Friday, August 27, 2010

Band of Brothers by Steven Ambrose, a guest review by oldest

When I mentioned on my personal blog that one of the assignments my oldest had to do over the summer for his AP US History class was to write a book review, Leslie asked if I would post the review when he was done.

So, bearing in mind that there were some requirements for content, (and that he wrote it in about 15 minutes, LOL), here is the review for Band of Brothers, written by my eldest.

For my summer reading book, I chose to read Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose. The author was well qualified to write this book, as he was a professor of history for forty-five years before his retirement in 1995. Ambrose interviewed the members of E. Company, 506th regiment, 101st Airborne division about their experiences during World War II. They fought Germany after landing on D-Day at the beach of Normandy, and made it all the way to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. He wrote many stories about WWII, and he tells this one from a narrative point of view, explaining the events that occurred through the eyes of the soldiers while providing external insight.

The story is about E. Company's experiences throughout the war. Members of the company are interviewed by Ambrose, and he uses the information to recreate battlefield heroics, barrack life, harsh training, and the friendship of the men of E. Company. It begins by telling the story of how the men of E. Company were trained. They were put under extreme conditions and made to do more work, more running, and more physical tasks than any other company, and made to do so by Company Commander Herbert Sobel. The men did not appreciate the work they had to do at the time and often complained.
"Behind his back the men cursed him, 'f---ing Jew' being the most common epithet." (pg. 24).
But the men soon learned that all of the training that they had so rigorously been put through, would pay off.
"But then, who could say that the men of Easy would have had the discipline, the endurance (they had been marching since 0130, after a night of little or no real sleep; they were battered and bruised from the opening shock and the hard landing) or the weapons skills to carry off this fine feat of arms, had it not been for Sobel?" (pg. 85).
This quote refers to the actions taken by the men of E. Company to take out German machine guns covering Utah Beach. The training by Sobel had prepared them for such harsh conditions, and they were ready and responded perfectly.

The majority of the book explains the things that the men experienced, but I found the end to be more interesting. At the end of the story, Ambrose tells the reader what the soldiers did after the war. Some had success, some had failures; most lived normal lives, though. The injured men had interesting stories as well.
"Sgt. Bill Guarnere also lost his leg, above the knee, in Bastogne. After discharge in the summer of 1945, he was given 80 percent disability. He married, had a child, and went to work as a printer, salesman, VA clerk, and carpenter, all with an artificial leg." (pg. 296).
The story concludes with a letter from Mike Ranney who when asked, "Were you a hero in war?" replied, "No, but I served in a company of heroes." This shows the respect that the men of E. Company had for one another; that they would talk better of others than of themselves.

The main theme presented in this book is that the bond formed between the men of E. Company was stronger than other bonds between members of the service. The author clearly shows examples of how soldiers would directly disobey orders in order to remain with E. Company and their friends. The soldiers who were interviewed gave reasons for this; that they wanted to fight with the best, to put in the extra work, to trust each other with their lives. That was what the men of E. Company were about. The author shows this through the quotes of soldiers that are presented in the book, and even in the book's title. This theme relates to a broader idea of American fellowship. It makes the reader feel as though he or she has a similar bond with these people, and would follow them into battle at any time. It is a powerful story, and leaves its mark on those who read it.

The book is very relevant to the topic of World War II because E. Company served there, but also the nature of how it was written. It was not dramatized by the author, as his descriptions were given to him by actual soldiers who fought in the war. He makes the story more realistic and interesting than other books and textbooks because of that interviewing process. It is easier for the reader to understand what happened as it is given from the perspective of the soldiers themselves. The time period is explained in detail as well, because the author gives examples of what the soldiers did for fun and what they would do with their free time. Free time activities were very different then from what they are today. I think that the author makes the story interesting and honest at the same time, making it an easy read, not in terms of difficulty but in terms of enjoyment.

All in all, this was an interesting book on an equally interesting topic. I would highly recommend this book to those who want to learn more about the life of a soldier in battle during the mid 40s, but not to those who want to learn more about WWII itself. The story does not explain the whole war, only the parts in which E. Company was involved. Because of this factor, the learning is limited to what E. Company experienced and what they did, and not about the war in general. Even so, it was still a fantastic read and a tremendous learning experience and I would recommend it to all readers.


  1. Thanks to your oldest for the review! It sounds like a book my oldest would really like, so I'm going to grab him a copy.

  2. It's a fabulous book. I read it after watching the miniseries on DVD. Amazing guys. Amazing.

    (The cool thing about the miniseries is that the episodes are bookended by comments from the real men of Easy Company, so you see the real Carwood Lipton, the real Dick Winters, etc.

  3. LOL, clearly, he's articulated and wow, in 15 minutes only? now, I'm jealous LOL.

  4. What a well written review. Definitely deserves an A!

    "This shows the respect that the men of E. Company had for one another; that they would talk better of others than of themselves." This is one of the things that came through in the show. Loved the "brotherhood" that these men had.

    I have the book but haven't read it yet. I have seen the series a number of times and would highly recommend it.

  5. I adored the miniseries. We have it on DVD - bought it as soon as it was available. We actually have it on VHS as well, since we bought it for my dad. Bob uses that version at school.


Have you read it? What do you think?

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