Due to heavy casualties, a group of fresh paratrooper replacements joins Easy Co. in time for a massive drop into German-occupied Holland for Operation Market-Garden. While met with no resistance in Eindhoven, Easy and a cluster of British tanks are repelled from a nearby town by a superior German force, sustaining many casualties as they retreat. The Allied plan to enter Germany through Holland and end the war before Christmas fails.
The episode takes us to Holland, the guys second combat jump, where they are taking part in operation Market Garden, which if successful hoped to bring the war in Europe to a swift end. In dealing with the operations, we are also seeing the veterans of D-Day dealing with the replacements. Most of these men had been together since Toccoa, so loosing their buddies, who were then replaced with eager young men who hadn’t gone through the rigors of training they had, rubbed a lot of them the wrong way. After getting through combat though, you see everyone being welcomed as comrades – once the men proved themselves as able and smart they fit in perfectly with the rest. The chronicling of the evolving relationships between the men gives a morale boost for the episode, countering the failure of Market Garden. (It was especially hard on the British forces, who entered Holland with 10,005 men, and left with 2,163. – pg. 138).
The book talks more about the operation and less about the replacements, but in there were some good points. One, iterated by one the the original Easy men in the introduction to the episode was that the veterans didn’t have anything against the replacements personally, they were just tired of seeing their buddies hurt or killed, and so were reluctant to form friendships with the new men.
Another element that I thought was interesting were the conversations about mortality that Ambrose brought up. Many of the men got the excitement of going to war out of their system on D-Day. And afterwards had to deal with the very real possibility of their death or injury. Lipton remarked that after his wound from Carentan, he was worried he’d have permanent problems with his had, which would have sent him home from the war and then made it hard for him to find work there. This is still a problem today, but it fortunately becoming a more conscious issue. (pg. 109)
Pvt. David Webster, and aspiring author, kept a thorough record of his experience, and a segment from one of his letters to his parents really stood out to me: “‘If I don’t come back, try not to take it too hard. I wish I could persuade you to regard death as casually as we do over here. In the heat of battle you expect casualties, you expect somebody to be killed and you are not surprised . . . You have to keep going’.” When his mother freaked out by his attitude his response was even more interesting: “‘Would you prefer somebody else’s son to die in the mud? You want to win the war, but you apparently don’t want to have your sons involved in the actual bloodshed . . . If the country all had your attitude, nobody would fight.’,” I have to say, Webster kind of has a point, there is a level of sacrifice soldiers are prepared to make that many people don’t understand. (pg 110-111)
This episode I don’t think did a great job at illustrating the length of Market Garden, but I know you can’t fit all that into an hour long episode, but it did do a good job of showing the differences between the allied forces and their problems working with each other. The relationship between the U.S. Infantry and the British tankers was especially interesting. The integration of replacements is an ongoing discussion in the book, and I think focusing on it in one episode gives the situation more weight. I can see both points of view of the veterans and the replacements, but ultimately it emphasizes how battle bonds one in a different and deeper way than anyone who hasn’t experienced it can know.