71 pages 2 hours read

Stephen E. Ambrose

Band of Brothers

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1992

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Band of Brothers is a nonfiction history of one World War II company of paratroopers, Easy Company of the 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne. Through a combination of narrative, interviews, maps, and excerpts from letters, Stephen E. Ambrose follows the lives of this group of soldiers from their training in 1942, their deployments in Europe, and their lives after the war. By focusing on the lives of members of one particular company, Ambrose reveals the reality of military life and the lives of the ordinary men behind the typical large-scale military histories of the period.

Ambrose opens the book by describing the men’s paratrooper training in Camp Toccoa, Georgia (U.S.) during the latter half of 1942, almost a year after the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies. During their time in Georgia, the men forged a company identity built around their opposition to their commanding officer, Herbert Sobel, and their commitment to excel as paratroopers. After completing their initial training, the men continued training in eastern U.S. military installations and Aldbourne, England.

Easy Company’s first major engagement was in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. Important personalities in the company emerged during this action, most particularly Richard Winters, who eventually ledthe company and its battalion. On the whole, the men of Easy Company performed well. Ambrose narrates their missions at Brécourt Manor and Carentan to show that their reputation for bravery in the Army was well deserved.

Easy Company returned to Aldbourne in the summer of 1944, short some men who had been wounded or killed, and with a more cautious attitude that emerged from their participation in battle. Their company personality—competence, discipline, and a commitment to getting the job done without unnecessary heroics—emerged at this point under the leadership of Winters.

In 1944, Easy Company served in Holland as a part of an ill-conceived mission called MARKET-GARDEN. This mission tested the men since they were forced to spend much of their time in trenches and were only able to move around at night. At the end of this deployment, the front they defended had not moved.

After a brief rest in Mourmelon, France, Easy Company went to fight in the Ardennes, where they served as part of the ring defense around the city of Bastogne, a crucial site for the Battle of the Bulge. They later took Noville to cut off the retreat of the Germans. Ill-prepared in terms of equipment and weapons and forced to survive in foxholes and snow, many members of Easy Company died in combat. Others broke under the pressure of the combat conditions.

Their status as part of the legendary Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne was sealed during the defense of Bastogne, however, when their successful effortto hold off the Germans while under siege was widely reported in newspapers. Ambrose recounts in detail what most people don’t know about them, namely the toll those months in 1944 and 1945 took on the leadership and soldiers of Easy Company. They went again to Noville, France, and despite continuing to break under the pressure of their long deployment in combat zones, performed well enough to help Eisenhower meet his objectives.In the last year of the war, Easy Company served closer to the rear in Haguenau, Germany, and spent time recuperating again in Mourmelon.

They spent the last part of the war in Germanyprocessing surrendering German soldiers and displaced persons. They confronted the reality of the Holocaust in a work camp and a concentration camp. Easy Company was the first to arrive at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the German Alps, then considered to be a high-value target because of its symbolic importance as Hitler’s retreat. During these waning days of the war, many G.I.s, Easy Company among them, spent their leisure time looting, drinking, and enjoying the company of women who surrounded them.

Easy Company’s war ended in Zell am See, Austria, in 1945. Ambrose closes the volume by following the lives of the members of Easy Company from 1945 to 1991. 

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