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Book Review: We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers (Berkley Caliber,

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by dgmitchell, Jun 10, 2009.

  1. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Few soldiers have received as much attention, acclaim and interest as the members of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The late Stephen Ambrose immortalized Easy Company in several of his books, including his seminal Band of Brothers which was subsequently made into a very successful HBO mini-series. In addition, recent years have seen biographical works published on the lives of several members of Easy Company from Major Dick Winters (Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters, among others) to Lieutenant Buck Compton (Call of Duty) to Sergeant Don Malarkey (Easy Company Soldier).

    How then, could there be any Easy Company stories left to tell that would add to our collective study of the Second World War or the men of Easy Company, 506th PIR? In We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers (Berkley Caliber, May 5, 2009; 294 pages), historian Marcus Brotherton demonstrates that there are, indeed, many more experiences that the men of Easy Company had yet to share, and that they are all stories worth hearing.

    We Who Are Alive and Remain is organized around the various stages in both the development of Easy Company as a fighting force and in the development twenty of the men who comprised it. Beginning with the early life experiences that shaped the men of Easy Company, the book follows them through the beginning of the War, through the enlistment, training, transport to England, and on to their combat experiences on D-Day through the end of the War. It then closes with the post-war experiences of the men and the personal reflections of certain of the children of certain deceased members of Easy Company, including the son of Captain Herbert Sobel.

    Although the format of We Who are Alive and Remain may seem reminiscent of the format of Band of Brothers, Mr. Brotherton does not interpret any of the stories that he tells. Rather, he allows the words of the actual veterans of Easy Company to tell the story in its entirety. The pages of We Who are Alive and Remain present the actual, unedited, interview responses that twenty easy company veterans provided to Mr. Brotherton. Mr. Brotherton then brilliantly arranged those responses into a cohesive oral history of twenty men who, in their own way, changed history and thus became a part of history.

    Some of the perspectives offered in We Who are Alive and Remain are very different from the perspectives presented in Band of Brothers and should fuel greater debate about the roles of certain men in Easy Company. Most notably, Captain Herbert Sobel, the much maligned officer from Band of Brothers who was in charge of Easy Company during their training at Camp Toccoa (GA), is presented in a much more favorable. For many of the twenty men whose stories are told in We Who are Alive and Remain, Sobel is not a villain, but a tough soldier whose high standards during basic training were the reason that Easy Company was so successful in combat. They also dispute some of the information presented in previous works on this subject and offer a balanced counterpoint to the villainy presented in Ambrose’s works. For example, as Bill Wingett of Easy Company would have us believe, “I’ll argue hands down with anybody who says Sobel was the SOB they often say he was. He was tough, yes, he was as tough as anybody you’ll ever know. But he was not a Bastard.”

    In We Who are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers, Marcus Brotherton, arranges the words of twenty men into one cohesive, thought provoking, and at times heart-wrenching, tale of the humanity that must endure through the horror of war. Brotherton has given students of Easy Company an important, and necessary, counterpoint and supplement to Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and any reader who enjoyed Band of Brothers should read We Who are Alive and Remain. This book is also a must-read for students who appreciate oral histories, the personal stories of war and the daily lives of the soldiers who fight. There are no great descriptions of battle or strategy in We Who are Alive and Remain but there is much to remind us that the men and women who fight are just like us, or at least we hope that we could be like them when duty required it.
     

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