Band of Brothers: Episode 7 Chpts. 12-13

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HBO Synopsis: Breaking Point

Having thwarted the Germans at Bastogne, the exhausted Easy Co. must now take the nearby town of Foy from the enemy. Several are killed and wounded in fierce shelling, compounded by the incompetence of their commander, Lt. Dike (Peter O’Meara), about whom Winters (Damian Lewis) can do nothing. Easy takes Foy, but at an enormous cost.

So this is my second favorite episode. It’s able to portray so many different aspects of the war, the challenges of Bastogne, and the limits every man has to face during war. It also shows how much a good NCO can affect the men and operations, and as usual with this series, highlights the fantastic leadership and camaraderie between the men. Beyond the bad leaders of course, and there are always some of those.

I also really appreciate the range of emotions this episode evokes, it’s heartbreaking and fantastic at the same time, if that makes any sense.

It was really interesting to read about the men talking about that “breaking point’ that everyone faced and feared. Winters talked about the horror of watching your friends get hurt or killed day in and day out, of the pressure of decisions that risked peoples lives, of the general conditions that did nothing for morale, it was an environment of “endlessness and hopelessness,” yet they still found a way to fight. (202)

Now this episode only tackles the invasion of Foy, and mentions the following attacks on Noville and Raschamps. A point I thought was really interesting in chapter 13, which focuses on the assault of Noville, is Winters sincere dislike of General Taylor. Ambrose has to point out on multiple occasions that Winters distaste for the attacks Taylor ordered the 506th to enact were necessary to the war effort and due to a general lack of men available to him. Winters however notes his irritation of having to send his men into these situations under-armed, under-clothed, under-rested, and with insufficient numbers. Honestly, I see the constraints of Taylor, but I also respect Winters for placing the needs of his men and their lives above all else. That’s something that I think is key to making a good commander, and a decent person in general.

An interesting assessment by Ambrose, and I’m sure many other military historians, notes that the victories like those in Bastogne; where American forces were in number and equipment inferior, yet still managed to achieve their objectives and claim victory, was due to “moral superiority.” (219) Now, I know it sounds corny, but I firmly believe it. If you believe in what you are fighting for, you’ll fight harder for it. For example, I’m doing a lot of research on Pacific air battles, and even though the Japanese military had superior fighter aircraft, our tactics and teamwork resulted in major victories for our forces.

Lastly, one more reference to the extreme comradeship between these men. Webster, rejoining the men after being wounded in Holland, noted how easy it was to fall back into routine with everyone, how they were all bound by some intangible experience that bridged the differences in their lives back home, of their educations, and of their civilian jobs. (222)

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