I really liked the film series of the same name that documented the experiences of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne. The book 's chapters each correspond to a 1 hour piece of the film series. I re-watched the series as I read the book.
Easy was trained by a much hated Captain Sobel. But Sobel's strict emphasis on fitness made Easy the most fit unit in the ETO (European Theater of Operations). Easy landed at Normandy, fought through Holland and Belgium, participated in Operation Market Garden, and famously played a key role in defending Bastogne from the German onslaught during The Battle of the Bulge.
The book is an easy read. It is about as close to fiction as I read these days, but of course, it is not fiction. The attention to military detail was fantastic in the film. I spotted things that were referred to in the book, but never pointed out in the film. So unless you were there, or were a veteran of other battles, the film had aspects that you would never notice without reading the book. Having said that, the film viewing time is longer than the book reading time. So if you have seen the film, you have not missed much. In fact, for most people, you can read the book faster than you can watch the show.
What these men had to endure is beyond anything I will ever experience. I stand in awe of what they accomplished… beyond simple survival.
The film ends with interviews of some of the soldiers… now quite old. The paradox of war is in the title. When you arrive as a recruit, you and your mates are equals, regardless of background. And if you survive the whole affair, they are your best friends to whom you owe your life, and vice versa. All of the survivors are glad for the experience, but only with the after the fact knowledge that they make it. Regardless, the emotional ties are strong and very touching.
The cliché "blood is thicker than water" does not refer to kinship ties, but to spilt blood between soldiers.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.