June 6th, 2021 is the 77th anniversary of D-Day. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.
So, today we’ll kick off a 3-part miniseries of our own where we cover Band of Brothers with World War II historian and author Marty Morgan. Episodes we’re covering today:
2. Day of Days
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Photos Mentioned in the Episode
Trenches at Brécourt Manor
These are the photos Marty mentioned some recon photos on June 6th, 1944 at Brécourt Manor which show there are no trenches. As you’re looking at these photos, here is a direct link to where Marty talks about them: https://youtu.be/lslXDXbrbDE?t=2912
Plaques at Eindhoven
You can hear Marty talking about the little plaques you can see in Eindhoven today like the one in this photo at about 01:42:32. Jump there by clicking this link: https://youtu.be/lslXDXbrbDE?t=6152
Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
Dan LeFebvre 03:21
Episode number one of Band of Brothers is entitled Currahee. That’s the name of a mountain near camp Taccoa in Georgia, where we are first introduced to Easy Company 2nd battalion of the 506th Regiment, the 101st Airborne Division. This is where they’re trained under their commander Lieutenant Sobel in 1942. Now throughout the episode, we see soble pushing the men so hard, that they grow to hate him, not so much because he’s pushing them hard, but it’s really the manner in which he does it. For example, in the episode, there’s one time where soble tells their men that their regular training is canceled due to rain. Instead, there’ll be treated to a light day of classroom instruction and some spaghetti. Then, after eating their fill of pasta, Sobel Bersin and changes that ordering the men to run curry he three miles up three miles down. And of course, you see shots of the men throwing up their spaghetti as they’re as they’re running. It’s pretty clear the way the show depicts this, that he had kind of planned all of this from the beginning and never really intended to give them a light day. So how did the series do showing Lieutenant Sobel and the way that he trained Easy Company?
Marty Morgan 04:29
I think it’s really complicated, because, overall, I believe that the series is quite unfair to Herbert Sobel. Yes, sure. The men did acknowledge and mentioned and describe the hardships associated with training and difficulties particularly with his personality, one that was not particularly inviting or friendly. But in 20 years now, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on this and I reflect on it kind of with the knowledge of the extensive interactions. I had with people that were in the military, both enlisted and an officer ranks. And I feel like they were a little unfair to him. And I am in a reading of Stephen Ambrose his book, Panda brothers, which I pulled out to prepare for this reading of that you get a sense of there being a little bit dislike, and I believe that everyone who has ever served in uniform can testify to having had a leader that they disliked. But at the same time, one of the experiences that I had in my career earlier on is I had worked at a museum in New Orleans, I had worked near and around Dr. Steven Ambrose, shortly before his death in 2002. And after his death, I took over his research collection material that was assembled while he was writing all of his books to include the book and brothers. And there wasn’t such a sharp and pronounced dislike of Herbert Sobel. And that material as what we will ultimately see in the miniseries, which brings me to my bigger point. And then it’s this, I’ll make it painless and simple. And that is that I think the mini series deliberately made him out to be more than a villain than he actually was.
Dan LeFebvre 06:11
I think you made a good point. I’ve never served in the military myself, but I’ve had family members who do and there were certainly times I tell stories about their drill instructors and such that for you know, not necessarily complimentary. That just seemed to be part of the training.
Marty Morgan 06:29
It absolutely is. And that’s a funny thing to like in just in reflecting on this overnight. I should thank you, first of all, because you gave me an opportunity that I kind of hadn’t expected even after we talked, I was like, okay, cool, we’re going to talk about Bana brothers. I love it, I can’t get enough of it. This is gonna be fun. And then I went and watched it through my post Game of Thrones eyes. And I see it in such a different way now, and I love it even more than I did. 20 years ago, I felt moments where it pulled on my heartstrings, I felt moments with the hair still stands up in the back of my my neck there. It’s just that good. It’s 20 years later, and I’m 20 years older, and more disenchanted and cynical. And I still love this series. So much. This series has so much good to say. With that being said, though, this series does things that I think we all have to keep in mind and that it deliberately, massages, needs, poles twists and turns the reality and the actuality of the historical record in order to fit the formula for broadcast cable for to fit an entertainment formula. And, and I feel like that’s something that may have just kind of gotten lost in the last 20 years. I didn’t work on Band of Brothers, but I worked for Steven Ambrose and I was kind of within an enter orbit of Dr. Ambrose’s world. And I saw it happen all over again on the series that I did work on, which was HBO miniseries The Pacific. But one thing that I recognized in working on that series and working on countless other television programs and television series, is that they have a formula and what they do when they’re based on a true story, they take that true story, and they cram it into their formula. And a significant thing that’s going to come up not just in this episode of our chat about band brothers, but in the next in the next two episodes as well, is that they had to they have to produce tension and resolution. And part of the way that they do that is using the the enemy lurking on the horizon, the nameless, faceless enemy. And then part of the way that they create tension and resolution is through other characters that are on our side that are part of the story are what you see being done with Herbert Sobel, you see that being done with the tenant dies, you see that being done to a lesser degree with Lieutenant Colonel Strayer, you see it bound with several characters within the story arc. And one thing that I believe that we all have to remind ourselves because I have to remind myself this sometimes is that this is being done on purpose, to manipulate the viewer that sounds that sounds very cynical and almost conspiratorial for me to put it in that way. But it’s designed all of it is designed to take you places within the overall flow of the story. And Band of Brothers represents what I consider to be absolute excellence in storytelling, not just Dr. ambrosus book. But then the people who ultimately took it and adapted it this this crowd of people that adapted it to become something for the screen. I think they also achieved excellence in storytelling. And so, at all times, I have to remind myself that Herbert Sobel serves a useful plot point. And that is his he’s the tough trainer who isn’t friendly and isn’t loving. And all that does is create the rebound board against which we bounce the lovable and admirable characteristics of our main characters.
