Band of Brothers : E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (1992)
Written by: Stephen E. Ambrose
Stephen Ambrose‘s Band of Brothers is a well-researched look into the exploits of one Parachute Infantry company during World War II. As the long subtitle of the book states, the book follows Easy Company from the legendary 101st Airborne from their jump into Normandy on D-Day to their capture of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in the German Alps near the end of the European conflict. Actually, the book follows Easy’s exploits before and after these events, but I guess “from Basic Training to Reunions” isn’t as snappy a title.
The book isn’t a narrative, instead presenting the events as researched by Ambrose and shares these stories in past tense. It is helped by extensive interviews of former Easy Company soldiers, along with saved letters from the war, and traditional archival sources. However, Ambrose writes with an engaging style, capturing the emotions and action of the subject matter. It isn’t a dry, pedantic tome merely presenting information. It is as gripping as it is informative. The book should grab and hold the reader’s attention, giving the reader a glimpse into what it was like to be in these men’s shoes. It is obvious that Ambrose admires these men, but the admiration doesn’t go too far into the level of hero-worship. Negatives are mixed in with positives, for a portrayal that while not be completely balanced, is certainly not propaganda.
As a fan of the superb HBO mini-series based on the book, reading the book was a nice way to revisit the characters from the show, delving deeper into the stories presented in the series. I was impressed by the way Ambrose, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks were able to create narratives out of this non-fiction history book. The series was able to take moments that take up mere paragraphs in the book, and form entire episodes around them, filling them out with other small stories from the book (one small story from the book would serve as the inspiration for Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan).
For fans of the show, the book is an excellent companion piece, filling in some gaps and presenting a broader view of the men of Easy Company, and I highly recommend you check it out if you loved the series. For fans of military history, the book should prove a true page-turner, focusing not on the politics, strategy, or machines of war, but instead on the boys on the line. It strips war to its most basic elements, and reveals the tight bonds that develop between individuals when put into the most extreme situations a person can face.