Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest
By Stephen E. Ambrose
Hardcover in dustjacket, 331 pages, index
Published by Simon & Schuster, June 2001
Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.0 x 9.3 inches
To state the obvious, this is the book which inspired the Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg HBO mini-series of the same name. More broadly, it also inspired several other veterans to come forward and record their experiences in the Second World War, including others who served in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The success of Band of Brothers led Hanks and Spielberg to produce the companion series “The Pacific” for HBO, which drew on the memoirs of three U.S. Marines.
The book follows the Company E of the 506th PIR from its inception, through training and deployment to England, and eventual combat. The Regiment dropped behind the invasion beaches at Normandy as part of the 101st Airborne Division. After rebuilding it made its second combat drop in Holland as part of Operation Market Garden. While recuperating from that campaign it was unexpectedly rushed by truck into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge to counter the German offensive in the Ardennes. At the end of the war the Regiment was occupying Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps.
The book follows well with the miniseries, both in tone and detail. There are some differences in anecdotes related in each, but these fall into the “what to leave in, what to leave out” dynamics of the different formats and are not contradictory in any way. Ambrose is a thorough researcher and an excellent writer blessed with a compelling story, this book will not disappoint the avid military history fan nor someone with a casual interest. Recommended without reservation, whether one has seen the miniseries or not.