Dan LeFebvre 10:14
So then, as far as historically the real so because the way the show portrays it, not only is he unwilling to appoint crew in his training, but there’s also quite a few times where we see him, for lack of a better term panic under pressure, like he just gets lost in some of the more combat training type situations. And this gets to a point in the episode in first episode, where major Horton I think, ends up basically calling it a mutiny. That, you know, all the NCO ‘s are collectively offering up their resignations that they’re, they’re just not going to follow Sobel into content and combat and the way that the show portrays it, it makes sense because it’s like, well, this guy just seems like he’s being ruthlessly cruel to them and training and in combat training, he’s going to get them killed. So as far as historically, how much of that actually happened, was he not really that competent of a leader as far as it combat training is concerned?
Marty Morgan 11:14
Well, we never really even end up men end up finding out about Herbert Sobel as a combat commander, because he’s certainly not commanding our our main group of characters in combat. And so we don’t know how that ends up. What we do know though, is that there were moments where some of the members have the main cast of characters that they indicated some.
Marty Morgan 11:36
They indicated that they had doubts about souls leadership and in the series, one thing that I find that very interesting is that almost at every turn, Sobel is a sickening villain. at almost every turn, he’s either depicted as being unnecessarily cruel, like, giving them a bunch of spaghetti and then going to run her he or he is depicted as being incompetent, indecisive, fulminating, short tempered. And this These aren’t characteristics that we admire. And a further point that I would make in my larger argument here is that the screenplay writers needed so well they really needed to lean into Sobel being so dislikable so that they could make what so that they could make. They could make Richard Davis winters look so much more likeable and decisive, and respectable and admirable. And I mean, let’s face it, this is what emerges our central character here. major rd winters comes out of this looking, almost godlike in a way. I believe this is part of the reason why its popularity didn’t flicker and die. Its popularity to this day is so powerfully strong. And why I think the reason why is that we have in not just winters but other characters that are a part of this to include car was slipped in. And I mean, I’m not gonna go down the list. But there are several characters that end up in the end of all of this presented to us as if they never honked at an old lady crossing the street. It’s if they never did something rude is that they were never short tempered themselves, they they’re all being depicted, is exhibiting all of these extremely positive, admirable and likeable characteristics, personality characteristics that we can all love. And I think that popularity, the popularity of that came from the time period during which I grew up because I was born in 1969. And I remember very specifically that every war movie that you’re presented with, and really it spilled out of the just the war movie genre, it’s built into other genres as well. And that is that characters weren’t characters and leadership positions were not often depicted as being likeable. And I believe that’s simply a reflection on the politics of the Vietnam era. I was born when the Vietnam War was being fought. And I grew up at a time when the United States was sort of in this existential hangover from Vietnam. And everything had to be what everything had to be disenchanted, everything had to be cynical, everything had to question authority, everything had to had to depict authority figures as as, as being incompetent or, or somehow, or somehow unlikable, or somehow evil. And as a part of my conversation with 20 years of loving Band of Brothers, I find myself turning to that often and thinking that, you know, Band of Brothers, I believe cashed in on a little bit of the post Vietnam era, and that they used some of the old tropes of the Vietnam era. I’ll just, I’m just going to call them platoon tropes because of the movie Platoon, which is I think, you know, the Heart of Darkness when it comes to disenchantment and sentences, cynicism and yes, I use Heart of Darkness on purpose Just then, but I When you consider their their platoon aspects, the band of brothers that aren’t, they’re not related to our main cast of characters, the cast of characters that become the people that over the course of 10 hours, began to love them and care about them. And the think that a lot of the a lot of the popularity of the series this, I shouldn’t say, I shouldn’t say it like it’s past tense. I think a lot of the continuing popularity of the series relates to the fact that people were just kind of sick and tired of being fed this constant diet of cynicism and disenchantment, and let’s face it during the Second World War, and also Well, I should mention this before I conclude, the point is that we were also in the 1990s. I remember very clearly, because in the 1990s, I was both an undergraduate student and I was working on a master’s degree in history. And during that time period, I remember that it was only it was really then that sort of postmodern disenchantment and cynicism, were directed at the history of the Second World War. In other words, that prior to then, the 80s. The second world war as an historical subject was one that was largely left largely untouched by by the disenchantment cynicism, and lack of optimism that I think characterized earlier time periods, particularly the time, especially after Vietnam. And then we moved into a period when we moved into what I always call the triumphal time period, which is when people began to look back to the second world war with a great deal of nostalgia and a great deal of sort of admiration and longing and longing for a simpler time, when the politics were very clear cut where there was very, there were very clear examples of right and wrong. And I think that what people begin to yearn for that they were thirsty for stretching into the 80s and 90s was they were thirsty for a time period, when it was very easy to understand things that were right and wrong. Whereas the politics of the 6070s 80s and 90s were extremely complicated. And if anything, what they what they proved to us was that the world was a very complicated place, and you don’t really see a reality that’s populated by lots of heroes, and you don’t really see reality, where heroism and positive personality attributes are teed up and presented within sort of a mass media entertainment format. And then along came Ben Bana brothers. And along comes the character of rich of Richard winters. And I think everyone absolutely gobbled it up. Because for the first time, we were being fed something different. I mean, that still sounds a little cynical for me to be to say we were being fed, but there’s truth to it. And that is that we’re being fed these characters were being Band of Brothers is feeding us and the meal it’s feeding us is dick winters was this exceptional leader. He was brave, he was admirable in every way. And this is something that we should all strive toward, and something we should all recognize. And in order for those elements of dick winters as a character to come out, you’ve got to have Herbert Sobel the sickening villain
