BURLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Lynn D. “Buck” Compton, a veteran whose World War II exploits were depicted in the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” has died, his family said.
Compton died Saturday in Burlington, Wash., after having a heart attack last month, the family told the Los Angeles Times in a story Tuesday.
In January, nearly 200 guests, including actors from the miniseries, attended his 90th birthday party, the Skagit Valley Herald reported.
“To us he wasn’t really a war hero, he was just a hero, period,” Tracy Compton told the Herald.
Lynn Compton also is remembered for his legal career in California. He headed the team that prosecuted Sirhan B. Sirhan for the slaying of Robert F. Kennedy and was appointed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 1970 by Gov. Ronald Reagan. He retired from the bench in 1990.
He was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart during World War II. But it wasn’t until later in life that he became famous for his military service as a first lieutenant in Easy Company after the unit parachuted into France on D-Day in 1944. Historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 best seller about the unit was made into the 2001 TV series.
“His career as a prosecutor and a judge overrode his military career until ‘Band of Brothers’ came out, and then it just went crazy,” daughter Syndee Compton said.
A passage in the book recalled the D-Day invasion of France: “Compton had been an All-American catcher on the UCLA baseball team. The distance to the fleeing enemy was about the same as from home plate to second base. Compton threw his grenade on a straight line — no arch — and it hit a German in the head as it exploded.”
Compton was embarrassed by the attention at his birthday party at Skagit Regional Airport that was attended by children of other Band of Brothers veterans.
“All I can say is it’s flattering — and kind of embarrassing,” Compton told the Herald. “We didn’t expect anything more than those other guys (in the war). We’re celebrating longevity more than anything.”
The guests included “Band of Brothers” actors Michael Cudlitz, James Madio, Richard Speight Jr. and Neal McDonough, who portrayed Compton in the miniseries.
McDonough recalled meeting with Compton the day before he flew to London to begin filming “Band of Brothers,” and later peppering him with questions about his time during the war.
“When you play a historical figure, you have to do it right and tell the truth,” McDonough told the Times, recalling that Compton told him he was just doing his job.
“He’d say that’s what soldiers do,” said McDonough, who kept in touch with Compton and nicknamed his 6-year-old son Morgan “Little Buck” in his honor.
Tracy Compton said her father thought McDonough did a wonderful job portraying him and that “he laughed and said Neal was better-looking than he ever was.”
Compton was born in Los Angeles on Dec. 31, 1921. He majored in physical education and minored in education at UCLA, where he lettered in football and baseball. He started at guard in the 1943 Rose Bowl game against Georgia and was selected all-conference catcher while captain of the baseball team in 1942.
He also participated in the ROTC program and entered active service in February 1943 at age 21.
After the war, he became a Los Angeles police officer and worked his way through Loyola Law School. He was a detective in the Central Burglary Division before joining the district attorney’s office in 1951. He was assistant district attorney when District Attorney Evelle J. Younger chose him as his chief deputy in 1966.
Compton’s memoir “Call of Duty: My Life Before, During and After the Band of Brothers,” written with Marcus Brotherton, was published in 2008.
His wife, Donna, died in 1994. Along with his two daughters, he is survived by four grandchildren.