Somehow, I have no idea how, I managed to miss catching the miniseries Band of Brothers when it first aired in 2001. However, better late than never so “they” say and I just recently managed to finally watch it.
I can tell you this miniseries takes you through a hugely emotional journey as you really bond with the characters which makes what they experience something you experience too. I really felt like I was with them ~ which was a strange feeling when your body is sitting comfortably on a sofa.
It truly was one of the most powerful television viewings I have ever watched. Each night I had chills, leaving the hairs up on the back of my neck. It made my heart ache in ways I didn’t know possible. Since watching it I haven’t been able to shake it off, parts of an episode or a character pops into my head at any given time and so I decided to write this blog as a place to reflect and work out why it is following me.
What hit me the most was the sheer tenacity of spirit these men had, living in conditions that were too awful to contemplate under circumstances which could cost them their life at any given moment. Not having the equipment, clothing, or medical aid available to them that they required to enable them to go forward and fight. To be afraid constantly and to have to kill people who ~ under any other circumstance ~ could have been their friend, must have been a terrible price to pay. They were all so young and brave, they lived and breathed as a unit, the life of each and every one of them reliant on each other ~ requiring them to live and work as one ~ they were brothers in every sense of the word.
I am against war of any kind and find watching bomb strikes and seeing the devastation they cause on the news reports upsets me deeply. I’m not saying I have any answers or understand the why’s and wherefores that the decision makers have access to in order to make that choice to bomb a certain area ~ where without doubt innocent people will die and be displaced. Watching Band of Brothers was difficult for me because the trauma the young men went through ~ the sheer volume of those who died is beyond belief and you always wonder if it could have been avoided.
I have a huge amount of respect for those who fight in our armed forces and for the medical professionals who work so diligently in difficult conditions to help those who are injured either as a result of fighting or a civilian who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just wish that no men or women had to risk their lives going into wars for our country and /or to support other countries.
If you haven’t watched it here’s the skinny..
The mini series was based on the non fiction book called Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose. The book was then adapted by a team of 7 writers, 1 of which was the uber talented Mr Tom Hanks ~ who was also an executive producer on the project along with Steven Speilburg.
The mini series is set in World War II and follows the story of just the one company known as “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division. Quite the mouthful!
The characters come and go as they are killed or moved due to injury or promotion. New characters fill the places of those who were lost but a few remain from the beginning to the end.
The story has one main lead character who ties the series together ~ Richard Winters who we see being promoted as the series progresses, acted superbly by Damian Lewis, who I recognised from Homeland ~ another series I loved!
If you look carefully at some of the supporting characters you can spot the then very youthful Dexter Fletcher, Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender, Simon Pegg and James MacAvoy.
All the episodes start with snippets of interviews with veterans from Easy Company which I found hugely powerful ~ you can watch these interviews via YouTube here..
So back to the programme ~ we follow Easy Company from their first days together and taking their first jumps to then being moved out to England to prepare for D Day. They move onto Normandy and only a few remain and gather together under the command of Richard Winters.
After Normandy replacements for those who died are sent to “Easy” but the veterans find it difficult to accept them which you can understand as they had already lost so many whose deaths had left a mark on them.
From Normandy they move onto the Netherlands ~ we see Winters shoot a teenaged SS soldier ~ they look at each other for a surprised instant before Winters shoots and kills him. After that we see intermittently throughout the rest of the series that Winters has flashbacks of him killing the young soldier and we see how badly it has affected him. He is now at this point in charge of the whole battalion as they move on to the Battle of the Bulge.
After the Bulge they have to hold the ground at Bastogne. This is a very tough time for the soldiers as they dig their fox holes and are in freezing conditions with little ammunition, no supplies, food and warm clothing and shelter is exceptionally limited and we helplessly watch them dealing with the awful harsh conditions.
We see a medic, who is the centre of the episode at this time, scrounging for medical supplies and doing what he can for the men around him. The medic finds a make shift hospital in Bastogne which is pretty much a place of rubble and ruin ~ here he manages to scrounge some supplies to take care of his men and befriends a nurse there too. He returns later to the hospital to find that it has been bombed and the nurse has died along with everyone else who was there. This obviously affects him deeply and we see him troubled afterwards whilst watching him rip the nurses headscarf (which he found in the rubble) to treat one of his injured men as a make shift bandage.
We then see them in a forest in Foy near Belgium and here there is a serious issue with a senior officer and many men are lost in the battles there. Eventually the senior officer is replaced and what is left of Easy gather themselves together.
Moving on again we see them in Haguenau where a few dangerous missions are carried out and Winters is promoted to Major. “Easy” then move onto Germany and come across a concentration camp ~ Landsberg ~ we see their confusion as they wonder what it is ~ we find out that the Germans had left the camp but first had burnt many of the prisoners alive in their huts and shot them until they ran out of bullets. The condition of the prisoners badly affects the members of Easy company as they try to care for them and ensure they are looked after. I have a huge issue with the small minority of folk who spout their belief that the holocaust never happened. To me this is disrespecting all those imprisoned, tortured, experimented on and murdered by the Germans and their followers ~ and their crime? They were perceived to be of a impure race or suffer from a disabiity. To my mind the holocaust should be taught in all schools so that these atrocities and the history of what happened is never forgotten. Those who share loudly their thoughts that this never happened should be shown the truth so that they can see clearly that it is a very sad fact and a low point for humanity that should never, ever, be forgotten.
In the final episode we see them capture the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, and they also discover Hermann Göring’s house. After that we see them in Austria ~ in the beautiful landscape and watching them having down time as the end of the war in Europe is announced. Those members of Easy company who had enough points were then, finally, able to go home and try to live a “normal” life after war. Those who hadn’t enough points stayed behind in Austria until the end of the Pacifc war was announced.
The very end of the last episode we were shown the names of the veterans as they spoke of what they saw and how they felt. Their eyes were those of men who had seen terrible sights and holding memories that had never left them, sights no one should ever have to see.
As it ended I just sat there a little shell~shocked by the emotions racing through my mind. I was tearful, mourning their losses and wishing that they had been spared the time they were at war. No man or woman should have to carry those experiences with them.
If you haven’t seen it then I would urge you to seek it out, I found it on Sky. Somehow, in someway, this miniseries has left its mark and given me a small peek at what war is really like. Those men who fought are heroes, despite me disliking war and being a Pacifist, they faced death at any given moment and to have that fear walking beside you day in day out must have been sheer hell.
As I finish this blog I still have no answers about why the Band of Brothers has affected me so deeply but I assume at some point in the future this will become clear and if it does I will let you know.
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, Be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves acursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks, that fought with us …”