Dan LeFebvre 18:07
you made a great point there that I’d never even really thought about until you were saying that is that especially your very first episode of the entire series starts winters is he’s just one of the guys he’s in line with everybody else he’s he’s just just one of the guys and that you know not to get too far ahead of our conversation because we’ll get there but even though he you know, rises in rank throughout the entire series, because he starts off as in line with the guys he’s training with all the guys you know, he’s he’s also in this first episode, you know, he’s given mess duty as one of the punishments that you know, all the other guys are getting punished by Sobel as well. You know, he’s just one of the guys getting punishments too. It’s really easy to see that contrast on that you’re pointing that out of sobo is is the commander, and we don’t like the people in authority. So winters is just one of the guys.
Marty Morgan 18:55
Right, and I’ll put a link to make it it’ll come out again, I don’t want to jump the gun here. But when we get to Norman dike, you can already tell I got a big beef with the way the series deals with Norman diet. But when we get to Norman diet, he steps up as a company commander of a group of men that go all the way back to Tacoma, all the Tacoma men, and they get an outsider that steps in and if on any level, he is even a little bit less of a man, the deck winners, they’re going to reject it. And I believe that that is reflected in the way that the men talked about it. And then I believe also that the series took advantage of this sort of faintness of a dislike for Dyken, the series took that and just slammed it into full throttle, and they really make him like they had already done with selbo look indecisive, temperamental, childish, you know, there are moments and you know, there’s the scene where they’re on the on the field training exercise, and they get up to the barbed wire fence, and somebody yells like cut the wire, he cuts the wire, then he’s in trouble. There’s a moment where he walks up and several standing there with a map which by the way, they use The age old, the tired old, well worn path of the cliche of the officer who walks everybody off the map. I believe that that is something that we’ve always turned to as a way of kind of rolling our eyes at leaders. I mean, I’m using it there in a metaphorical sense. But in the literal sense, you’ve got an officer but can’t read a damn map. And everybody else is like, Oh, my God, and we’re supposed to follow this guide. And to combat this is absurd. And so just in one simple little vignette, they’re able to just show him kind of looking at the map. And he also handles quivers and his incompetence and confusion. And the moment that I think is slightly overacted, no offense to David Schwimmer. But it’s a moment where David Schwimmer really makes it very Broadway. And he really makes it very exaggerated. Like, ah, I’m so I don’t know what to do. And I’m so confused. And I feel that’s all so terribly unfair. It’s just that I was raised by United States Army officer, I was born on the US Army post, and I was around a lot. And my father certainly had stories of being around officers who he didn’t really admire. I believe everyone that served in uniform can testify to that. But does that mean that Herbert Sobel was dreadful, and I don’t think it was, I think Herbert Sobel was probably just common, and that Herbert zobo, had a lot of, he had a lot of training that he had had to invest in people who were still largely on training, let’s face it, they’ve been through not all of them, but most of them had only just joined the army. And I’ve only gone through basic training, and he had to train you have to parachute qualified them, and then put them through all this additional training. And not all of that is intended to be fun. And it was, it would have been a very, very demanding sort of regimen to walk people through. And you had to assign someone to be the mess officer. You had to hand out assignments that were not glamorous, and they were undesirable, and you had to enforce discipline. And when we look back at the Sobel legacy, not so much from the book, but from the miniseries, what we see is a lot of people that are complaining about Sobel for doing what just not being nice about everything. And I often like to think sometimes that you know, yeah, I am sitting through the first episode, which I completely love. The first episode is so great. on so many levels, it might have the best finish of all of the episodes, but more on that later anyway. But for Episode One, there are moments where I’m like, I get it, I get it. He’s mean, the training staff, he’s got a lot to do. And we’re, we’re hammering these men into an extremely close knit group. Because as I’ve understood leadership, granted, I’ve not been in the military, and I’ve never been a military leader. But as I understand part of it, it seems like an important function is that you put people through some hardships and some ordeals and that has the effect of bringing them together and establishing camaraderie. And let’s face it, if that’s one of the objectives of training, Herbert Sobel was an astounding success. Because let’s face it, the men of the company, were ready for combat when they went into combat. The men of the company were not just physically but they were emotionally ready. And if there’s one thing that we can identify as being exceptional about Band of Brothers is that they had formed a bond that to them felt unique. I think that basically everyone in units all across the United States Army during the Second World War, felt the same kind of bond. And that bond didn’t happen because Herbert Sobel was a villain. I think that bond happened because he was tough on his men, and he had to enforce discipline, and he had to maintain order. And I think he did it in a way that wasn’t quite as, as bad as the series wants to make us think it was. And I think he also did it with a competence that the series doesn’t acknowledge.
