The greatest day of Easy Company, 506th regiment, 101st Airborne division must be the Battle of the Bulge. Surrounded by Germans, the men defended themselves successfully in very difficult conditions, surviving in the harsh winter & earning the glory of having fought off the last German offensive of WWII. This is the story of those young men who first parachuted in enemy territory before D-Day & who ended the war after securing the Nazis luxury resort in Bavaria, Berchtesgaden.
These young men, how did they become veterans? They chose to undergo the harshest training in order to pioneer American paratrooping & they were trained by a very severe officer, who earned their hatred by trying to break them down. But at least harsh necessity prepared them for the hell they would face in war. It bears noting that their officer was a miserable battlefield commander whose severity was the result of fear of failure. When we see this man relieved of the command of men, after attempting to Court Martial a soldier, we are taught that necessity is a better teacher than conventionalism.
D-Day, the largest amphibian invasion ever attempted, shows their skills. We see little of the planning & success, but we see the difficulties the men faced. War appears like a horrible storm, motions & noises everywhere announcing danger & death. Maybe from a great distance, the motions make sense & settle into patterns; purpose emerges. From the point of view of a man about to jump out of the airplane, or fighting in the forests & plains of Normandy, there is no sense of what is what. Overcoming fear & remembering orders, & that they must be obeyed, & death be damned, is the only way to retain sanity. When there is nothing else that makes sense, men look to one another & live or die together.
The soldiers have to search for their company once they hit the ground, with their officer dead. After they regroup, they have to attack a fortified position defended by superior numbers. Later, they learn about urban warfare: they have to attack a city the Germans have prepared for an ambush. These first fights teach the importance of a quick tactical mind & the importance of small units that work independently, but in coordination. Already, above the camaraderie that holds units together, we see the actions & try to understand the minds of the officers who plan & execute maneuvers, because victory requires making sense of warfare.
Daring is rewarded more than following conventions in these cases. Thus does the true commander of Easy Company emerge, the future Major Winters. Typically, he first delivers victory & then requires his soldiers’ respect.
As good a movie about soldiers in WWII as you can find. See it.