On D-Day, Dick Winters took off with 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and prepared to parachute into German-held north France. Ground troops landing on Utah beach were relying on Easy Company to secure one of the causeways that were vital if the troops were to get off the beaches and reach the solid ground of Normandy. The plane carrying many of the commanding officers was shot down, leaving Dick Winters suddenly in command of his company. But during the drop he, and many of his men, had been separated from his equipment and was unarmed except for a trench knife.
In this remarkable World War 2 memoir, Dick Winters tells the tales left untold by Stephen Ambrose in his 1992 epic Band of Brothers. Starting with an account of the gruelling training designed to make the 506th the most elite unit in the US Army, Beyond Band of Brothers is fascinating account of one man's experience of commanding Easy Company from D-Day, to the Battle of the Bulge and into Germany. Dick Winters gives real insight into leadership under the most difficult conditions - every man in the company had been injured by the time they reached Germany - and tells the real story of the Allies' final defeat of Hitler, from the point of view of someone who was really there.
In his well-intentioned but impersonal memoirs, Winters tells the tales left untold by Stephen Ambrose, whose Band of Brothers was the inspiration for the HBO miniseries, but Winters's memoir is disappointingly sparse on details unrelated to troop position. It is in the battles and tactical maneuvers of Easy Company that Winters is most at home: on D-Day, when Easy Company's commanding officer is killed, Winters takes charge minutes after landing deep in German territory and leads an assault against a German battery. He carefully explicates the reasoning behind his strategy, leading the reader along as the Company attacks German machine gun and mortar outposts. The narrative is laced with Winters's soldierly exaltations of pride in his comrades' bravery: "My God, it's beautiful when you think of a guy who was so dedicated to his company that he apologizes for getting hit." Although the intrepidness of the group induces more than a tinge of pride, the memoir is devoid of powerful reflections. In the last, sluggish chapters, Winters devotes an excessive amount of time to letters he has received and to expositions on leadership. Winters is too humble for a genre that requires a little bit of conceit.
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Beyond Band of Brothers
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Major Winters in January this year (2011).
I feel that I personally knew the man and the other men of Easy through the Ambrose books and the miniseries.
Mr Winters's story and conduct in WWII is moving and inspirational, but in many respects it is not unique.
I'm sure he would be the first to point that out.
My ancestors responded to the call when their country needed them during WWII.
My father's father told me many so many stories about his time in the army, I could have been forgiven for thinking he was backpacking his way around North Africa and Europe during the war.
Until many years after his death, I never new that my mother's father suffered from malaria.
The look of confusion as to how he got it must have been written all over my face. My Mum then told me it was while he was in a field hospital convalescing from the shrapnel wounds he sustained (when his plane was hit) during his time in the RAF.
They never spoke about their best mates being killed, and never about the uncertainty of whether they would live to see another sunrise.
They never complained.
Reading this book makes me realise how much we owe the men and women that have have fought for the freedom that I enjoy.
How can I thank them for the bravery they showed, the sacrifices they made and the hardships they endured?
By respecting my fellow man.
By trying to fulfil my potential, doing my best in all things I do.
By remembering that everyday I walk this earth is a privilege to be enjoyed, not a chore.
Hopefully this will make me a better person, and maybe at least a sign of gratitude.
Beyond Band of Brothers
Brilliant read, filled the few gaps left by Mr Ambrose. A truly remarkable account of a truly remarkable group of men lead by a truly remarkable leader.
What an outstanding human being Mr. Dick Winters was. Even though I didn't know him on a personal level, his passing still hit hard, when the world lost a man so inspiring. Reading this book was the last thing left on my list of things to read about Winters, and what better way than to finish with a book full of his own accounts. It was an awe-inspiring read and I'm truly grateful he shared with us these accounts before his passing - a must read.