Dan LeFebvre 23:52
Towards the end of the episode, we do see that Easy Company is taken away from Sobel and Lieutenant Meaghan takes over. And this is where we see them going to England, a pottery England more specifically to finish their training right before the invasion, the drop on D day. And the episode in the or the date in the episode, I should say is may 31 1944. So we know it’s just before D day on June 6. How long did the the mennomedia company have to train for the D day drop? And were some of the men able to figure out in the show, they’re able to figure out that Normandy, what’s the location before it’s even that just based on the locations that they’re they’re dropping and all that kind of, I think we see a scene with winters and Meaghan and witches, like I brought a compass on, on the last training drop. Let’s figure it out on the map. Now they figure out that Oh, must be Normandy, right? How much of that that sort of stuff actually happened?
Marty Morgan 24:47
Yeah, that’s all true that bears out and not just the book, but also in Dr. Ambrose has materials and if there’s one thing you just mentioned, one of my favorite moments in the entire series, and that’s that moment when winners walks up to the tent, looked at me and sit inside and he He says on the last training job, I took a compass and me and looks up at him. And he just gets this look across his face. And he says, close the flap, Lieutenant. And I felt like that. I know, it’s so dumb, but it’s one line. But it was, I think so very well acted, that it communicated so much lesser actor could have read that line about a dozen different ways. But that guy when he read that line, and look in his eye, and he had a look on his face that said to you, there’s more to this, these two have already talked about it. There’s something going on here. It’s something bigger. And it draws you into that scene in the tent where they’re sitting there with the map. And I just, I can’t say enough about that actor in that one line, because it just pulls you right in to the setting of all right, where are we going? Oh, my God, it’s Normandy. I just I can’t stop gushing about the series for those moments that because there are a lot of them that are so that I think are quite well acted. And I think that’s one of them.
Dan LeFebvre 25:56
And it’s such a stark contrast, because like you’re saying it tells you that they’ve talked about this before. And that is something that I don’t think witches would have done with Sobel the way that the the series portrays him in just earlier in that episode, you don’t get the sense that winters would be talking with soble, about this kind of stuff,
Marty Morgan 26:14
right? And it’s, and it’s all about what do they say in restaurants in the restaurant business. He’s on class, it’s all about the setting. It’s all about the way that the presentation of it, which I think is the actual meaning of middle class, for restaurant industry. It’s all about the city. And from the start, how is man presented to us, me and is presented to us as just these not just a good officer, who’s competent and decisive and smart, but he’s also likable. And I have to just point out that a lot of that is done by the the really remarkable and admirable writing of this episode. This episode is written by Eric ginger son and Tom Hanks. And I think that what they presented to us in Episode One is an example of perfection in screenwriting, and then you throw some rock solid actors in there. And if you get the makings of something special,
Dan LeFebvre 27:05
that’s a good way to start the series.
Marty Morgan 27:07
Yeah. And think about me think about from the start the series, I mean, it was sold to me. And the decision was made before episode one even aired, I didn’t even want to look at the cast list. I was like, I don’t care. I’m 100% on board. I forgot to like I work for Steven Ambrose at the time. And I was I was an author about writing about D day, I was interested in these things. And so I was all 100% on board, then I got into it. I will never forget the electricity of that night. It was a group of friends here in New Orleans. And we assembled at this guy’s house met a guy who had a living room big enough to accommodate about 20 of us. And we watched it you know how HBO how the lead in was because Bana brothers episode, lead ends and lead outs are really distinctive. And it was first of all, the screen that’s just the salt and pepper dust. And it makes that noise. And then the music kicks in and you get the opening sequence. And then it cuts to those interviews of the veterans. I’ll never forget as long as I live the feeling of sitting in a room and having that happen to me for the first time. They reach through the screen that grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me into that series. And they had me from before the black screen faded up to the first veteran interview. And at the end of the veteran interviews, I was like, whatever this is, it’s gonna kick ass and I’m 100% on board. And then you get into all the rest of it. And then you start meeting characters and the characters are all fantastic. Even characters like David Schwimmer is Herbert Sobel which we’re we’re being forced to dislike him making him more dislikable any I think he actually was even with that. And even with me at that point, because I guess at that stage, I was 32 years old or something like that. Even then, I was kind of like, Yeah, I know, you’re gonna pull on my heartstrings and you’re gonna, you’re gonna beat me over the head with training is tough and running up this hill is tough. And these guys are becoming buddies, and they’re going to go to war, and then we’re going to kill some of them. And you’re going to be sad, even that, that sort of, you know, movie critic side of me, was like, I know what’s going to happen. And I after about a minute, I didn’t care anymore. I was along for the ride.
