Beyond Band of Brothers Book Review

Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

By Major Dick Winters with Colonel Cole. C. Kingseed

Hardcover in dustjacket, 292 pages, photographs, and index

Published by Penguin, 2006

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-425-20813-3

Dimensions:  6.1 x 9.1 x 1.2 inches

Dick Winters was an officer of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was part of the 101th Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles”.  On the night of 06 June 1944 he was the leader of 1st Platoon of East Company.  The C-47 carrying the Company’s command element was shot down by German flak over Normandy.  All aboard were killed, leaving Winters as acting commander of Easy Company.  On the first day Winters led an assault on a battery of four German howitzers which were shelling American troops on Utah Beach.  Even though outnumbered four to one, the American assault was successful.  Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for the action, the U.S. Army’s second highest award.

The second combat jump for the 506th PIR was into Holland in September as a part of Operation Market Garden.  By now Winters had been promoted to Captain and was officially in command of Easy Company.  Again Winters led an assault against a superior enemy force, using a Platoon to route what was later discovered to be two Germany Companies.

The 101st Airborne was rushed to stem the German assault in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.  The paratroopers were rushed into the line in Belgium by truck, with no time to draw proper cold weather gear or extra ammunition.  Constant attrition resulted in Winters being assigned first to the Executive Officer position of 2nd Battalion then as it’s Commander.

Beyond Band of Brothers is an autobiographical account of Winter’s service in the Army, from his enlistment before the war, through training and combat, and his eventual discharge from service.  His story will be familiar to most as he was featured prominently in Steven Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers and the HBO miniseries of the same name.  The story is worth telling in Winter’s own words and gives several insights from his perspective.  I was surprised to see Winters give considerable credit to Captain Sobel’s contributions to the 506th PIR and Easy Company in particular during training, despite the obvious conflict between the two men.  Highly recommended as a companion work to Band of Brothers and a very interesting read in its own right.

Band of Brothers Book Review

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

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎ 0743216385

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0743216388

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.