Table of contents

Band of Brothers I.4-5

War operations

Complete victory attended Easy & the 506th in France. Half the men died, the worst losses of any regiment during the invasion. They had been trained to fight in horrible conditions, so they had few surprises, none unconquerable. They died as was necessary, as was expected of them, & as they had been taught.

The men fought day & night, dirty, cold, wet, malnourished, without much sleep, none of it good, & constantly spearheading attacks. Then their savage-looking elite group was relieved. Throughout, they abused the plentiful French alcohol at whim. Afterward, they were welcomed as saviors in London & they ravaged the city, happy to be alive, until they were hated. The first campaign ended. Winters was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Disastrous defeat attended the Allies in Holland. Two American & one British Divisions parachuted into Holland, leading an armored attack to secure the quickest way into Germany. This was the greatest Allied airdrop. It succeeded in every way in which the Normandy drop had failed: The planes took very little flak, made no evasive maneuvers deviating from course, hit their dropzones perfectly. The troops landed in soft, plowed fields, got their equipment, assembled, & moved unmolested. They achieved total surprise.

Easy faced real German paratroopers & British armor faced real German armor, however. Defeat after defeat saw the men fighting for their lives. They lost essential bridges & had to protect Hell’s Highway, the only supply route for tens of thousands of troops. Their first retreats came; their first months of long, stale, useless trench warfare; & their first encounter with heavy artillery pounding away at them relentlessly.

Their survival was a miracle & understanding how it happened is necessary therefore. Easy attacked all points on the compass, being encircled. In their best, luckiest encounter, some two platoons of Easy routed & slaughtered two German companies, one SS, during an early morning assault. Winters led his men against superior numbers in an increasingly untenable tactical situation: Initial surprise & cover of darkness elapsed in the continuing fight; the flat terrain offered little cover & no chance for retreat. But Easy did its finest shooting, rifles, machineguns, & mortar alike, terrifying the enemy.

Ambition ruled the mind of the Holland campaign, like the French. But now Eisenhower despised the Germans. The German paratroopers lost in Normandy, but not again in Holland. The elite American paratroopers were quickly forced into defense. They failed to coordinate with British armor, which was vastly inferior to the German. The allies overleaped themselves, like hounds chasing a lion, for their superior agility & diversity could not protect them from the mauling & the bite of a beast they chased too closely.