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I. Authors Background
Stephen Ambrose was born in 1936 and grew up in Whitewater, Wisconsin, a small town where his father was the M.D. At the University of Wisconsin, he started as a pre-med, but inspired by a great professor he changed his major to History. After getting his M.A. degree at Louisiana State University, he returned to the University of Wisconsin to complete a Ph.D. Ambrose began teaching at the University of New Orleans. He started as a Civil War historian but changed to political history after President Eisenhower asked him to become his biographer. Since then, Ambrose has written more than twenty books.
Among his best sellers are D-Day, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, Undaunted Courage and Nothing like it in the World. He was also a consultant for Steven Spielberg’s movie Saving Private Ryan. He is a retired Professor of History. Ambrose is now the director of the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans and is the founder of the National D-Day Museum. He is also a contributing editor of the Quarterly Journal of Military History.
Band of Brothers is a fascinating book that captures moments lived by soldiers during World War II. It specifically relates to the History of a small unit of paratroopers known as Easy Company, 506 Regiment, 101st Airborne. It is a story that follows the company from its inception to the capture of Hitler’s nest. It begins with the training of these soldiers at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. The 140 members of easy company who were young men from different social levels were physically and mentally trained. This particular company had an extremely harsh training, but many believe it is because of this training that they were considered as one of the best rifle companies in the army.
Their trainer was Captain Sobel who they disliked but was later replaced with Lieutenant Winters. Two of the many things these soldiers learned were brotherhood and leadership.
The first drop done by the paratroopers was on June 6, 1944 in Normandy. This drop did not result as planned. Planes were flying at a high velocity and at a short distance from the ground. Therefore one of the planes got hit. They arrived at Carentan which they captured and flew back to Aldbourne.
Their second drop was on September 17, 1944 in Holland. This time it was perfectly done.
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Other battles followed this one such as the Battle of the Bulge. During all the battles fought, many of the members died and others resulted injured. Easy Company was always given the toughest assignments during the war. That is why fear, hunger and discomfort surrounded these men. However, they fought well and never gave up.
They arrived at Germany on April 2, 1945 where the opponents surrendered. A few weeks later, they entered Austria where they drunk plenty of alcohol and took jewelry, lugers and many other things from the Germans. “The war is over” was what they said at this point.
After the war, many of the men went to universities and colleges. All of them were successful even though they took different paths. Some became teachers, others became writers, a few stood in the army and some died. However, most of them still keep in contact. Every so often a reunion is done in New Orleans where they all meet and remember their years at war.
Many books have been written about the general data of World War II. However, few have focused on amplifying the personal aspects of the men who formed part of this war.
Readers are interested in what really happened among the soldiers. They are interested in what their experiences were and how they acted in particular situations. Therefore, Ambrose gave the reader an opportunity to visualize and feel that moment. Readers can literally feel what those men felt. In addition, not only did Ambrose try to entertain and educate us, but also he wanted us to be aware of the courage and bravery of these men. “We are Heroes” as many of them said. Ambrose believed that they should be recognized as what they are and the contributions that have been provided by them to all Americans and the world.
The main source that the writer and historian Stephen Ambrose used was the interviews he had with each of the living members of Easy Company. As he recalls in his book, he visited these men’s homes all around the country. He stayed three and four days with each one of them. Ambrose also kept in contact with the men by mail and occasionally spent hours on the phone interviewing them. Another resource for his book was the journals Easy Company men kept and the letters they sent to their families. He also used some books for reference and in order to state some facts and numbers such as The Making of a Paratrooper by Kurt Gabel, The Warriors by J. Glenn Gray, Wartime by Paul Fussel, Rendezvous with Destiny by Leonard Rapport and Arthur Northwood, Jr., Currahee by Donald R. Burgett, Letters to Mamie by John S. Eisenhower and The face of the battle by Keegan. He also used some information from newspapers.
The main structure of the book Band of Brothers is set chronologically. It begins with the training of the company at Camp Toccoa followed by their training in England. Next, they performed their first jump in Normandy. After that, they had several battles in small towns. Their second jump was performed in Holland where they also had several attacks; some lost and some won until they reached Germany where their opponents surrendered. Ambrose wrote at the concluding part of the book what had happened to the members of the company after the war ended. This structure helps the better understanding of the book.
IV. How does the book reflect the basic themes of the course?
This book is about one of the most important moments in American History. World War II was the last good war fought by Americans. Given that it is part of our history, it has an important relationship with the course. Band of Brothers is a book that educates everyone who reads it. I believe that it is a better way of learning because it entertains at the same time.
Not only does it reflect themes in this course, but also in each of our lives. These men fought for America and did it with courage and no regrets. However, many Americans do not understand this. Therefore, these soldiers are not known as what they really are which is “Heroes”. Ambrose wrote this book in a way that everyone can see and recognize what not only these soldiers, but every soldier goes through in war.
Band of Brothers is a well written book because the reader can identify the moments lived by the soldiers. It is almost as if you were living the war with them. It provides the reader with detail descriptions of the every situation they went through. The structure is very clear. However, I felt that at moments it was confusing to identify the characters. In general, I believe it was a book worth reading, for the reason that it was very entertaining and educational.
Ambrose did a remarkable job in expressing the essence and objective of the book. It is an account of a group of soldiers since their training up to the end of the war. Interesting stories about the lives of the soldiers were also included which gave the book a more personal view point. Now, after reading it, you can recognize the importance of that war and the soldiers who fought in it.