I read in the news this week that Major Richard Winters of the 101st Airborne Division passed away (actually, he passed away on Jan. 2nd but gave instructions to his wife not to publish the information until after the burial). If you haven’t read Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” (BoB) and you’re a military history buff like me, I’m appalled. Whatever your feelings are about Stephen Ambrose (there have been both unsubstantiated and substantiated claims about plagiarism), this is an excellent read. It’s definitely in my top 10 of all time and #2 on my military history books. #1 would be Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day”. And the mini series on HBO was just as awesome. The book and mini series focus on Easy Company and their battles in WWII from training at Camp Toccoa through Normandy, Battle of the Bulge, and to capturing the Eagles Nest in Berlin. Ambrose does an excellent job in getting the reader to personally invest on each mission and the plethora of men in the company.
One of these men was Major Richard Winters. This book made me a huge fan of Major Winters. Not only was he an exceptional military strategist, but a great leader (and his men thought the same based on their accolades). If you know anything about WWII and European campaign, its success was a mixture of brilliant strategy and amazing luck (but I hazard a guess that most people in the military will say most battles are like that). But for me, this book brings the most human perspective to viewing a battle than most other books out there and Major Winters is a large reason. I actually went on to read “Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters” and “Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man who Led the Band of Brothers” by Larry Alexander. I would also recommend both those books. Both give you excellent insight into Major Winters and made me even more in awe of him. After surviving the Normandy invasion (D-Day), Major Winters is quoted as promising to himself that after the war, “he would settle down in some quiet place and live the remainder of his life in peace.” (Larry Alexander’s book, pg. 19). Well, Rest in Peace Major Winters, you definitely deserve it.
Other members of Easy Company went on to also write books detailing their personal and company’s treks through the war. Don Malarkey, William “Wild Bill” Guarnere & Edward “Babe” Heffron, and David Kenyon Webster are the ones I know. If you know of any others, I would definitely be interested in checking them out.
The Band of Brothers mini series was done by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg who also bring you “The Pacific”, which focuses on the WWII campaign in the Pacific. I’m only halfway through that mini series and I’m really on the fence about it. I’m personally very weak in knowledge of the Pacific campaign (much stronger on the European campaign and this weakness is something I’m trying to fix this year so if anyone knows of excellent books that cover this topic, please let me know!) but this series seems to be more about drama than facts and I felt like it was the opposite with BoB (more about facts and less drama). I’m not personally invested in the characters yet (I think I’m getting there with the kid who had the heart murmur and was delayed in enlisting but not yet). And I’m 99% certain that the battle of Guadalcanal didn’t last two or three spurts of furious gun battle but the series made it feel like it really wasn’t that big of deal (if I remember correctly, it was 4 months of grueling guerrilla-type battle but I might be wrong). The Battle of the Bulge lasted a bit but BoB did a good job of making you understand that they had been out in the cold and snow for months. I wish they could have taken the same care and detail with The Pacific that they did with BoB but I guess I can’t have everything I want…did anyone else see it? How far off the mark am I?
Well, I’m supposed to be studying (thanks to the IIA’s new rules, I basically have 9 days to start studying (which I finally did today), take and pass the test and if I have to retake it, it’s now going to cost a whopping $325 but I digress with disgust) so I’m hoping to pass the test and spend the rest of my year reading so any suggestions are welcome!