Dan LeFebvre 29:15
Well, in episode number two, it’s called Dave days, we see the men of Easy Company dropping over Normandy on D day. And despite all their training, one major thing seems to have gone wrong that not to the fault of any of the men that are actually dropping. But almost everybody seems to be dropped in the wrong place, not just Easy Company, but all the paratroopers and so many have missed their drop zones. It just kind of seems to throw a wrench in the original plan. So can you give some historical context around what that original plan was going to be and then it if everybody had it hit their drop zones, and how much did it have to deviate due to the chaos of everyone just missing the dz. Certainly,
Marty Morgan 29:55
as it turns out, Operation Neptune and operation Neptune was the operation by which We moved amphibious forces and airborne forces crossing the English Channel in time for the invasion to begin at 06 30 on Tuesday, June 6 1944. For operation Neptune in the American sectors, there were two separate missions mission Albany and mission Boston mission Boston was to insert the 82nd Airborne Division. And mission Albany was to insert the 100 and first Airborne Division. And for those missions, Boston and Albany, there were a series of drop zones and landing zones for the gliders, whereby those airborne units would be inserted through a vertical envelopment operation behind the Utah beachhead in Normandy in France. As it turns out, the Boston mission encountered more difficulty and putting paratroopers on the drop zone. It’s an unusual twist with a company 506 Band of Brothers and mission Albany. And so far as it’s depicting a group of 100 and first Airborne Division paratroopers, pick winners and the men of Easy Company being dropped in the wrong place. And what makes that unusual is the fact that for the most part, the cereals associated with the 100 and first Airborne Division were on their drop zones. Don’t get me wrong, a lot went wrong. And where that went wrong specifically was mainly with the tail end of mission Boston, which was the last three regiments associated with the 82nd Airborne Division during the vertical envelopment operation specifically with the 500 and seventh Parachute Infantry Regiment, which is the subject of my first book, and I’ll make it quick and tight and painless as much as I can. But the fibo seventh experience the worst drop of the entire invasion, it was a 202 aircraft were incorporated to were used to carry the FIFO seventh across the English Channel for DD. And out of 202 aircrafts, two of them put their paratroopers on the drop zone. Wow. Yeah, which is what we would, under any current circumstances call a catastrophic drop. That’s the worst case scenario, the 100 and first Airborne Division reached its drop zones earlier, and most of its paratroopers were on their drop zones. And interesting exception to all of this is that the men of the 506 Parachute Infantry, particularly second Battalion, 506, they end up a little bit to the northwest of their drop zone. And I don’t know that it’s really brought out in dialogue in the series. And I think the book mentions in a greater detail, but specifically winters, lands immediately south of St. Merrick Lee, so he’s well off of his drop zone. And so what what Band of Brothers is doing is it’s telling us the story of 506. And it’s telling it in an accurate way, but it’s telling us an exception to the 100. And first Airborne Division story.
Dan LeFebvre 32:40
I could see two I think in the series, some of the first people that they come across, kind of see through winters perspective, are guys from the 82nd. And so I could see how if he’s off his mark, or not really sure where he is, and then he runs into these guys from the 82nd. They’re not really sure. Who got dropped in the wrong place. Is it them? Or is it the second?
Marty Morgan 33:01
Yeah, it’s almost as if it was written for an HBO miniseries in a way because you because what you don’t want in this series? Is all of that tension of being in the airplane and you know, that sequence in Episode Two? Isn’t it awesome that absolutely awesome state sequences stand up, hook up, equipment check stand in the door. Meanwhile, greatly exaggerated quantities of anti aircraft fire are coming up in airplanes are going down. It’s, that’s all deeply exaggerated, but it’s still it’s building a great deal of tension. And what a series doesn’t want is the paratrooper who then steps out of the door descends under his upper parachute canopy, and lens exactly where he was supposed to when all was quiet and all as well. That’s not you don’t want and it was just fortunate for Episode Two that that’s not what happens to get winters that winter started the Normandy battle in the wrong place without a rifle.
Dan LeFebvre 33:52
We mentioned the enemy hand earlier and in the show, where he’s never really heard from after D day, the men keep asking around, we kind of get appointed. Oh, have you seen Have you seen anybody from that plane? And that’s how we see winters taking over command of easy and I think there was a point when I was rewatching. I noticed it again where man and his plane takes a hit and they essentially go down easy at crashing on the ground. Do we know what really happened to me him?
Marty Morgan 34:20
Yes, Lieutenant man was on a stick of 17 paratroopers and five air crewmen on a C 47. designated for tonight. 305 that was a C 47 Troop Carrier transport in the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron 439 troop carrier group ninth Air Force Troop Carrier command. The aircraft, which was designated stick 66 does not deliver its paratroopers to the designated drop zone because it’s brought down by enemy ground fire. The aircraft crashes in the vicinity of a little town just north of St. Mary’s called the Bossa oplan where there’s a lovely little Memorial that remembers the paratroopers in the aircrewman, who died in the crash This is precisely what leads to the ascent of pick winners through officer rank. There’s a deep tragedy associated with it, because that’s, that’s an aircraft of 22 men that are lost. If I could just throw my, my axe to grind out real quick, a point that I’d like to make about this is that there is what I have overall in life began referring to as rubbernecker effect. There’s a scandalizing and pornified quality of the worst case scenario and war movies were. These worst case scenario moments tend to develop a gravity on their own and they attract attention because it’s, you know, it’s pornographic in a way that people are attracted to the idea of like, look at this disaster, which is why I believe that you see, the dark green sector of Omaha Beach being selected as the opening scene for Saving Private Ryan, it’s and it’s a worst case scenario where there were plenty of things going on around it that didn’t go that badly. And by that same token, with the way that Easy Company gets to Normandy, before dawn on D day is that you’re seeing sort of worst case scenario, scenarios playing out. And to include winters lands in the wrong place. Winters has lost his rifle, then entire aircraft carrying the company commander and other men goes down, they’re lost, they never report in. And how do you manage that? How do you keep going? What do you do? We’re sort of attracted to these worst case scenario situations and see 40 sevens being shot down by enemy ground fire that night. Those incidents are extremely rare for the overall Normandy invasion, extremely rare. In fact, we put over 800 aircraft in the airspace over the cotentin Peninsula over the drop zones for the 82nd airborne 100 first airborne during the pre dawn darkness of Tuesday, June 6, and out of over 800 aircraft, 23 of them are shut down.
