- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 2nd edition (June 6, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743216458
- ISBN-13: 978-0743216456
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 819 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,877,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest 2nd Edition
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Publishers Weekly This is a terrific read for WW II action buffs. -- Review
About the Author
Stephen E. Ambrose is the author of Citizen Soldiers, Undaunted Courage, and D-Day, as well as biographies of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon. He is founder of the Eisenhower Center and president of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. He lives in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and Helena, Montana.
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The book presents the short and eventful existence of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne. It starts with the group’s rigorous training in Georgia, where the harsh discipline shaped an indestructible camaraderie. The story continues with the group’s relocation to England, and its D-Day parachuting into Normandy. E Company’s exploits mirrored the Allies’ major European battles, including Market-Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. It seems extraordinary that one group should thread through these events, but perhaps because the group, itself, was extraordinary.
The book winds down with E Company’s trek to the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s mountain retreat near Berchtesgaden, followed by their occupation duty in Austria and return to the United States. The book concludes with an update on the members’ lives, and their recollections.
Ambrose compiled this story by interviewing E Company members. It also was revealed that they mostly kept in touch. Although their lives had diverged, they continued to be bound by their shared wartime experience.
I have previously read about these events, but no other accounts of these actions seemed as vivid as Ambrose’s. Using his interviews, he has fashioned a narrative supported with first-person detail that places the reader right on the scene. In fact, I recently glimpsed some clips from the TV series. I don’t feel I’ve missed much.
The book begins with Company E's formation in July 1942, and ends with its inactivation on November 30, 1945. It's a narrative history based on letters, diaries, news clippings and personal interviews. It spans the company's training in the United States and England, its combat roles in the D-Day invasion, the subsequent Operation Market Garden, and the defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and ends with the capture of Hitler's Alpine retreat, Berchtesgaden, and the last months as an occupying force in Austria. There's a stark contrast between Company E's sojourn in the Hell of battle and its occupation duty, the latter characterized by author Stephen Ambrose as a "soldier's dream life" of "mountain weather, unlimited sports, women and booze, easy duty, (and) good hunting".
Company E's full complement was 140 men - 8 officers and 132 enlisted. But, as casualties mounted, original members were replaced with new, and the cast of characters is large. At times, BAND OF BROTHERS is more a series of vividly drawn vignettes featuring named individuals in the context of a particular combat operation. The reader never really gets to "know" any one soldier, with the exception of perhaps Dick Winters, who provides a continuity of sorts. Winters began as a 2nd Lieutenant commanding a platoon, and ended the war as a Major commanding the 2nd Battalion. To the degree that the author allows, Winters is the foremost hero of a group of heroes, i.e. all of E Company. The reader is thus forced to identify with the unit as a whole throughout its travails and final triumph. This was the author's intent, and is the book's ultimate strength. In the paperback edition, there are only eight pages of photographs and two of maps. One wishes for more. The last chapter on post-war careers is a nice, and logically necessary, touch.
Most war-centered works of non-fiction focus on the "great commanders" - Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Nelson, Washington, Lee, Grant, Rommel, Montgomery, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, etc. BAND OF BROTHERS is the best book I can recall on the experiences of the common soldier - the guy in the front trench whose only reward at the end of hostilities, if he lives, is a wound or two, a souvenir enemy pistol or flag, and the greatest of all, a feeling of comradeship with his fellows that lasts for life. This last almost makes war seem worth it.
This book is a good compliment to Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers." In that book, Ambrose takes a look at the condition of the G.I. in Europe as a whole. While offering interesting personal accounts, it is intended as a survey of all soldiers and as such is somewhat impersonal (although very good).
Band of Brothers, on the other hand, is intimate and personal. By following one command (E Co., 506 / 101st Airborne) across France and into Germany, we get to see a discrete group of soldiers adjust to changing conditions brought on by different seasons, terrain, offensive and defensive actions, their own increasing battle savvy and fatigue. I like this approach. By personalizing the experience of a few front-line soldiers, the impact on the reader is enhanced because one comes to know the characters. They are not just "some soldiers who experienced frost bite," they are individuals we've come to know who looked with the pride of conquerors as they stood in Hitler's Eagle's Nest, a fitting end to their fatigue, loss and heroics in liberating a continent.
This outfit in particular offers lots of adventure, which is I am sure why Ambrose chose them. Part of the 101st Airborne, E Co., was at Utah Beach, the Battle of Arnhem, the Battle of the Bulge, helped liberate a concentration camp in addition to securing Hitler's Bavarian retreat. As we get to know these Americans through their battles and experiences, we more fully appreciate how our "regular guys" helped conquer self-designed supermen bent on world domination.
This book moves very quickly, is highly entertaining and moving. Watch out, you may want to read this ground level WW II account in one sitting