Class Notes

Just finished reading Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose for my WWII reading class.  I know some think of Ambrose as too pop history, but I have always found him a master story teller.  This book, which the acclaimed HBO mini-series was based on, tells the story of one of the finest companies in WWII, E Company of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne.  It is a story of hardship, sacrifice, perseverance, excellence, and finally brotherhood.  If you are a fan of the series, as I am, the series follows the book very well.  One area I found interesting is Captain Sobel.  The series and the book both made him out as a sadist who was inept in the field.  However, several times Ambrose gave him credit for creating the toughest company of soldiers in the entire army.  Though the men still despised him, Ambrose seems to hold a level of respect for him for what he created.

I want to do something different than I normally do with a book review.  I want to share a few of the lines I felt the most.

– “Easy had jumped into Normandy on June 6 with 139 officers and men.  Easy was pulled out of the line on June 29 with 74 officers and men present for duty”

– “One reason for this is what Glenn Gray calls “the tyranny of the present” in the foxhole.  The past and, more important, the future do not exist.  He explains that there is “more time for thinking and more loneliness in foxholes than in secure homes, and time is measured in other ways than by clocks and calendars.”  To the soldier under fire who has reached his limit, even the most horrible army jail looks appealing.  What matters is living through the next minute”

– “Easy had jumped on September 17 with 154 officers and men.  It came out of Holland with 98 officers and men.”

– “Compton had won a Silver Star at Brecourt Manor on June 6, 1944.  He had been wounded later in Normandy, and again in Holland.  He had stood up to everything the Germans had thrown at him from December 17 to January 3.  But the sight of his platoon being decimated, of his two friends torn into pieces, unnerved him.”

– “it was a test of arms, will, and a national system, matching the best the Nazis had against the best the Americans had, with all the advantages on the German side…Democracy proved better able to produce young men who could be made into superb soldiers than Nazi Germany.”

– “Back in America the race tracks were booming, the night clubs were making their greatest profits in history…We read of black-market restaurants, of a manufacturer’s plea for gradual reconversion to peace time goods, beginning immediately, and we wondered if the people would ever know what it cost the soldiers in terror, bloodshed, and hideous, agonizing deaths to win the war.”

– When seeing a work camp Major Winters wrote, “the memory of starved, dazed men who dropped their eyes and heads when we looked at them through the chain-link fence, in the same manner that a beaten, mistreated dog would cringe, leaves feelings that cannot be described and will never be forgotten.  The impact of seeing those people behind that fence left me saying, only myself, ‘Now I know why I am here’”

-One reason Easy was successful was their CO Richard Winters.  One of his men wrote to him after the war, “Dick, you are loved and will never be forgotten by any soldier that ever served under you or I should say with you because that is the way you led.  You are to me the greatest soldier I could ever hope to meet.”

-There are so many lines or ideas I could share with you from this book.  I would encourage anyone interested in WWII, leadership, or brotherhood to pick up a copy.  Nothing is truer than the last line from the book, “in one of his last newsletters, Mike Ranney wrote: “In thinking back on the days of Easy Company, I’m treasuring my remark to a grandson who asked, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’  “’No,’ I answered, “but I served in a company of heroes.’”

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