Beyond Band of Brothers
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 21 Nov 2011
Full Title: Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters
In 1992, Stephen Ambrose published the Band of Brothers, making Dick Winters and other veterans of the US 101st Airborne Division, particularly those of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, instant celebrities. The 2001 television miniseries based on this book brought their fame upon an even wider audience. As Winters received thousands of letters, he decided to publish his own memoirs, Beyond Band of Brothers, to tell his version of the story and to write a piece of work that complemented that of Ambrose's by including material that Ambrose could not fit into the earlier book.
What I treasured most about this memoir was Winters' explanation of why he made the decisions he made on the battlefield. He dove into his reliance on the "killers" and the personal loyalties that made the company a band of brothers. While his narrative of the textbook assault on the Brécourt Manor was exciting, his going-behind-the-scenes analysis was much more so the heart of Beyond Band of Brothers. Winters' later realization of frequently using, thus overburdening, the same two platoons of Easy Company was heart-felt; his sense of guilt touched me through his sincere words.
Throughout the book, and explicitly in the final section of the book, he spoke to the readers his take on leadership, offering his advice to be honest, to be physically fit, to always lead from the front, etc. This final chapter read a bit more like the essays I had back in business school, but much enjoyable as it was presented by a proven and respected leader of men whose failure might mean the death of dear comrades.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Tom Weiner was a good reader. The only complaint, if one could call it that, was the voices he bestowed upon the officers, which leaned a bit on the dramatic, if not comic, side.
Dick Winters was a soldier and not a writer, so many might find the text awkward and unrefined. Admittedly, I also found found Beyond Band of Brothers to have been published too late, as several other titles had already covered his WW2 career nicely. Nevertheless, I found this quick read to be interesting, providing a glimpse into the mind of a celebrity soldier whose accomplishments were built on personal integrity but the fame achieved with the help of Hollywood. I would say that I would recommend this title for fans of memoirs; for those who prefer histories, perhaps stopping at Stephen Ambrose's work would suffice.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939