This book can be seen as a companion reader to Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. But it’s a story in it’s own right.
Much of the book will seem familiar to readers of Band of Brothers. I thought this one has additional insights from Major Winters, who was a significant character mentioned in Stephen’s book. But surprisingly to me, his memoir was written in a manner that ended up less about himself but more about the exploits of the company. Reflective of Major Winter’s genuine humility.
Some new perspectives: how Band of Brothers (both the book and the HBO series) was conceived; the author’s friendship with Stephen Ambrose; pointers on leadership.
After the HBO series, which moved the sales of the earlier book, a reader wrote to Winters saying that he (the reader) was inspired and moved by the exploits of Easy Company in Band of Brothers. He could identify with the men’s heroism, and felt it was achievable, because the men of the 101st were ordinary people who achieved extraordinary outcomes.
His association with the Barnes couple while being billeted in England prior to the Normandy invasion. On his cultivation of his own leadership qualities:
P53 “today I realize what the Barnes family did was help me develop the most fundamental element in good leadership – lead by example, live by setting a good example.
How combat made him see what was essential to him and what wasn’t.
P115 “All other things had become extra, nonessential, and I could not be bothered or burdened with nonessentials. Not when battle was the payoff.”
P162 on nothing worthy to write, in the aftermath of combat.
P249 he pays tribute to his commanders. How Colonel Sink was able to shape a group of undernourished and poorly educated citizen soldiers into an elite fighting force from scratch, and without benefit of established paratroop doctrine.
He described his frustrations on the increasingly slackening attitudes of newer soldiers and the army.
On adjusting back to civilian life, and life after war (including being called up for the Korean war and then being able to voluntarily drop out just before deployment.
P256 “Like all veterans I had to adjust to society, the life that you are going to share with others in order to make a living. I certainly never confused the challenges in the workplace with what I had experienced in combat. There would be no life-and-death struggles in the corporate world. Business hardly equates to war. Such comparisons demean the word.”
Prior to the Europe campaign, he devoted his free time to studying and re-reading training manuals. He felt lives depended on his tactical decisions in combat and he needed to be very throughout.
P289 “I would also urge
about who gets the credit, you get a lot more done.”
And how self-reflection was important; on the implications of decisions. He reflected on actions during lulls in combat.
P290 “Lastly, “Hang Tough!” Never, ever, give up regardless of the adversity. If you are a leader, a fellow who other fellows look to, you have got to keep going.”
“How will you know if you have succeeded? True satisfaction comes from getting the job done.”