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Showing 1-10 of 89 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 149 reviews
on March 31, 2017
This book is fantastic! In the first chapter alone, Webster does a better job of simply but clearly explaining the objectives of the 101st airborne on D-Day than Max Hastings, Stephen Ambrose, or Antony Beevor ever did.

As for the personality of Webster, it it's true that he can be abrasive at times (even I was a bit irritated at the abrasive tone of his letters home to his mother), and he never volunteered for anything (leading to charges in some reviews below that he was 'not a hero'). To that I say "so what?" He's smart, funny and honest. I can't ask for anything more.

Indeed, I've never read a more honest memoir about WW2. This is an unvarnished take on it. It's good to read a memoir that was written shortly after the war; before years gone by had managed to cloud the memory or, worse, smooth the rough edges of what it was like to fight in the infantry. Some memoirs almost seem nostalgic. This is not that kind of memoir.

Webster was still a little bitter and angry when he wrote this. He hated the army with it's arbitrary rules and nonsensical bureaucracy. He admits to enjoying killing the enemy, and tells the truth about since of the things the men of Easy Company 506th PIR that didn't make it into the HBO series.

That doesn't lessen my admiration for these men. In fact, it merely makes them seem more human.

He gets bonus points for not asking me to slog through three chapters about his youth too.
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on January 26, 2014
Webster is perhaps the best educated enlisted man in the regiment of which the famous Company E is part of and memorialized in "Band of Brothers". Led by Lt. Winters this company participated in some of the most famous actions of WWII including the Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's last gasp and largest battle the US Army ever fought.

Webster was a man with an attitude. He had a problem with authority and was choleric. His negativity colors every page and sometimes comes off as whiny but he's excused because he always did his duty and was a dependable and capable soldier.

Webster's keen insights appear objective and provide a view of the war as seen from the ground. Webster wanted this POV because he planned to write an infantry soldier's experience of war. He refused to become an NCO and never volunteered for anything in order to preserve this vantage point. He had the education to write clearly and intelligently and went on to make a living as a writer, not surprising, he's a good writer.

He will sometimes jump around while telling his story, which keeps us on our toes, and sometimes starts his dialogue in the middle of a situation. It may sound disjointed but I found it refreshing and entertaining.

His book is a great read for both historians and WWII buffs. His widow provided the manuscript to Ambrose as source material for his "Band of Brothers". Webster died before Ambrose came on scene but the manuscript was written shortly after the war. Webster's attempts to get it published came to naught but Ambrose saw its value and pushed for its publication. It's a good companion piece to Ambrose's book as well as the miniseries.
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on July 23, 2008
I liked this book. It was not the best reading ever, but it fills out more fully the story of the `Band of Brothers", the WWII exploits of E Company of the 101st Airborne division. It is one of several books that came out after the success of "Band of Brothers".

To read "Parachute Infantry" is to look at the flip side of the story of E Company.

David Kenyon Webster, a Harvard student, was not an original member of E Company at Toccoa, jumping on D-Day as a member of the HQ Company.

He later joined and became a completely unaccomplished member of E Company, and had a very limited role in its storied successes during WWII. He was a self-admitted "goldbrick", and refused to volunteer for anything. He was not a coward but did have a strong sense of self-preservation which served to severely limit his opportunities for doing anything heroic.

Webster barely seems to have even gotten to know Major Dick Winters, the central character of E Company in the BoB story. Throughout his time with E Company, Webster was so good at keeping his head down that he rarely was able to see the bigger picture of what his unit was trying to accomplish beyond a very tightly focused small objective.

Webster would end his autobiography of his WWII experience with this lament: "I have accomplished nothing, achieved no rank, seen almost no action".

Why would anybody interested in WWII, in the story of E Company, be interested in this book? Why would Stephen Ambrose be so interested in it that he would help get it published in 1994, after it had been initially rejected in the 1950's, when it was first written?

For BoB aficionados, it does fill out some more details about several members of E Company, such as Joe Liebgott, Donald Hoobler, Burton Christenson, George Luz, John Janovek, Ronald Speir, Lieutenant Thomas Peacock, and the Camera Killer Lieutenant.

