They weren't reputed to be barbaric hordes either. More important, although American soldiers acted as honorably as could reasonably be expected, such a statement belies the evidence of rape, looting, and the murder of enemy prisoners. Very few GIs were criminals, but Ambrose's approach discounts the real—and dehumanizing—experience of war for all fighting men. In trying to explain why American soldiers were so contemptuous of home-front attitudes, Fussell wrote,.
An essential part of their experience was terror and madness on an unfathomable scale, and one of the ways some of them achieved relief was, indisputably, by committing acts of brutality. To be sure, a world of difference separated Americans' motivations for such acts from the institutionalized hatred that inspired, say, German soldiers on the Eastern Front. Nevertheless, Ambrose's sunny depiction of U. Jones acknowledged in this magazine ,. Ambrose's romanticizing of "the good fight" evades the truth that for the men who fight it, war—even a war that defeats Nazi Germany—is, as William Tecumseh Sherman wrote, "cruelty, and you cannot refine it.
Still, the impulse behind many of Ambrose's evasions is understandable. Take, for example, his depiction of the air war against Japan. No doubt he is impatient with ill-informed and tendentious arguments suggesting that America's incendiary-bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan, as well as the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were particularly immoral.
In fact, it's impossible to imagine that any responsible leader of any of the democracies would not have employed the atomic bomb if it meant, as it surely did in Harry Truman's case, ending the war sooner and saving the lives of that leader's countrymen. And although, of course, all the states fighting the war terrorized their enemies' populations, the United States was indeed more squeamish about employing such means than any other belligerent.
Still, Ambrose's discussion of the U. According to Ambrose,. This omits and obfuscates far more than it explains.
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That the materials of which Japanese cities were built rendered them especially vulnerable to firebombing came as no surprise to U. Marshall had directed his aides to make contingency plans for "general incendiary attacks to burn up the wood and paper structures of the densely populated Japanese cities. Ambrose is correct that the main objective was to destroy Japanese industry, and that the only way to accomplish this was, in essence, to burn Japanese cities entirely.
But it's also true that this meant that , Japanese men, women, and children, overwhelmingly noncombatants, were "scorched and boiled and baked to death," as Major General Curtis LeMay, who planned the campaign, later wrote. And those civilians were killed not because they were "kept" near factories but because factories happened to be dispersed throughout residential areas, owing to the willy-nilly way Japanese industry had developed. Ambrose's suggestion that at the time of the firebombing concern for the lives of Japanese civilians played an important role in U.
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The intelligence officer of the U. Fifth Air Force—using the logic that, after all, defined "total war"—declared at the time, "The entire population of Japan is a proper military target. There are no civilians in Japan. One grasps just how simplistic and sanctimonious Ambrose's approach to his ostensible subject is, however, only when one reads in this and his other works the repeated and triumphant assertions that it was U.
Ambrose's books both reflect and have intensified and helped to shape a self-aggrandizing mythology of World War II. Forget for now that Britain fought the war alone against Hitler for more than a year a fact easily forgotten, since it goes unmentioned in Ambrose's account, along with the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. Without question, the main scene of the Nazis' defeat was the Eastern Front, a theater of operations that Ambrose entirely fails to assess in his narrative of "how World War II was won. And more to the point, Ambrose's readers wouldn't know that the struggle with the USSR accounted for 88 percent of all German casualties.
Until the Normandy invasion—from June of to June of —nearly the whole Nazi war machine was concentrated in the East; even two months after D-Day 2. Ambrose devotes more space in The Good Fight to D-Day than to any other event, and he clearly sees that operation as the pivot of the war and of his narrative. In fact the turning point of the war in Europe was not at Normandy or anywhere else Americans fought but either at Stalingrad, two years before D-Day, where the Red Army eradicated some fifty divisions from the Axis order of battle, or at Kursk, nearly a year before, where the Soviets smashed the Wehrmacht's strategic tank force, breaking the Nazis' capacity for large-scale attack.
Ambrose lavishes a section of The Good Fight on the U. Neither Ambrose nor we need honor Russia's war dead as we do our own, but simple honesty demands that we acknowledge the Red Army's awesome achievement. This personal interaction and realism is what makes Band of Brothers so captivating for the viewer.
