On January 10 1945, near Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, Alex M. Penkala was sharing a foxhole with Warren H. ‘Skip’ Muck. On that day in January their foxhole received a direct hit from a German 88mm FLAK gun. Both men are portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. The series is its turn based upon the book Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose which follows Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The personalities of Penkala and Muck are based upon the memories of the veterans who fought with them. Unfortunately, there aren’t many sources available on the men who were Killed in Action. I decided to dig further and request Muck & Penkala’s Service Records from the Archives in St. Louis, MO to learn more about them. I’m writing this article to see what info we can find in the archives about the individuals, not to reconstruct their full WWII story.
Alex M. Penkala
Alex Penkala was born on August 30th 1924 in Bertrand, Michigan and was nineteen years old on D-Day and twenty years old during the Battle of the Bulge. He enlisted from South Bend and joined the army as a cook at Camp Lee, Virginia on March 24th 1943. Later on, he volunteered for the Airborne and reached the rank of Private First Class. This means he didn’t train with Easy at Camp Toccoa. Interestingly, the file of Penkala contains several letters and his earliest dated V-Mail is from November 29th 1943 to his sister and states that he was in E Co, 506th PIR by then. Unfortunately, all of the letters seem to be cut in half so that the bottom is missing.
In the letter of July 5th 1944 to his sister, Penkala talks about his jump on D-Day. ‘I wish you could of been here when we jump, I saw all kinds of tracers coming at me. Green, red, blue, etc. I guess I was just lucky. They miss me and hit my chute. When I landed, I landed on a roof of a farm nobody around….’ From there the bottom half of the letter is missing. I guess this is the closest we can get when it comes to Penkala’s experience of D-Day. The last letter of his file is dated November 30th 1944 written from Mourmelon, France to his sister living in South Bend.
Warren H. ‘Skip’ Muck
Muck was born in the town of Amherst, NY on January 31st, 1922, and lived a big part of his life in Tonawanda, right next to the Niagara river. Before the war he graduated from Tonawanda High and worked at the Main St. plant of Remington Rand Inc, when he entered service in August 1942. By the time he was fighting in Europe, he was only 22 years old.
‘Their deaths sent Don Malarkey into a state of despair. Winters found Malarkey sitting quietly on the lips of his foxhole.’ There was nothing left of Muck and Penkala. Unfortunately, Muck’s file doesn’t contain any letters written during his service. However, it does contain information from the hospital admission cards data. The first diagnoses states KIA and location of wound, well, they were gone in seconds, so there’s nothing to add. The hospital record is purely there for the record.
Colonel Robert sink wrote a letter to Muck’s mother to inform her of the death of her son. Warren was survived by both of his parents, his sister Mrs. Ruth LaFleur, and a brother, Private First-Class Elmer C. Muck, also serving in the European theater of Operations.
If you’d like to read a complete account of what else is known about Skip Muck, I highly recommend to read the following article on Project Virgil.
With this article I hoped to honor both the lives of Warren H. ‘Skip’ Muck and Alex M. Penkala. In the whole ten-part series of Band of Brothers Penkala didn’t have a big role, but he was there in the background. With the letters he sent to his sister it is very interesting and emotional to see him write about his D-Day experience. Skip’s role played a bigger part because he was the best friend of Don Malarkey.
The men are both burried at the American War Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg. May they rest in peace with their fellow brothers.
- Stephen E. Ambrose, Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest
- Bill Guarnere, Babe Heffron, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story
- Don Malarkey, Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II’s “Band of Brothers”
Are you looking to research a veteran’s service records and also his footsteps through Europe, please contact us! My team is specialized in pulling Personnel Records from the US Archives. Click here to find more about our services to research a veteran’s footsteps. We can get you written narrative specifically dedicated to the veteran and a map plotting his locations day by day.
 Alex M. Penkala, Letter 07-05-44
 Larry Alexander, Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led The Band Of Brothers (2006)