Band of Brothers
The true story of the men of Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Between 1942 and 1944, the Easy Company men of the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division trained on the grounds of Toccoa in Georgia under the command of First Lieutenant Herbert Sobel. The training was for some soldiers harder than the fight (Sobel had them walk about 192 km between Toccoa and Atlanta).
During the barbed-wire training, the soldiers had to crawl to the ground and the machine gunners were firing live bullets over their heads, so they had to be very careful not to risk being killed before they even met A German soldier on a battlefield in Europe.
The training songs of the soldiers of the Easy had the same melody as in the film but not exactly the same words.
The Easy Company is sent to England some time before the Normandy landing, in order to pursue the training of the military forces destined for the invasion as part of “Operation Overlord” in Europe. Herbert Sobel had a practical mind, devoted to the army and more precisely to education, but did not really excel in the field, and his superiors quickly realized it. Sobel rose in rank and became a captain, but just before the “big pirouette” on D-Day on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, his company was withdrawn and sent in spite of himself to a regiment in England where doctors, surgeons, chaplains, sappers… are trained to reinforce the airborne troops and also to replace the voids that would be created after the shock of the D-Day within the different units.
The Easy Company men all felt relieved of the sudden departure, not only because Sobels was very hard on them and they had to do hard work but also because they feared for their lives if they Commanded on the field of battle. Moreover, the NCOs of the Easy had drafted a report in England to indicate that they refused to serve in the Easy as long as there was not a Sobel replacement at the head of this Company.
It was during the training sessions and the various tests that a person detached himself from the company by his professionalism: Dick Richard Winters, a young lieutenant. Winters was informed of the mutiny of the non-commissioned officers and attempted in vain to prevent them from taking this position. These men risked the death penalty for mutiny, for at the dawn of such an offensive in Europe nothing could hamper the preparation of the Allies.
After the departure of Sobels, Winters remains the second in command of the Easy Company, thanks to his mastery in various situations and also thanks to his popularity within the company. The Easy Command will return to First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan, a highly regarded young officer.
June 4th, 1944
The departure of the company is ordered: the Easy will be parachuted in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord south of Sainte-Mère-Eglise and aims to destroy any enemy communication system and capture the main crossroads of the area, thus blocking German reinforcements heading towards the landing beach code-name: Utah, northeast of Carentan, the landing area of the 4th US Infantry Division. The take-off of the planes is scheduled for the late afternoon.
A few hours before embarking, the whole operation Overlord is canceled: it is postponed to the following day, Tuesday, June 6th. Reason: a great storm rages in Normandy and the English Channel, such as have never been seen in years. All paratroopers and amphibious units are blocked in England, but this is only partially postponed.
June 5th 1944
This time it is the right one: a slight improvement of the time over the Channel and the order can be given again. The men received for the occasion medicines against the evil of the air and also “crickets“, two blades of metal which, twisting, emit a click-clac. The American soldiers had to leave their cricket when they were alone and heard a noise in the vicinity, and make the sound: “clic-clac”. The answer to this click-clac was to be only two click-clack, otherwise the sound comes from an enemy movement and in this case, it is better to leave or send a burst in the right direction. This was how many American soldiers were able to join their friends and form groups when they were lost.
Another solution to know the identity of the one who is nearby: say thunder! (thunder). The exact answer that allowed you to know the identity of the person had to be flash! (lightning). This last solution is nevertheless unobtrusive and this kind of password was changed about every 3 days, except for flash-thunder which was used only on the day of June 6, 1944 as a rule.
At the end of the first episode, one can read part of the message of General Eisenhower, the famous “Ike’s Great Crusade Message”.