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Easy Company's original commanding officer is hated by his men but loved by the brass. Nixon even calls him a genius at one point, while Winters fails to see the logic in his style. Similar to Saving Private Ryan , Spielberg and Hanks use special effects, along with a vast array of props, to visually transport the viewer back to Europe of The scene of the C transports and the German anti-aircraft fire leaves little doubt in the mind of anyone why the paratroopers landed so scattered and disoriented on the morning of June 6.
After watching that particular segment, even those afraid of parachuting would be willing to jump from any aircraft to escape from the danger and feeling of helplessness that those men must have felt. Even the most hardcore military enthusiasts will be impressed at the lengths that the producers go to detail the battles and ensure the historical accuracy of the series.
The whizzing of bullets, along with the fall of leaves and branches, all convey what it was like to be in an actual firefight. Beside the usual surplus Sherman tanks used in many war movies, ungainly British Cromwells, with their distinctive large turret and rivets, along with German self-propelled guns and half-tracks, were reconstructed to provide an authentic backdrop to the series.
The filmmakers took their episodes on location to Georgia, England, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany to capture the requisite imagery. Even with all the effects and props, the heart of the series is the interaction of the men of Easy Company, and this is where the series excels. Winters, who progresses from platoon, to company, and eventually 2nd Battalion commander, provides the cohesive thread for the storyline.
Perhaps the most powerful scene from the first half of the series that captures the horror of combat is when Sergeant Don Malarkey goes to pick up his uniforms after returning from Normandy.
The English laundress asked the sergeant if he could assist her by delivering some packages left by other members of the company prior to their jump on D-Day. As she reads off their names, starting with their company commander, one realizes that these are men either wounded, missing, or killed. In the book, Ambrose would recount the number of men that remained in the company after each campaign, but this visual device proved more powerful than merely a caption.
The combat scenes are perhaps the most exciting aspects of the series.
What is Ambrose's thesis in the book?
In the second episode, Day of Days , Lieutenant Winters and a handful of men from Easy Company are ordered to take out a German artillery battery that threatens the invasion. Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the paratroopers demonstrate their superior training and unit cohesiveness by successfully capturing one gun after another, and destroying them, while suffering only light casualties. The battle, although identified as a textbook style attack, is not without faults. Later in the battle, he fumbled a hand grenade and nearly blew up Corporal Joe Toye, who had already been dazed by a near miss from a German grenade.
The sequence demonstrates that even though these were not super-human soldiers, their ability to work as a unit allowed them to overcome superior odds, and even their own mistakes, to destroy an enemy battery that could have hindered the unloading at Utah Beach. The most controversial aspect of the series, to date, deals with prisoners of war.
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In both the book and the series, references are made to an event that involved ten Germans captured after D-Day and a platoon commander from Dog Company, Lieutenant Ronald C. Spiers Matthew Settle. He is alleged to have 'hosed' down the prisoners with his Thompson, along with shooting one of his own men for drinking on duty and failing to obey his orders. The series never confirms these allegations, but Spiers appears periodically throughout the first half and is noted for his bravery and at times recklessness. There are other portrayals of harsh treatment toward prisoners; Toye hits one German with brass knuckles after he surrenders, while another member of Easy Company shoots another surrendering German in the streets of Carentan with his sidearm.
Spiers will later take a more prominent role when he is appointed company commander for Easy Company. The greatest insight into his character comes with a discussion he has with Private Albert Blithe, who had suffered, temporarily, from hysterical blindness.
Spiers tells Blithe that his problem is that he still thinks there is hope and once he lets go of that, he can function as a soldier, a stark and chilling reminder of the horror of combat, particularly since Blithe did not survive. The series is not without limitations. The portrayal of a company of soldiers necessitates a large cast and even with ten hours of film, it is difficult to keep track of who is who at all times, particularly during combat.
Even with a copy of the book, there are sequences that do not seem to flow well, or are never fully explained. Since many of the veterans assisted in the filming, there are several sequences that do not appear in the book and this tends to make for some additional gaps in the stream of events.