Band of BrothersPosted: 2012/03/15
Ambrose, Stephen E. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne From Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
If it seems as if I have been reading a lot of war books lately it’s true. Last month it was a World War II narrative to commemorate the flag raising on Japan’s Iwo Jima. This month, to celebrate “Hug a G.I. Day” on March 4th, I read Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. It makes sense because it wasn’t like reading someone else’s version of the same account. The men in Band of Brothers were fighting across Europe instead of the Pacific. Same war, a much different story.
If Stephen Ambrose wrote about every event in history I would read it. I wish he had written all my textbooks in high school. No matter the subject Ambrose makes it real, he makes it come alive. It isn’t some dry account that drones on like Charlie Brown’s teacher. He not only makes it interesting, he makes it human. War, on the surface, is about defeating the enemy; doing whatever it takes to win each skirmish in an effort to be the final victor; to win the entire war. Human emotion, especially in the aftermath of it all, gets lost. Ambrose points out the lesser-realized aspects of war – fear, regret, sorrow, but most of all, survivor guilt. This often happens mid-war when soldiers have the opportunity to first realize with shock that they survived that grenade strike and then moments later remember those who didn’t. Comrades who were standing beside them just moments ago.
I think the section that best sums up Band of Brothers is from pages 202-203: “Combat is a topsy-turvy world. Perfect strangers are going to great lengths to kill you; if they succeed, far from being punished for taking life, they will be rewarded, honored, celebrated. In combat men stay underground in daylight and do their work in the dark. Good health is a curse, trench foot, pneumonia, severe uncontrollable diarrhea, a broken leg are priceless gifts.”
Strange example of hope: Lieutenant Welsh carried his reserve parachute throughout Normandy in the hope of sending back to his best girl, Kitty so that she could make a wedding dress out of it. Kudos for Welsh for having the optimism to think he was going to survive the bloody campaign but double kudos for Kitty if she actually made a thing of beauty out of something that symbolized such violence.
Probably my favorite “character” of the entire book was Captain/Major Richard Winters. Throughout the entire war he remained true to his men and true to himself. An example: “Winters stayed in Albourne to rest, reflect, and write letters to parents of men killed or wounded” (p 109). A seven day pass entitled him to go sight seeing or carousing to blow off steam. Instead he chose to reflect on the events of the war…my kind of man.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Nonfiction” (p 253).