The Band of Brothers – The Early Years
A Band of Brothers is basically a team of individuals, devoted and united to each other beyond any other considerations, because of the seemingly dangerous (usually combat-based) circumstances that they have all been through together. Beyond mere comradeship, actually, being part of a Band of Brothers evoked an ideal of tough determination to face anything that comes along, and just to see it through. This is basically the premise of this novel. Jake O’Brien is in the army, fighting on foreign lands in conflicts, where every battle leaves him with more question than before. The realization that he is not really alone in this fight also prompts him to form a new Band of Brothers, a group of men who will stand by each other no matter what.
Jake O’Brien is a young, ex-soldier, who finds himself in command of a unit in the newly reconfigured Third Army. It is there, in the heat of battle near the city of Brotherstown, that he sees the brutality of war first-hand. Unbeknownst to everyone except himself, a German soldier named Frank is commanding a sizable force to attack a U.S. troop detachment, just north of the city. Frank is determined to get his revenge, regardless of the casualties he has incurred. Jake O’Brien, a young, arrogant Irish war hero, stands up to and defeats the German soldier and saves the day once again.
So begins the story of the Band of Brothers, which was filmed and produced for television by award-winning director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter David Bailey. Although the miniseries won four Emmys, including Best Television Series, the film itself did not receive an Academy Award nomination. The fact that Spielberg and company did not include a Best Picture nomination may be a travesty. Because of this disappointment, it is vital that a new movie regarding the Band of Brothers be made.
The miniseries was not without its faults, however. For example, the amount of violence in the film rivals any other war film throughout history, as evidenced by the incredibly graphic execution of kills. In one scene, Corporal Tommy (Kris Henning), one of the few good guys in the group, is badly beaten while walking outside in the rain. In another, Pvt. 6 (IKA Jake O’Brien) is executed right in front of his comrades for questioning their leader’s tactics. Although the movie portrays these acts as being necessary, they are nonetheless horrific displays of how brutal war can be.
The most telling aspect about the movie is that all of the main characters, with the exception of Jake, survive the Battle of Brother’s Row. The demise of Jake O’Brien and the other British soldiers highlights the utter lack of self-confidence and strength among German soldiers. The fact that there were only about twenty thousand men, most of whom were barely armed, illustrates how little the German forces were capable of if compared to their comrades. With thousands of German soldiers losing their lives at the cost of a single machine gunner, it is no surprise that the British would become the aggressor, but they did not deserve to.
As the war wore on, more stories of heroism began to emerge. Private Thomas Henry who survived the Wusthof Castle, where he hid from the Americans until the famous Battle of Brootville, is often referenced by the Germans as a legendary warrior. His courage is oftentimes quoted by the filmmakers, despite the fact that he was just another soldier in the Band of Brothers.
There are also many British veterans who chose to remain in occupied Europe rather than fight in the famous ” Accountability” Battle. Many of these veterans chose to live in occupied German towns and villages and become ” prisoner of the enemy,” which is what they were in any case. The British in fact treated some of their German prisoners well who had served in the army in the field, as well as some former prisoners of the concentration camps. The German prisoners who chose to stay behind were accorded considerable respect, as they were considered to be heroes by the British and the German soldiers who remained behind. For this, many German soldiers are awarded the Victoria Cross, an award which is still presented to surviving veterans today.
Ultimately, the Band of Brothers’ most enduring legacy may lie in its imprisonment of the Jews, whose ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity against their will. Despite the concerted efforts of the resistance, the British soldiers repeatedly rounded up, jailed, humiliated, beat, gagged, humiliated, starved, sent to concentration camps and sometimes killed. There has been much criticism of the way in which the Jews were treated, but the British war effort, which was led by General Bernard Montgomery, was fundamentally moral and just. If the British had acted differently during the Battle of Ypres, perhaps more innocent lives would have been saved.