The other books about E Company concentrate on the most active members of E Company, the "heroes", the "killers" (Dick Winters's term). This book is about the other guys in the company, the faceless GIs of E Company who were only trying to get by and survive the war. And to that extent, this book is full of the rich details of the daily grind and trivia of Army life during WWII. We get abundant details about food and Army rations out in the field, about the cooks, about the looting, about the sex, about the civilians in the countryside.

We find out additional details such as the fact that towards the end of the war, George Luz had left E Company to go to the HQ Company.

From this book came the scene of German prisoners being shot by the roadside by a French soldier (Webster's account is much more striking than the movie version - you'll have to read it), as well as the scene of Webster chatting with the German MP at the roadside checkpoint from the HBO series.

Other scenes from the HBO series involving David Webster are not in this book, and so it remains unclear whether these came only from the imagination of the writers. These include the conversations between Webster and Joe Liebgott in the truck (where Liebgott talks about his dreams after the war is over), Webster's rant at the passing columns of surrendering German soldiers, the scene at the concentration camp involving Webster and Liebgott, and Webster's involvement in the Last Patrol (he actually stayed in one of the outposts to cover the patrol while Liebgott went as the translator - Webster's account does have a more detailed description of what happened to the dying German soldier left behind by the American raiding party). The HBO depiction of Webster getting snubbed by E Company members when he rejoins them is completely contrary to his account of a warm reception by E Company in this book.

It was good to read this book to find out more about what was true and what was Hollywood in the scenes involving Webster, and to get such a different viewpoint of "Band of Brothers" beside the ones focusing on the heroes of E Company.

This was a book written well before its time. The ethos of the 1950s simply could not handle its raw honesty about life in the military. It is not unlike "Jarhead", a book about the first Iraq War, and it also is similar to many other Vietnam era and post-Vietnam era war autobiographies.

The only part that's really different, that has changed completely, is that this book describes a time when students at elite universities like Harvard would volunteer to serve with the military, with the paratroopers of the U.S. Army.
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on June 29, 2009
Love that title - well the `Parachute Infantry' part and I quite liked the book as well. It took me a little while to get into Webster's style or at least the point of view he takes but then I found it a very interesting read indeed. In fact the full reproductions of a number of Webster's amazingly detailed letters in the appendix were a real treat.

Webster was with the 506th Para Regt of the 101st Airborne. After a bit of bouncing around he ends up with `E' company and it was fascinating reading his take on the `Band of Brothers' exploits. Obviously his account was written a few decades before Ambrose and the subsequent TV series and it is quite evident that this was a primary source for those efforts. Note though, not all of the TV `Webster' is faithful to what is revealed in this book. If the series is of interest to you, there is much here to flesh out some of the stories and characters. I enjoyed making the connections.

Webster's account starts with the waiting for D-Day. He spends quite a bit of time being frustrated and stuffed around. It is very clear early on that Webster is a great cynic about military life. His attitude is ironic given his decision to volunteer. He recognises this and writes about the contradictions. His views are very interesting. He was a highly literate and thoughtful man and it is fascinating at times to read his thoughts on everything. Anyone who can write, "The night was a collie that barked and whirled around us, and we were the sheep, pushing together for warmth and courage" will do me. He makes routine things, like ratting through houses fascinating. The last quarter of the book, regarding the occupation, is surprisingly good value.

There is lots of combat, including some great stuff in the air prior to his two jumps. His D-Day revelations seem a bit short at first but he later reflects back on various events. The encounter and destruction of a battalion of 6th FJ is particularly eye opening. There is a lot more detail regarding his time in Holland, including his involvement (initially) with the fight on the Island. Webster has a great eye for detail and his descriptions are very vivid. Dialogue is sharp and the pages just flew. He only writes once about shooting a German soldier. Interestingly he doesn't dwell on this. Given his anti-army stance it is also intriguing that he shows no reluctance to kill. The incident with the wounded German on the river bank who they tried to kill with grenades is also quite revealing - Webster had planned to swim across and bayonet him! So some good combat accounts but very a few where Webster himself is pulling the trigger. He claims though to have been known as the worst shot in the company.

