Band of Brothers
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 23 Jan 2005
It was not until after watching the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers three times on DVD that I got a copy of Stephen Ambrose's book that the miniseries was based upon. It very quickly became one of the most enjoyable books that I have read. Ambrose was able to let the readers picture being there with every soldier of the E Company of the 506th Paratrooper Infantry Regiment: the night jump into Normandy, the tough campaign at Holland, the brutal shellings at Bastogne, drinking Hitler's champaign at Germany, and the restless days at Austria waiting to see whether they would be assigned to the Pacific. After reading this book, I felt that I was listening to the stories directly from the mouths of Major Winters or Captain Speirs or any of the heroes who served in that company.
The Easy Company started out in Camp Toccoa in Georgia, United States. All members of the 506th were volunteers, as paratroopers were a new form of warfare. While many joined, only few made it through the training and earned their wings as an airborne trooper. As the C-47 transport planes took the elite troopers over the English Channel, the stories of the men told by Ambrose would leave you turning pages after pages until you could come to a pause at the campaign's end. Although the book was largely a collection of different men's stories, the author was able to do an excellent job in weaving the individual stories together and form a collective history of the company's experiences in WW2. It was a reflection of the countless numbers of hours Ambrose spent in researching the material and seeking out to members of the Easy Company for lengthy interviews. In reading this book, I was able to acquire nearly a first-hand experience of frontline combat from the stories of the men, including many entire passages that were composed of quotations from Ambrose's interviews with the veterans.
Only after reading this book, one would truly appreciate the freedom citizens of the western world enjoy today, and why this book is on the reading list of the United States Army for enlisted men and non-commissioned officers. However, readers should be warned that Ambrose favored oral history over authoritative sources. I have read reviews that the first editions of this book contained errors (from the veterans' recollections) that Ambrose did not catch, such as ranks of captured German officers and models of tanks and equipment that the men fought against. These errors were corrected in the 2001 edition that I read.
All in all, I very highly recommend this book to all who are interested in World War II history or history of the airborne infantry. As the Times-Picayune reviewed, "in these pages, the reader can vicariously walk with the men of E Company, suffer and laugh with them".
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