Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Band of Brothers - Stephen Ambrose

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose is a history of E Company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101 Airborne Division in World War II. This covers the entire period from the formation and training through to the end of the war in Europe. Ambrose has now acquired a controversial reputation as an historian but his writing is clear and engaging so this succeeds as a readable account for general readers.

The narrative largely focuses on key individuals in the company, mainly the officers and NCO as the NCO in particular were the longest serving members of E Company, many having been in the initial cohort training at Toccoa and serving through D-Day, operation Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge and the advance into Germany at the end of the war. Probably the most heroic of the many named is Richard Winters, who was an early platoon commander until promoted further up in the Battalion and was vital in achieving successful missions at Brecourt Manor and Carentan in Normandy.

This was the basis for the TV miniseries made by Stephen Spielberg which is what actually led me to reading the book. The TV series was very good and I'd recommend watching it if given the chance.

As a Briton I found there were a few of the usual comments from American historians about General Montgomery's alleged slowness which is not borne out by the actual evidence. That is a topic I might discuss later as I don't want to go off on a tangent from the review.

For a wargamer there are a number of scenario ideas and several of these actions have been used in commercially produced games with ASL Starter Kit 2 having an 88s at Zon scenario. I'm planning to use the small action at Brecourt Manor as a basis for some WWII games using the Flying Lead and Nuts rules which will feature in my blog later on. The accounts of the battles fought tend to bear out the approach of the Too Fat lardies rules with 'big men' being critical to motivating and leading troops in battle.

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