Marty Morgan 36:49
I’m not meaning on any level to take anything away from the tragedies associated with those lives lost. But they represent a small proportion. The overwhelming experience of being a paratrooper who flies to Normandy Was that your airplane got you there without being shot down. Overwhelmingly, hundreds and hundreds of aircrafts successfully deliver their paratroopers to normally notice I said normally not their drop zone because there are a lot of mystery, a lot of Miss drop zones. But overwhelmingly, the men reach the airspace above the cotentin Peninsula intact and jump in aircraft that haven’t been set on fire by enemy ground fire. And there’s a truth to it that I won’t bore you with it too much as an aside, but there were concentrations of anti aircraft defenses along the coast of the cotentin Peninsula at certain specific places, but the Germans just didn’t have enough to defend everything so that around towns like calm, or specifically at Cherbourg are then on the west coast of the peninsula, near a town called Bonneville there were we know pockets of anti aircraft defenses. And one thing that I would call your attention to is something that in Banda brothers is is missing. And it’s a little bit of a shocking oversight. But if the idea is to exaggerate that reality and make it look like there were just curtains of enemy ground fire coming up, visibly noticeable because of the tracers that they’re that are following them. The big thing that’s missing is that you don’t see search lights and search lights are absolutely necessary to deliver effective anti aircraft fire in the middle of the night. And one thing that we do know is where we know a lot now about where German anti aircraft defenses were and where they were not. And we also by that same token, know where search lights were and where they were not. And the reality was that the course that was taken by the troop carrier aircraft, carrying both mission Albany and mission Boston, their route was specifically chosen to avoid places where there were no concentrations of enemy anti aircraft, guns and search lights. It was that route. I mean, in fact, the route brought them carefully down to the west of the cotentin Peninsula. That route specifically made use of the gap between the islands of Alderney and Guernsey and the Channel Islands, which were were very heavily defended with heavy anti aircraft armament and searchlights. The aircraft specifically flew through a gap between those islands. And then if everything had gone perfectly according to plan that would have come in over the coast of the Covington Peninsula, north of where the anti aircraft concentration at Bonneville was, and there were some mistakes and some of them came in over that anti aircraft concentration, some of them truefire. There were other anti aircraft concentrations, but the area where the drop zones were, were not prepared to say completely devoid of anti aircraft guns, but they were almost completely devoid of anti aircraft guns. And so maybe you’re hearing me which is why I should mention that, you know, a vignette that unfolds as immediately upon winter’s landing is a vignette in which he’s kind of crouching in the darkness and there’s a German anti aircraft gun that’s just hammering away. I don’t believe that to be historically accurate. I don’t believe that And it’s depicted as I think it’s depicted in the series as a flag of the alien acquired 20 millimeter gun, but I certainly am unaware of any weapon like that being anywhere within about a five mile radius of St. Mira Gliese. And so in this way, I’m presenting an accusation at the series that I believe that the series is doing something that is sort of a well oiled machine and that is there has overwhelmingly since 1944, for over 75 years now, there has been a tendency, I think, to exaggerate the amount of anti aircraft fire over the cotentin Peninsula over France. The aircraft drew anti aircraft fire even though they flew through the gap between Guernsey and Alderney, those islands still shot at them. And so what I believe is going on is that you have a large number of paratroopers who are sitting inside the aircraft, they have windows on the aircraft and they can look out either window, you can look at the right side of the aircraft or the left side of the aircraft, because to the right, would have been Guernsey and to the left would have been Alderney and they were shooting match. And I can imagine that that produced powerful memories for those men. And I would also Furthermore, imagine that maybe they didn’t know Are we over France yet? Are we still over the water. Um, I have a feeling in other words that they’ve got shot at by Guernsey and Alderney. And they believed that they were being shot at over France. And I believe that most of them didn’t get shot out over France. I think they get shot out when they were flying over between jersey and Guernsey. And then a few minutes later, the red light comes on stand up, hook up equipment check stand at the door, but it’s getting ready to jump. And what their memory in the years that followed became was Yeah, we got shot at. And I think as time went on, people writing books and making movies tended to conflate that, and to what looks like, it’s sort of like, you know, these guys are flying into the Deathstar and getting shot out from every direction. And I don’t believe that they were being shot at in nearly the amount that the series depicts. But the series is doing basically something that everybody else has done.
