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Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest Paperback – September 6, 2001
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The men of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, volunteered for this elite fighting force because they wanted to be the best in the army--and avoid fighting alongside unmotivated, out-of-shape draftees. The price they paid for that desire was long, arduous, and sometimes sadistic training, followed by some of the most horrific battles of World War II. Actor Cotter Smith--a veteran of numerous TV movies and Broadway plays--spins Stephen Ambrose's tale with almost laconic ease. Anecdote by anecdote, he lets the power of the story build. By the time the company has gotten through D-day and seized Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Bavaria, we feel we know as much about the men and their missions as we do about our own brothers. (Running time: 5 hours, 4 cassettes) --Lou Schuler --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Ambrose ( Pegasus Bridge ) narrates in vivid detail the adventures, misadventures, triumphs and tragedies of a single U.S. Army infantry company over its span of organizational life. Formed in July 1944 and deactivated in November 1945, E Company was one of the most successful light infantry units in the European theater. Its troops saw their first action on D-Day behind the Normandy beachhead, took part in Operation Market Garden in Holland, held the perimeter around Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and were the first to reach Hitler's Bavarian outpost at Berchtesgaden. The book is enlivened with pertinent comments by veterans of "Easy Company," who recall not only the combat action but their relations with their officers (one company commander was a petty tyrant of the worst type, but his oppressive ways had much to do with the unit's impressive esprit de corps ) and their impressions of the countries through which they campaigned (hated the French, loved the Germans). This is a terrific read for WW II actions buffs. Photos. Military Book Club main selection; Literary Guild alternate.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.)