David Webster: What Happened to Him? Was He Ever Found?

In HBO’s war seriesBand of Brothers,’ David Webster rejoins the Easy Company after the Battle of the Bulge upon dealing with a wounded leg in England. Webster is considered the “intellectual” of the lot especially because attended Harvard before joining Easy. As the show depicts, Webster was a unique soldier. He remained a part of the Easy Company until the end of the Second World War and the dismantlement of the company. Webster then returned to the United States and he tried to become a writer. What really happened to him, as the show reveals, remains a mystery.

Who Was David Webster?

David Webster was born in New York City on June 2, 1922. After studying at The Taft School, in Watertown, Connecticut, Webster attended Harvard University as an English Literature major. Although he initially trained with Fox Company at Camp Toccoa, Webster eventually requested a transfer to Easy Company and remained a part of it until the end of the Second World War. During Operation Market Garden, he was parachuted into Holland and he joined his company when the same was shifted to Arnhem. During a subsequent attack, he got wounded in his leg due to machine gun fire, which led him to England.

Image Credit: David Kenyon Webster

After Webster’s recovery, he rejoined the Easy Company after the Battle of the Bulge, only to witness his fellow soldiers dealing with the emotional and physical scars of the same. Soon after he joined the company, Easy discovered the Kaufering concentration camp, which was liberated by the United States Army. Throughout his time with the Easy Company, he wrote diary entries regularly, which gives invaluable insight into the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the combat team.

Stephen E. Ambrose, who wrote the eponymous source text of the series, considered Webster a highly distinct soldier. “He [Webster] had long ago made it a rule of his Army life never to do anything voluntarily. He was an intellectual, as much an observer and chronicler of the phenomenon of soldiering as a practitioner. He was almost the only original Toccoa man who never became an NCO,” Ambrose wrote in his book. “Various officers wanted to make him a squad leader, but he refused. He was there to do his duty, and he did it — he never let a buddy down in combat, in France, Holland, or Germany — but he never volunteered for anything and he spurned promotion,” he added.

Webster’s Presumed Death: Unfound

After the Second World War, Webster returned to California to build a career as a writer. “David Webster could not understand how anyone could stay in the Army. He wanted to be a writer. He moved to California and paid his bills with a variety of odd jobs as he wrote and submitted articles and a book on his wartime experiences,” Ambrose wrote in ‘Band of Brothers.’ Many of his articles were published in The Saturday Evening Post but he failed to find a publisher for a whole book that revolved around his time with the Easy Company.

Image Credit: David Kenyon Webster

Webster then became a reporter. He initially worked for the Los Angeles Daily News and then joined the Wall Street Journal. In 1951, he also married Barbara Stoessel. Barbara, an artist, was the sister of Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Poland, the Soviet Union, and West Germany. The former soldier also took up sailing and fishing as his new interests. Meanwhile, Webster’s focus turned to oceanography and marine biology. He became obsessed with sharks and even wrote a book about the same.

“The shark, for him [Webster], became a symbol of everything that is mysterious and fierce about the sea. He began gathering material for a book of his own. His research went on for years. He studied sharks first-hand, underwater, swimming among them; and caught many, fishing with a handline from his 11-foot sailing dinghy which he had named Tusitala, which means ‘Teller of Tales,’” Webster’s wife Barbara wrote about her husband’s interest in sharks, as per Ambrose’s book. Publishers rejected Webster’s book thinking that not many would buy and read a book about sharks.

On September 9, 1961, Webster set sail from Santa Monica for fishing. He had a “squid bait, a heavy line, and hook for shark fishing,” as per ‘Band of Brothers.’ He went missing after he left Santa Monica for his fishing expedition. A search party found his dinghy named Tusitala five miles offshore with an oar and the tiller missing. Webster was presumed dead and his body was never found. As per reports, Barbara told the press that her husband did not use a life preserver when he went fishing. At the time, Webster was a technical writer who worked for System Development Corp.

Barbara published Webster’s book on sharks after he went missing. His wartime memoirs, titled ‘Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich,’ was originally published in 1994 with the support of Ambrose.

Read More: Where Was Band of Brothers Filmed?