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Band of Brothers
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Band of Brothers (Viva SC/Rpkg/DVD)
Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers' journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elete rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.]]>
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In 2012, I took a filmmaking class with Mark Cowen, who directed the Emmy nominated, “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company”.
During the class, he described to us what it was like interviewing the veterans of Easy Company. In order to get access to these men, he had to go through the “Biggest Brother”, Major Richard “Dick” Winters. Mark said that, even after so many years, Major Winters still commanded the respect of his troops and that they would do what he asked. Major Winters got on the phone and made some calls that went something like this, “This is Winters. I’m sending a man over to interview you. I want you to tell him everything he wants to know” or words to that effect. Mark said that this is the only way he could have gotten access to them and for them to tell their stories for these interviews.
Mark faced a difficult problem before any of the interviews started. How could he make them “open up” to his questions and speak freely about these often painful experiences and memories? He couldn’t just go in and say, “Can you tell me what you did during the war”. Knowing that these men wouldn’t want to talk about themselves he came up with an idea which worked very well. He started each interview by asking, “Who was your best friend during the war? What was he like?” That is how he got these brave men to speak freely and express themselves as openly as they did on camera.
Many of the men Mark interviewed had never told anyone about their combat experiences during the war, not even their families. While relating some of their stories, the brave veterans would sometimes break down and cry. Mark told us he often found himself crying along with them. During one of the interviews, an old veteran slowly came out and sat down. He started speaking about the war and his time with Easy Company. As the camera rolled and the interview progressed, Mark could hear this veteran’s family come up from behind to watch and listen to their loved one relate stories of bravery, of death, of friendship and of pain, which they had never heard. When he finished the interview, Mark turned to find not only the veteran’s family but also a lot of their neighbors standing there. Some were weeping quietly while others struggled to restrain from sobbing. Scenes like this became common during the interviews he did with these brave, old warriors.
I often think of what Mark Cowen told us that day about his interview for, “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company”. I wanted to get together with him again to hear more about these interviews but sadly, he passed away shortly thereafter, on September 10, 2012.
It also happens to be one of the greatest treatises on leadership and management I have ever seen. Every episode has at least one lesson about what a leader/manager should do and should not do to get the most out of their organization -- in this case, an airborne infantry company in WWII. I believe this series should be used as a teaching tool in every management school in the country. Every management approach is represented, both competent and incompetent. Quiet leading by example and loud screaming/abuse. Kiss up/Kick down and protecting your people at all costs, even your own safety. Watch this series all the way through while teasing out the lessons it is teaching, and you should be able to see some things a little more clearly in your own work situation, and if you are the boss, to maybe be a little better at your job.