“Currahee!” is the title of the first episode, and covers all the training Easy Co. went through. It took them from Georgia, North Carolina, across the Atlantic to Aldbourne, Slapton Sands, and Uppottery England. Honestly, this is my least favorite episode, but it still covers so much good information and is an excellent introduction to the men and what their life preparing for war was. My favorite aspect of this series is that it has the real men of Easy providing mini-interviews before each episode, and the deep patriotism that is described by the men for this episode is astounding and inspirational.
One of the men notes how boys from his town were committing suicide because they were not able to enlist – that’s such a radically different reaction from any other call to arms I have studied (for modern warfare at least). And the most similar situation to compare I think would be OIF/OEF, another conflict resulting from the nation being attacked – we had a surge of enlistment/national patriotism, but it dwindled, and I don’t think it was ever to the level of people during WWII. I mean, if the country today, was asked to ration to aide the war effort, I think there would be another revolution.
Anyway, I think the first episode and the first 4 chapters match up pretty well. Here are the main points I took away from the book, and how I thought they were represented in the episode:
First, Ambrose highlights how diverse Easy was (and arguably the entire military), its men came from the North, South, East, West, from college, from the coal mines and factories, the middle class, families scraping by for a living, and most interestingly almost none came from Old Army or the Guard or Reserves.
Another thing all the men had in common was their hatred for their Company Commander, Captain Herbert Sobel. Many of the men would later credit him for making E Co. what it was, with its unbreakable loyalty and complete trust between the soldiers – he united them from the beginning by providing them with a common enemy. Sobel pushed the men with extreme discipline (often finding one person to pick on for the day), vigorous PT (the paratroopers were known for their fitness, he took it a step further), and his lacking leadership in the field. This was definitely shown in the episode, and the accuracy was on point, choosing several incidences between Sobel and the men, and Sobel and LT Richard Winters (one of E Co. Platoon Leaders and Sobel’s self-proclaimed enemy because of the high level of respect Winters earned from the men).
So, the men trained in the U.S., earning their wings and proving themselves to be an elite group of the U. S. Army. With their wings pinned on, they headed across the Atlantic, to begin training exercises in preparation to enter the war in Europe and participate in the invasion of Normandy. The boat took them to England where Private Webster, a Harvard English major, stated how he “thought I’d passed out on a Hollywood movie set. All around the area were fairy-book cottages with thatched roofs and rose vines on their sides . . .” (43) The men learned English customs so as not to offend with our brash American ways, and set out to learn land maneuvers, practice jumps with full gear (adding up to 150lbs to a mans weight), and train with VII Corps for the invasion.(66)
Again, all of this, the spirit of the men, the newness of these experiences, and ultimately their preparedness to conduct the jumps and missions they would be charged with is palpable through the episode. I think it’s incredible the journey these men went through, over a year of training to become top of the line soldiers. I think a lot people fail to understand the relationships you forge in the military – obviously I am not a soldier, but I can honestly say from growing up an Army brat, and now being an Army spouse, that the family you forge through the military is often stronger than blood – you are living a life that no one can understand unless they too are going through it, and it’s bonds are almost unexplainable.
Now, one major fact pointed out by Ambrose that I found interesting has to do with the dress rehearsal for the D-Day invasion, which was not included in the episode. On the coast of England the invasion fleet practiced their movements for Normandy, but unknown to most of the men, and kept under wraps until the 1980s, German torpedo boats sank two LSTs (landing ships ferrying the invading force) killing more than 900 men. (58) The tragedy was covered up in fear of hurting morale so close to the invasion.
Now, I could go on, but I need to wrap this up. What I took away most from these chapters, and this episode, was the high level of camaraderie between the men, and the high level of preparedness for what they were being asked to do. It was terribly hard to become a paratrooper, and these men had all done it, they were ready to enter battle, fight for a nation they were all devoted to, and for the liberty they believed Europe deserved.