death, 97-year-old Bradford Freeman remains the only surviving member of Easy Company.