Band of Brothers

Episode 7

The true story of the men of Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne

Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5 – Episode 6 – Episode 7 – Episode 8 – Episode 9 – Episode 10

Episode: 07/10

Title: The Breaking Point

Director: David Frankel

Bois Jacques

Richard Dick Winters is promoted to the rank of Major and is placed at the head of one of the battalions of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

The Easy Company passed under the command of Lieutenant Dike, a man who rarely visited his men, who disappeared during the bombings and who was virtually absent from any briefing. But Dike had relations with the American Staff and he had asked to command a company in combat.

This episode places the character of 1st Sergeant Carwood Lipton in the foreground during the first half of January 1945 and shows his great mastery as section chief during the battle of Bois Jacques north of the town of Bastogne before Foy in Belgium. Lipton often replaced Lieutenant Dike, who was not doing his duty in the Easy Company.

Clustered in the Bois Jacques after the difficult fighting near Bastogne, the Easy Company men blamed the Belgian town of Foy and digged their mouse holes in a nearby forest. Their positions are terribly bombarded by German mortars and 88 mm guns. Among all the wounded and dead on the American side, two characters see one of their legs being torn by shells: Joe Toye and William B. Guarnere.

Lieutenant Lynn “Buck” Compton, very attached to his men keep morale and stay healthy, discovered the two wounded and was evacuated some time from the front line, being hard hit by this scene. In the film we can see Sergeant Donald G. Malarkey reading a letter  in a military hospital to Compton: this scene, as Donald told me, did not happen, but it is true that these two characters were very close to one another, and they were still after the war.

Foy attack

During the episode, one also discovers the battle for the conquest of the city of Foy. One must note the incredible sense of duty on the part of S/Sergeant Joe Toye who refused to be evacuated because of his frozen foot and wanted to stay with his comrades on the front. For many paratroopers, being injured in combat was in their minds and some, like Joe Toye, had already accepted it before being hurt. They showed great courage.

On January 13, 1945, the Easy launched an assault on the town of Foy. It had snowed for a long time and the men sank deep into the snow. The key word of this attack was speed: the assailants were not to stop and the Germans would be taken by surprise. But Dike asks his men, in the middle of an uncovered field, to stop. They became easy targets for German defenders.

Winters, attending the scene from the forest, ordered Lieutenant Ronald Speirs to take command of Dike and carry out the assault. He then made a legendary race, alone, from the forest to the city center without being touched, which earned him the admiration of his men of the Second Battalion of the 506th Regiment for his skill and extraordinary courage. The Easy attacked the city by the west and Company I of the third battalion attacked north of the main road. Speirs crossed the city occupied by hundreds of German soldiers defeated to find the men of Company I. Once the contact established, Speirs backtracked, crossed the German positions still under enemy fire, and joined the Easy Company which was beginning to clean the first dwellings. The Americans made about 70 German prisoners.

The Easy captured the town of Foy after a violent fight, but at what price! Dike’s weaknesses in command have cost many lives. He was immediatly removed from the command of E-company and he became Regimental Assistant S-3 (conduct of operations).

Easy losses in the Ardennes

The company records heavy losses in the Battle of the Ardennes: killed in action (KIA) are:

– Caporal Hoobler, Donald B., 20508303, January 3rd, 1945, OH
– Sergent Warren H. Muck, 12131169, January 10, 1945, NY
– Pfc Alex H. Penkala, 35549002, January 10, 1945, IN
– Pvt Johnnie E. Shindell, 38530711, January 10, 1945, OH
– Caporal Francis J. Mellett, 20229437, January 13, 1945, NY
– Pvt Patrick H. Neill, 12139576, January 13, 1945, NY
– Pfc Carl C. Sawosko, 16100548, January 13, 1945, IL

Dead following wounds:

– Pfc A.P. Herron, 33657700, January 13, 1945, VA

Wounded in action (WIA):

– Pvt William J. Guarnere, 13113070, January 3rd, 1945, PA
– Pvt Thomas F. Harrell, 34787564, January 3rd, 1945, FL
– Pvt Joachim Melo, 32820984, January 3rd, 1945, NY
– Sergent Joseph J. Toye, 13026128, January 3rd, 1945, PA
– Pfc Garland Smith, 35698915, January 9, 1945, KY
– Pvt Frank Perconte, 16100572, January 13, 1945, IL
– Pvt John P. Sheeley, 39314111, January 13, 1945, OR
– Pfc George H. Smith, 32749717, January 13, 1945, NJ
– Pvt John D. Smith, 39421540, January 13, 1945, CA
– Pvt Garrard, William, 6888886, January 13, 1945, PA

The Easy had a total of losses (killed, injured, missing) which amounted to a total of 45 for the whole month spent in Bastogne. 37 more soldiers lost their lives because of the cold, the pneumonia, the fatigue of the fight and others.

Looking at the other losses of the 506th Regiment, it was company I that had the most killed with 99 soldiers lost. The Easy Company was about in the middle of this sad ranking with 45 lost soldiers. Company C is at the bottom of the list with 19 losses.

 Previous episodeNext episode