I had been avoiding war related topics growing up. Even in my adulthood, I didn’t find any interest. Until one morning as I was casually strolling, I found a picture of a concentration camp right after it was liberated, in Reddit. And from the comments, where you find gold, I found something that said, “this is told in episode 9 of the Band of Brothers series”. Curiosity lead me to watching Band of Brothers for the first time.
And soon, I found myself watching the series every year. I also started watching those WWII movies that I avoided before, like Saving Private Ryan (which I found was also based from a snippet in the same book). I became attracted to action movies. And, it became an inspiration as well for our travel to Normandy last 2018, to revisit history somehow. That was an awesome trip by the way, I’ll reserve that for some other post.
The series was so amazing, I always felt a show hole everytime I finish it. So this year, I turned to the book to somehow ‘complete’ me.
I also found that the best experience is to read the book and watch the series simultaneously. That is, read the chapter/s and then watch the episode related to it right after. I enjoyed the details I discovered in the book, it guided me to the things I need to look further in the series. It was fun. Well anyway, here we go.
I will start this with my favorite character – Capt. Ronald Speirs! Although, I feel like my opinions became purely based from Matthew Settle’s portrayal. While reading, I always visualize his actions and his quirks, it was funny and enjoyable. One thing I noticed is that in the show, even from the first episodes, Spiers have always been “lingering”. If you check in the assault of Brecourt Manor – Speirs has been sneaking in (or eavesdropping?) while Winters explain the plan to the men. And it was like, he was really been waiting and wanting to deliver extra ammunition by the looks of his “excitement” when he arrived. We know he always longs for action, but he’s portrayed as a great soldier nonetheless.
I often find myself checking out google maps to figure out where the “action” happened. But, as it turned out, the book has a section for the map, pinpointing where the company were, in the Normandy Beaches, Holland, Bastogne. I spent a lot of time switching pages to understand the objectives behind Operation Market Garden, and the map helped!
Just as what you would expect when reading a book where a show was based of, I found a bunch of comedy and interesting details about the adventures of the men outside combat.
There was a bit in Mourmelon, before Bastogne, where the men are supposed to rest and recuperate but they have too much energy that was hard to manage. Brawl fights with 82nd would blow up on bars due to excessive drinking, I think. Even there were fights within the men due to some offensive conversations, but this was just probably again related to drinking. Division had to setup sports competitions so the men can spend their excessive energy. I remember having one Gordon Carson who was in denial when the command came down for them to stop everything for a mission that is Bastogne – funny how he expressed something like this: “Nope, I’m not going, I’m preparing to play football for Christmas!”
Stephen Ambrose is a great storyteller. Even those stories outside the series are a page turner. As per my strategy before watching an episode – this time before “The Breaking Point” (a favorite episode), I remember being bummed having to read the chapter on Noville. Despite it not being featured in the series, I was surprise to have finished the chapter easy. I particularly liked the paragraph about Lipton’s walk in a sort-of No Man’s Land. It gave me goosebumps, as with almost every scene that I read here.
Another favorite character is George Luz! His impersonations in the series were a blockbuster. I even like his bit in the end when he tried to woo a German woman during the occupation stages. When I watched the series, I thought it was just one of those comedic scenes but after reading the book, I felt that it represented how the men have been trying to woo women to address their “needs”, which was mentioned a lot in the books in varying chapters. It was mentioned that the men had been using their D rations and Chelseas (cigarettes) as a way to women’s hearts but they’re wrong.
Winters was portrayed in the series and in the book as a great leader and a soldier. I was impressed by how the book has also described his mind. I like his empathy a lot towards the men, and he genuinely cared for them. There’s a snippet almost in the end where the regiment wanted to take away the men’s “silk maps” that they used on D Day as part of their “inventorizing” drive (whatever that is). These maps were very dear to the Normandy Veterans so the men did not surrender theirs. Winters agreed and even sent a reply to (surprise surprise!) Sobel with “Nuts!” , slight of a nod to Eisenhower’s reply to the Germans when they asked for American surrender during the Battle of the Bulge. They were not bothered after that.
Wow I did not imagine I’d be writing these paragraphs. I’d end this post with a 5 star review for both the book and the series. I hate to say that it was fun reading other people’s sufferings during the war, but it sure made me interested on History, a subject I never liked when I was in school.