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Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 1, 2001
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"The Times-Picayune" A valuable and fascinating record...In these pages, the reader can vicariously walk with the men of E Company, suffer and laugh with them.
"The New York Times Book Review" As a member of just such a unit...I am impressed by how well Mr. Ambrose has captured the true essence of a combat rifle company.
"San Francisco Chronicle" A first-class explanation of what crack infantry troops are like...Addicts of military history will relish its finely detailed account....Stephen Ambrose's thorough research and clear organization have produced a highly readable account of the heroic service of this "band of brothers" he so unstintedly admires.
"Publishers Weekly" This is a terrific read for WW II action buffs.
About the Author
Stephen E. Ambrose was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than thirty books. Among his New York Times bestsellers are Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944, and Undaunted Courage. Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History.
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Stephen Ambrose tells the remarkable true story of E Company, just such a group of guinea pigs. E Company fought with distinction at Normany and in Holland, plugged a key gap in the Battle of the Bulge, and was in on the rather haphazard, MASHian ramsacking of the remains of Hitler's little paradise in the Bavarian clouds.
The heart and soul of E Company was Dick Winters, a soft-spoken, teatotalling (NOT the norm) and kindly CO who works his way up to major by war's end, and who had the occasional Seargent York / Incredible Hulk moments, when Germans fall to the dozen. But after Winters has been promoted out of (much) direct action, Ambrose's spotlight falls more commonly upon the NCOs who provide the backbone of the company from the Battle of the Bulge on. Ambrose sugar-coats nothing: he relates acts of cruelty, drunken folly (too many to count), random acts of fate, and sheer stupidity, injustice, corruption (the front-line troops were robbed blind, and they robbed the locals), and incompetence. Though I have to say, Winters is the only character who really comes alive for me, along with a young writer from Harvard who refuses to be promoted, but does his job and writes competently about what he sees. (I think Ambrose exagerates his talent a bit, but that's fine -- he was at the right place at the right time with a competent pen, that's good enough.) Also Lieutenant Sobel, the hard-case CO against whom the troops rebel, and who gets left behind in England, and grows bitter. The others have their moments on stage, exit left, and are gone. By the end of the book, it's a bit hard to keep track. One comes to realize that with its high casualty and replacement rate, Company E has pretty much replaced all its original cells and we're talking about a new group of men almost entirely.
Ambrose was not, in my opinion, a great styllist. I was reading Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff at the same time I read this, and there is no comparison. Wolfe is truly brilliant. What Ambrose succeeds at most remarkably, is his act of historical reconstruction. This book involved interviewing survivors of E Company on or about 1990, some 45+ years after the fact, along with relentless gathering, reading, and sifting of written reports.
As an historian of religion, I found the undeniable success of Ambrose's methodology particularly interesting. Some skeptics claim that the human memory is too frail a reed, too unreliable and suggestible, for historical reports written decades after the fact to be trustworthy. I think Ambrose shows them wrong. Given that the gospels were written under somewhat similiar circumstances -- 35-60 years after the fact, based apparently on the eyewitness testimony of many once young men (mostly) who had traveled together for a few years and experienced and witnessed traumatic and remarkable events -- I think Ambrose's success (despite occasionally contradictory sources) should give those skeptics pause.
Read the book, and experience World War II from the front lines, as it was really fought. (Without needing to sleep in frozen foxholes with artillery rounds blowing up trees over your head.) Highly recommended. (Along with Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff.)
The men of Easy Company were the best America had to offer, and over the 11 months they fought in Europe from D-Day to VE Day, surely no other small group of American GI's did more. Their camaraderie was amazing--men getting maimed in battle going AWOL from the hospital to rejoin their "brothers" on the line, stopping the German offensive at Bastogne while living in fox holes without adequate cold weather gear, and so much more.
Keep in mind, these were men who fought hand-to-hand, killed (or were killed) in engagement after engagement, then came home and got on with their lives. No one understood PTSD in those days. These guys just gutted it out and got their "therapy" from one another in their letters and reunions. They stayed brothers to the end. It's amazing, heart-wrenching, and it makes me proud to be an American--and it reminds me how much we need more men like Dick Winters, Bill Guarnere, and Don Malarkey (one of the very few still alive at this writing).
Toward the end of his life, Stephen Ambrose took a lot of criticism for plagiarism--lifting bits and pieces of others' work for his many books. But these stories are based on face-to-face interviews with Easy Company men at a time when most of the survivors were still with us. It's their story, And that makes it good and important history.
God bless them.