There is a lot to be fascinated by here. His cynicism towards the army stands out but he really shines when writing of his return to `E' Co after recovering from wounds. He is overjoyed to be back but jarred to learn of all the deaths in the Ardennes. No other author has captured the camaraderie and resultant pain so well. Webster's war was not as horrific as others here and though he was very much a combat soldier, he didn't reveal a lot of his own involvement and I've chopped a star off accordingly. Even so, I enjoyed this book so I'll hedge slightly and on balance, describe it as - `Quite highly recommended'
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on January 27, 2016
I've read it and re-read it. Webster makes it very personal and human, while giving a new view of the now-famous Band of Brothers group. There are some gaps -- like his D-Day minor-wound evacuation that he skips -- but lots of detail from Holland and Berchtesgaden, and the final days in Austria. He's was fine writer, if a less-than enthusiastic soldier.
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on June 13, 2016
A bit earthier and less elevated than Ambrose's Band of Brothers, Webster's version is a great adjunct to the Ambrose book and video series. I also strongly recommend Don Malarkey's book, if you're of a mind to explore further.
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on July 29, 2013
Since first reading Ambrose's Band of Brothers and watching the HBO miniseries, I started seeking out companion books to the series. David Webster's was the first I read, and it's still my favorite.

He's not the first one to do so, but the candidness that he writes with - including painting himself as more of the anti-hero than the hero, and the fact that he himself recognizes moments of what he might call "cowardice" (but I would not) make this book really stand out to me.

If you read the book, I think you will find exactly where a lot of the scenes and dialog in the miniseries (that was not in other firsthand accounts) came from.

Though he was not the best shot, nor the most gung-ho, nor the best leader, if I could spend just 10 minutes with one of the "Band of Brothers", I would want it to be David Webster.
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on July 5, 2011
Seemingly "just another book" in the BofB series, this book manages to add value for anyone who is a fan of the show or reader of the other BofB books out there.

Compared to some others in the series, this book was written almost right after the war (though remained unpublished for some time), so it is certainly much more vivid in terms of imagery and recollections, as well as personal thoughts.

Stephen Ambrose wrote the intro to the book, and while he admits never having met Webster, he writes that he admired him anyway as one who contributed to help win the war, thought of him as a good soldier, and more pertinent to this review, that he found him to be a "wonderful" writer.

If you can get used to Webster's writing style in the first 10 to 20 pages, you should sail through this interesting book which is really well written and pulls the reader along very nicely with lots of imagery and vivid descriptions. Out of the few others I've read so far (Malarkey and Winters), this book comes across as much more of a first person account than a story/recollection 40+ years after the fact.

The book really adds tremendous detail to events and locations which others have skimmed over or missed entirely. I personally really enjoyed his descriptions of the flight over the English channel on D-Day, his time in Holland, the time he spent in Hagenau (his return to the unit from hospital seemed much less harsh by his recollection than depicted in the show), and finally, their move into Germany and Austria, especially the pages describing the raiding of wine cellars, his time at a checkpoint and the unit's eventual departure. He missed Bastogne altogether and only skims over the liberation of the concentration camp(s), but the other parts were interesting reading and more than make up for these absences. In short, the paperback price was well worth it.

A warning to those who may be overly sensitive to issues relating to patriotism and how one (even veterans) speak of the military after leaving: Webster clearly did not like the military or it's bureaucracy. Putting this into perspective, as with any other job, some like it and some don't, Webster simply makes it very clear throughout his book that while he volunteered to fight and believed in his greater patriotic purpose, he thought the Army... and its quirky ways... sucked!! His resultant rebellious nature (including his self-admitted work avoidance) seeps through to the reader more and more as the story progresses, which may be potentially displeasing to some, though quite understandable for others. If you're a vet (as I) and left uniformed service with mixed emotions (jaded, but with fond memories and lifelong friends), you'll probably find parts of the book quite funny.

In the end, I found the book to be much more realistic in that it didn't unnecessarily wrap itself in the flag or paint an overly idealistic picture of life in the military. Webster just tells it the way he saw it, no holds barred.

