Stephen Ambrose’s book on E Company of the 506th Regiment of 101st Airborne of the US Army tackles the World War II experiences of the many enlisted personnel and officers of Easy Company. From their training stage at Camp Toccoa, Georgia to the realization of their ultimate victory which was the seizure of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Germany, one of the last strongholds of the German SS during the war.
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This story of heroism and bravery are filled with adventures and tragedies that have given readers a comprehensive insight on the life of being in the frontline of a battle and being a mere individual witnessing the compassion and at the same time the wickedness of human beings. It all started in 1942 when a number of young abled men joined the Army to be part of a prestigious rank, being a paratrooper. Many were enticed to enlist in this unit because of the alluring financial compensations. The Army offered $50 every month for the hazardous duty pay. At that time, this amount of money was considered as a bounty. Over 130 soldiers who were mostly at the age of 19 and above took a painstakingly training regimen under the supervision of Captain Sobel. At first, it was not easy for E company to bond as a consolidate group. They had leadership issues with their immediate superiors and they seemed to clash with one another when they got exhausted and got in trouble. More so, their training focused on enhancing their infantry skills such as map reading, utilization and maintenance of various warfare weapons and learning about communication. More importantly, they had to earn their wings in order to be fully recognized as a paratrooper. Because of this, E company took several trainings on learning how to successfully jump from airplanes.
However, the highlight of their training was their regular run to the topmost part of Curahee. It was in this place the E company showed their camaraderie and their potential in being the best paratrooper unit in the US Armed Forces. Mount Curahee posed as a significant part in each of the lives of E company. Ironically, the term Curahee was derived from the Native American culture which means “We Stand Alone Together.” This statement clearly embodies the totality of the experiences of all the members of E company during World War II.
In the book, it was vividly described how members of Easy Company transformed from being ordinary men to soldiers of courage bravery and gallantry. After they have finished all their training at Camp Toccoa and at Uppotery England, the faith of their survival was at the hands of the men on their sides who were all earnestly focused on ending Hitler’s reign to terror and going back home alive to their families and friends. Easy Company’s first major military was the invasion of Normandy or more famously known as D-Day. The 506th Regiment had to be dropped behind enemy lines with hopes of blocking the German’s line of supplies and after that they had to work their way to Utah beach were other Allied troops were convening. By June 6, 1944, Easy Company was under a new command due to unfavorable circumstances. The moment they landed in Normandy, Lieutenant Dick Winters became the company commander. Under Winters’ leadership, initially several E company men were unsure of whether he could fill a crucial military position. Also, Winters’ ‘good boy’ persona was also questioned because most of the men were expecting to have a typical leader, manly and tough commanding officer. But Winters proved to his men that he is a competent leader who can effectively lead Easy company to Germany. After D-Day, E company was sent to Holland for the Operation Market Garden which failed and caused some casualties to the group. Then they held the line at Bastogne in Belgium where the famous Battle of the Bulge under General Patton took place.
From here, they finally reached the enemy’s territory. It was during these times that Winters and the rest of Easy Company have proved their significance in the war and their immense capability in being effective fighters. In Germany, Easy Company had witnessed the devastating effects of war when they saw series of concentration death camps where millions of Jews were killed. Finally, they reached the town of Berchtesgaden. This was their last stop until the war ended in 1945. Some of the men of Easy Company stayed with the Army while others went back to the US and lived as ordinary working citizens. But before they separated to fulfill their respective destines, the remaining soldiers of Easy Company realized that they have an unusual bond with one another. Probably, it was the scars from the battles and the solidarity of their group amidst turbulence that glued them together from the beginning until the end of the war. As stated in the first page of the book, “But we in it shall be remembered; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother” (cited in Ambrose, 1992, p. 10).
Overall, Amborse was able to write historical account but made with a personal touch. He managed to tell the story of Easy Company without sounding like a boring history textbook or a documentary. More so, Ambrose successfully relived the experiences of the men of Easy Company with many excerpts on living survivors from group. This made the book more accurate and more interesting to read. Furthermore, the manner that the book was written was very detailed and descriptive. Readers just can’t help themselves to feel the intensity of the battles during World War II. They can really feel while reading that they are being brought back in time. Even though, Easy
Company had many outstanding characters, Ambrose was able to revive each of the men’s account of heroism and downfalls into text. Ambrose’s perspective and descriptions were very graphic that made the story of brotherhood of the men of Easy Company more interesting. As readers, read through line by line, they can really imagine the scenario that the soldiers were in and the emotions that they were feeling such as determination and sheer fear. Most importantly, Ambrose successfully retold the Easy Company’s distinctive World War II narrative in a chronological manner that aided readers to comprehend how they have become a “Band of Brothers.”
Ambrose’s “E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest” is a great book companion that can help the modern society to be more appreciative of the freedom and democracy that we are currently experiencing which were fruits of labor of the many soldiers who risked their lives during World War II to restore peace and order.
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