In July, I spent twelve amazing days following in the footsteps of Easy Company across four countries in Europe. I am going to write a series about it.
Getting ready for school, army commitments and family obligations made put it aside. I am finally getting to it. I am going to build a corner of my website around this amazing trip.
It will be part travel blog, part historical perspective and all fun. I hope you have as much fun reading about it as I did living and writing about it. It was the coolest vacation I ever took.
I went to jump school more than 21 years ago. There was a saying among the cadre- Ground week separated the men from the boys. Tower week separated the fools from the men. During jump week only the fools jumped.
I was twenty years old when I got my jump wings. I always thought there was something special about being a paratrooper. When I looked at pictures of commandos or élite units, the rough men in those pics always had jump wings.
I knew that jump wings set paratroopers apart from ordinary foot-soldiers.
To me, a man who jumped out of a perfectly airplane had physical courage. It was something you had to be tough to do.
You knew you were jumping into a bad situation. You were probably outnumbered by the enemy on the ground. The odds are you were going to be surrounded.
For it to work you had to catch the enemy by surprise. You’d start a mission with limited food, equipment, and ammunition. You’d have to hold out until you got reinforced by heavier ground units.
The idea applied to my romantic notions of a heroic wartime death. Stephen Ambrose’s book “Band of Brothers” took those ideas to whole another level.
Almost everyone has seen the “Band of Brothers” miniseries. It focuses on the actions of one outstanding light infantry company during World War II.
Easy Company’s story is about each soldier in the company. During World War II, it fought in Western Europe.
What brings Easy Company’s actions to light is the stories of the men of the unit.
During a year of almost non-stop fighting, Easy Company sustained 150% casualties,
Forty-eight members of Easy Company gave their lives to their country. More than 100 men were wounded. Some men were wounded several times.
As brass knuckle paratroopers, they hit hard targets. They came in fast. They came in at night because night-time is killing time.
Paratroopers are not ordinary soldiers. Their battlefields are behind enemy lines. They drop silently from the sky. They are messengers of death and destruction.
Lightly armed, unsupported by tanks and heavy artillery, they fight time after time against overwhelming odds and win.
This is the story of Arnhem, the Ardennes, Bastogne, Normandy and crossing the Rhine into Germany. It is the story of Easy Company, a heroic band of daredevils in America’s biggest war.
The book and mini-series created the myth. The reality was violent and ruthless.
The Men of Easy
Most of the men in Easy Company weren’t old enough to vote, but they were old enough to be recruited into an élite airborne unit. Most of the men joined the unit to fight.
Their eyes were full of adventure and a teenager’s belief in their own immortality. They knew the hazards were high and the chances of survivals were low. Those odds was just the bait for the men of Easy Company.
Tough, disciplined and deadly, the airborne commandos struck fear into the heart of Nazis. Their bravery and sacrifice earned them a place of honor in military history.
The men jumped on the enemy with blackened faces. Darkness hid them from the enemy, but it also hid German mines, booby traps and trip wires.
They couldn’t think about it. They must focus on being careful, quiet and deadly. They stalked the enemy with nothing but rifles, knives and hand grenades. Their packs full of only a couple of days’ worth of food.
Easy Company men are the killer élite, commando warriors. Their job was to wreak havoc and instill terror. Death is their calling card.
They engaged in some of the deadliest battles of World War II.
Easy Company played a vital role in Allied victories in Europe. They jumped out of airplanes over France and Holland and into military history as élite paratroopers.
Beyond of Band of Brothers
The paratroopers of Easy Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division are special. They’ve come to symbolize the heroism of the greatest generation that fought in World War II.
I crossed an ocean and the European continent this summer to find out what made these men unique.
I went to the places where Easy Company fought and died. I explored their history and found out what makes their story so special and what makes it meaningful today.
This is the unforgettable memorial of the men of Easy Company.
I did this amazing journey with my good friend Ron May. Ron is a gifted writer and a retired Navy chaplain.
These posts will be a chance to learn about World War II and the men of Easy Company.
What I Learned from Easy Company
I learned that army buddies bond in a way that only old army buddies can. Learning about the men in Easy Company made me think me think about my time in the army.
On the trip, I loved reminiscing about the undying connection that army buddies have, no matter how much time passes. I thought of all the times laughing, living and suffering with the greatest friends I would ever have.
I am now the older generation. I still believe in the army as much as I did as a young man.
I believe the army was one of the best thing to ever happen to me. It was good for my soul. The discipline, the structure and sacrifice made me a man. It was exciting, hard and fun.
I floundered in high school. I was uncertain about my future. The army was the obvious answer.
It straightened me out, it paid for school. The army still has the romantic notion as a finishing school for an immature kid.
In the army I experienced war and peace, love and hate and in the end, I was proud of my service but thankful for the amazing friends I made. They made the experience worthwhile.
Let me tell you what I learned in twelve amazing days in Europe about Easy Company. Easy Company’s story is our story