Dan LeFebvre 42:06
Like your mention of Saving Private Ryan there, because as I was watching this, again, I got this sense that if the opening sequence and Saving Private Ryan set, the tone for this is what D day landing on the beaches must have been, I got the sense that this is almost the airborne version of that, you know, this is the over this guy’s the drop, they’re getting shot out. I think there’s even one scene where we see one of the planes get hit, and like the tail falls off and it breaks apart. And you just get that. And then of course me his plane, which was a different one, that guy so you get the sense that, you know, these planes are going down left and right. There’s the getting shot out from all over the place, very much in an air version of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was the sense that I got,
Marty Morgan 42:48
I think they were going for that. And and just like in Private Ryan, they wanted drama, and they sort of they they sprinkled sugar over the existing drama, they made the existing drama, slightly more dramatic than I believe it was. I’m not faulting them for that. I understand that. If you made a series, we might as well go ahead and say this, in our first conversation about this, if you made a series that was 100% accurate, no one would watch it because it would be painfully boring. And so the challenge that falls on the shoulders of the people who are writing and then directing the series, these episodes, the challenge is to make them interesting to make them dynamic to draw people in, you have tools available to yourself, to make this engaging. And among your tools are actors. And my god Band of Brothers is just nothing but great actors one after the other. And you also one of your tools, his story and the way that the story can be presented. And as you might recall from our previous very long winded discussion about Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day, sometimes when the story isn’t really all that dramatic, you might just make it a little bit more dramatic than it actually was. And I believe that that is something that happened in Vanda brothers. I know we’re on episode two, but at the very last scene of Episode One, which I think is the best scene of the best closing scene of the 10 episodes is that scene where winters all the men who are sprawled out on the tarmac right next to C 47. And winters is helping them up and look and looking them in the eye one man after one after the other, which I think is sort of a powerful character moment that makes you just go like this guy. We can trust this guy. This guy will take us to hell and bring us back and I really feel like that’s such a great moment. Damian Lewis is just so good in that moment especially and then what does it cut to their climate aboard the airplane and they have these magnificent like these lusciously beautiful cutaway shots of nice Air Force aircrewman or not aircrewman but ground crewmen who’s just sitting around watching and then they had that for functioning c 47 that looked like a million dollars each and they get the aircraft are moving out to begin the takeoff sequence and the cutaway to These these ground proven they cut away to the British anti aircraft gunners and they’re all watching them take off. You know, there’s even a sequence before that, whereas the company men are walking out to the aircraft. They’re walking by the British anti aircraft gun emplacement and the men take their helmets off and shake their hands as they go. And all of that, you know, I hated it. I got mad at it yesterday when I watched it again because that gets to me. And then the sight of see 40 sevens taking off into the sunset. My God, how come he is just perfection. And it was Richard long crane that that directed episode one. And I was like, dude, he did something that I’d never I wouldn’t feel again. Until Game of Thrones. And that is like, guy you can’t leave me here. I have I have to wait a week for D day. You guys are killing me. And then all week long all week did we were so manipulated by it I don’t mean that cynically but we were so pulled in by extremely effective storytelling. That all week long we were like Dude, Sunday night your place? What time does it start? I’m we’re so there. That’s this next episode. If it’s anything like that first one was this is gonna be super awesome. And then Episode Two comes along and what does it do it delivered by God. Episode Two was fantastic and dramatic and tragic. And it’s it’s really here that the debt winters character is presented to us and I think it’s in its in its full glory. Because Nick winters does something exceptional on D day, and that is that pick winners, as you as you already know, is primarily responsible for leading the first element of in planning the assault on the German artillery, battery breaker manner and action for which he is ultimately awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Speaking of which,
Dan LeFebvre 46:44
that’s the next part in episode number two, it’s the first order that we see Easy Company receiving once they land essentially is to take out the German ADH at record manner. And those, the way that the show sets it up is those guns are firing on these soldiers at Utah Beach, so they need to silence those so that the men on the beach can land for assessing the situation we see winters put together a plan for what they assume must be they know there’s at least two but they’re gonna assume there’s at least three or four guns they’re there and they move pretty quickly they go from gun to gun and taking them out. Even causing some confusion at one point between the German is where the machine gun nest that’s guarding the gun starts firing on one of the one of their own there we see Easy Company taking out three of the German guns I believe before spears and dog company shows up and spirits like oh King dog company take out the next one. And they go on and do that. And back at battalion we get an overview of what happens in some dialogue. And first we learned that they were actually 105. So not at age like they initially thought. Winter says that they killed about 20 Germans and they’re probably 40 or so Germans left meaning three mg 40 twos. So that’s an overview of how the show depicts that action at record manner. How well does it do?
Marty Morgan 47:57
It did kind of Well, that’s a really hard answer. Because on the one hand, I think they did very well and making it adventurous and exciting and sort of cliffhanging. If anything get invested in you the quality of dip winters as a combat commander, which is such an important story point or storytelling moment that builds on his character for the rest of the seat for the rest of the series. But in terms of historical accuracy, we got some big problems.
Dan LeFebvre 48:23
Okay, and what’s one of the bigger problems that they had historically?