On the book itself (mass market paperback): Amazon lists it as 464 pages, but the story only goes to 393. An annex with his letters home to family and siblings runs from pages 397 to 441. The pages are typical mass market paperback (slightly see-through), the print is relatively clear and of good size causing minimal eye strain. There are a few typos in the book but nothing bothersome; there are little to no margins though.
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Ever since HBO glorified this group of men, I have made it a point ... well, now it's a mission, to read any/all of the books associated with Easy Company. Reading Ambrose's book prior to the release of the HBO miniseries served as an appetizer to the main course (the 10 part series), but there was still plenty of room left for desert as I was hungry for more information about these men, their upbringing, their bond, their deeds and their lives after their service. My mission has been blessed with a virtual avalanche of books that have contributed to satisfying my craving for "all things Easy Company", but they are all products of the Band of Brother's cash cow and perhaps a scant indulgent. Ironically, it was actually the debut of HBO's "The Pacific" which led me to David Kenyon Webster's book. Just like E.B. Sledge's "With the Old Breed" and Robert Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow" provided the foundation for "the Pacific", "Parachute Infantry" serves as the raw material needed for "Band of Brothers". In his book, Webster authors a genuine, personal and detailed look at Easy Company almost four decades before Ambrose gave these men a global introduction. The pleasant surprise with this book is that it provides so much more than the miniseries could have hoped to deliver.

What makes Webster's book a worthy read is that he wrote it decades before Ambrose even considered writing about a company from the 506 Division (it was actually Ambrose who initiated the memoir actually being published) ... in other words, "Parachute Infantry" is arguably the original manuscript for the Band of Brothers book and miniseries. And Webster delivers a wonderfully detailed account of his wartime experience, the military life he absolutely hated and a war that left an indelible imprint on his life. A constant theme throughout the memoir is the author's utter disdain for the military and all of its pettiness and ineptitude. Additionally, Webster displays a similar distaste toward the French, their arrogance and unappreciative, elitist nature. It becomes obvious from the beginning of the book that David Webster clearly viewed military life beneath him. Webster articulates his experiences and opinions in a dry, witty manner and illustrates them with great detail. The reader never experiences moments where more information is desired.

One of the more surprising aspects of "Parachute Infantry" is that the individuals made popular by Ambrose and the HBO miniseries are, for the most part, absent. Most of the individuals close to Webster are mostly fringe characters in the miniseries. But, it is obvious, that he felt a kinship to many of the men who shared his experience. If anything, Webster's book is reminiscent of Robert Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow" in that the focus of the book is more of personal reflection of military life, bonding and the deep impact of what is being witnessed rather than a pure combat memoir. It is not that Webster didn't see combat (he was wounded in Holland and earned a Bronze Star), but his focus is less on the actual battles as it is on the indelible affect their aftermath had on him.

"Parachute Infantry" starts out slow and can be somewhat verbose initially, creating a somewhat tedious read. However, as the book progresses, Webster's attention to detail becomes more appreciated and enjoyable to read. His keen eye for specifics is evident as the reader is immersed in a lush and colorful environment on each point of Webster's journey through Europe; this attention to minutia adds to the reader's experience. In my opinion, one of the best segments of the miniseries is the final episode when the war draws to a close and the men of Easy Company take Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany and eventually report to Austria. This particular episode is where I believe "Parachute Infantry" really shines and it becomes clear that the miniseries drew heavily from Webster's account as the description he provides of these two locales is just as breathtaking to read about as it is viewed on television. His recollection of spending the end of the war in Austria reads a lot like a military version of a Jack Kerouac adventure.

It is a shame that David Webster was never able to see the impact or importance of his book. After reading his work, though, it becomes obvious that military service was only a small (but significant) facet of the man's life; maybe even a necessary interruption. And, like many gifted writers, he chose to view his experience as an adventure. Rather than leaning on his family's wealth to garner favoritism and avoid hazardous duty, David Webster opted to enter the military as private to see this adventure from the ground up as a low level enlisted man. The perspective he provides the reader of the Band of Brothers is both eloquent and unique.
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on July 27, 2017
If I could give this very personal book more than 5 stars, I would. Maybe the best and the most revealing war history book, I have ever read.
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