Written By: Jon Finkel
If you haven’t read Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose make it the next book on your list. I could write 2,000 words on why it belongs in the pantheon of books on men, war, US history, history in general, leadership, friendship, and on and on… But I won’t. Honestly, the back cover description of the book itself still gives me goose bumps. Here it is:
…They came together, citizen soldiers, in the summer of 1942, drawn to Airborne by the $50 monthly bonus and a desire to be better than the other guy. And at its peak—in Holland and the Ardennes—Easy Company was as good a rifle company as any in the world.
From the rigorous training in Georgia in 1942 to the disbanding in 1945, Stephen E. Ambrose tells the story of this remarkable company. In combat, the reward for a job well done is the next tough assignment, and as they advanced through Europe, the men of Easy kept getting the tough assignments.
They parachuted into France early D-Day morning and knocked out a battery of four 105 mm cannon looking down Utah Beach; they parachuted into Holland during the Arnhem campaign; they were the Battered Bastards of the Bastion of Bastogne, brought in to hold the line, although surrounded, in the Battle of the Bulge; and then they spearheaded the counteroffensive. Finally, they captured Hitler’s Bavarian outpost, his Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden. (read that paragraph again… the same group of guys did all of this… it’s unreal)…
They were rough-and-ready guys, battered by the Depression, mistrustful and suspicious. They drank too much French wine, looted too many German cameras and watches, and fought too often with other GIs. But in training and combat they learned selflessness and found the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They discovered that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them.
This is the story of the men who fought, of the martinet they hated who trained them well, and of the captain they loved who led them. E Company was a company of men who went hungry, froze, and died for each other, a company that took 150 percent casualties, a company where the Purple Heart was not a medal—it was a badge of office…
I mean, come on… If that doesn’t make you want to read the book, I don’t know what will. After you read the book, you’re going to go through a mild obsession with the men of Easy Company and Major Dick Winters.
You’ll definitely devour the Band of Brothers special on HBO, were Damian Lewis gives the most understated, unbelievable performance as Winters.
But then, you’ll want more… So here are a few pieces I’ve come across over the years to help you get your fix:
His obituary in the New York Times is damn good too: Winter’s NYT Obituary
There is a full interview/doc with the men of Easy Company available on YouTube here.
You might also like this book by Sergeant Don Malarky, who you’ll know well after reading Band of Brothers. His book is called Easy Company Soldier. His book focuses a little more on the battles, but adds some more details to several scenes and situations readers become familiar with in BoB.
And of course, you kind of have to read Beyond Band of Brothers, which are the war memoirs of the aforementioned Dick Winters. Though not as compelling a read as Band of Brothers, Winters is a really thoughtful, really smart guy, and this book tells BoB in his own words. It provides new details and some revealing looks into his mindset at several stages of the war.
And this article, explaining the vital and genius strategy at the Crossroads Battle is worth taking a look at, even if you’re not a military strategy buff: Crossroads Battle Map
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Jon Finkel is the author of Forces of Character with 3x Super Bowl Champion and Fighter Pilot, Chad Hennings, Heart Over Height with 3x NBA Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson, as well as Jocks In Chief, The Dadvantage – Stay in Shape on No Sleep with No Time and No Equipment, and all twelve volumes in the Greatest Stars of the NBA book series for the National Basketball Association, which won several ALA Young Reader Awards.
As a feature writer, he has written for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, GQ, Details, The New York Times, AskMen.com, ComedyCentral.com, Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame.com and many more. His work received a notable mention in the 2015 Best American Sports Writing anthology. He has appeared on CBS: This Morning promoting his books.