Marty Morgan 48:27
I’d say number one is the presence of the World War One type trench system. There were definitely positively and absolutely no trenches whatsoever in the area around the German artillery battery breaker manner. This brings up a more interesting topic, because ultimately done malarkey who I knew before, but done malarkey that that I know would ultimately talk about the world war one style trenches. And you see the way that the sets are realized in the series. And that is that it’s realized as I think, a far more substantial, almost semi permanent looking field artillery battery than it actually was. There were no trenches there. They certainly hadn’t built these trench head walls where they woven branches and things that they cut down to hold back the earth. None of that existed and there’s very reason there’s very interesting reason why we know that these things didn’t exist and that is that a photo reconnaissance aircraft for the Allied air forces flew over breakcore Manor on D day and photographed it. And in that photo, you can’t argue with photo there’s no trenches.
Dan LeFebvre 49:32
I want to break into this conversation real quick here and just let you know when you’re if you’re listening to this, Marty was kind enough to share those recon photos from June 6 1944. of breakcore manner where you can actually see what he’s talking about. And so if you want to see those you can find those at based on a true story podcast comm slash 182 that’s based on a true story podcast comm slash 182 you can however
Marty Morgan 50:00
Pick out and see where the four guns were. And you can actually see how the guns were firing, they were pushed up into the headrow. And the weapons, their muscles were pointing up just through the hedgerow on the other side. And as they had fired that morning, the concussion coming from the muzzle of each weapon had flattened a cone of grass on the other side of the hedge row. And you can see those in the row, the Recon photo, absolutely is absolutely remarked. Although you can see that you can’t see no trenches, because there ain’t no trenches. And so from that perspective, the entire action is sort of built on, like a guns of navarone type set that was far more permanent than the one that actually existed, the one that actually existed, we just have no permanence to it, it appears that it was just guns that were pushed into the hydro. And there’s a reason for all of this. And that is that the Germans had recently moved that that firing battery into position. There were two other firing positions, not terribly far from there, one at o-w, you there and one at a place called holding. And the guns in those positions were specifically under orders to be invisible. We were flying reconnaissance aircraft over Normandy periodically, the Germans knew that when the Germans reinforced Normally, you know, they reinforced the area where the 100 and first and the 82nd will land on June 6, they reinforced that area in mid May, so right before the invasion, and they really reinforced it with a division that had not been there. Prior to about may 15. It was called the 91st lift line division. And then there were assets and elements of that division, that were being moved around and positioned within the area of the command leading all the way up to June 6 itself. That artillery battery had gone into position not long before D day, and they knew good and darn well that you better not be visible from the air. If you’re visible from the air, you’ll inherit some problems. And so the men of that firing battery went out of their way to make sure that none of the equipment associated with that for gun position could be seen from the air. And that’s why they didn’t dig in, to dig in is to announce to the enemy who’s watching you that hey, there’s something going on here that’s worth paying attention to please come back to us. So they didn’t dig in. That’s the biggest glaring problem, I think. And that’s the one that I should I’m a little bit more strict about than I am about the next problem. And for me, the next problem is I can understand what the filmmakers wrestled with it and why they did what they ultimately did, but at the same time they make the battle appear to have been shorter in overall duration. That battle went on almost all day long. On June 6, from the moment that Lieutenant Colonel Strayer gave winters the command to move into position they were at this they went to this place, Grace chemin. There’s a phase where you know, winters goes up and does a one man recon, and then he comes back, he organizes the assault force, they go up, they attack the first gun.
Marty Morgan 52:49
During the process of attacking the first gun and then the second gun, the men basically burn through an entire unit of fire and the unit of fire is for one individual the amount of ammunition that they can easily carry on their person for their weapon. So that if you’re carrying and in one rifle or and then one carbene or Thompson submachine gun, it’s you know, the standard amount of ammunition you would carry ready and your cartridge belt or in the pouches for your magazines. And so after getting into a little bit of a serious scrap over gun, one gun to the men had depleted their unit to fire to such an extent that they had to disengage, they fall back to Crusher, man, they take more ammunition, they move back into position to the third gun, D company joins them for the third gun, then there’s this other phase where they’re going to cross the road. There’s a feeder road that leads down to the manor itself and winters after they have captured all four guns winters has to cross that road. As he begins the process of what I believe he was thinking of which was going to be an envelopment maneuver to outflank the manor. But when he realized there’s a uniqueness to that road, the last stretch of road about last 100 feet or so of the road, leading it to brick or Manor is a sunken road with powerful Hydros on either side of it very thick edge rows. And I think winter’s realizing that it would cost him a lot of men to move across that road, he pulls the whole thing back and decides I’m going to see if we can find some support from somewhere else, which is when he encounters as you see in the series and tenant Nixon, and then they see tanks from 70 Tank Battalion and then it becomes a coordinated tank infantry assault. All of that takes place over the course of almost six hours. The series, of course, couldn’t detect that. And on any level that could that could give you a sense of that timeline, the series had to pack it into something that could be digested easily by the viewing audience and also something that could fit within the time the runtime framework of a single episode. And so they cut it to I think the sequence is a little over 20 minutes and overall length. And it’s just exciting. It’s so much excitement and it’s so awesome. And it’s really depicted in its depicting combat in a way that’s, I think sort of arresting in confronting and it’s our first combat and it’s, it’s fascinating. But at the same time, I also think that they’re cramming a couple of tried and true cliches into it. in filmmaking, one thing that comes up over and over again, and if you ever watch any YouTube videos about filmmaking ever you ever read about filmmaking, they will often talk about, you introduce something and then you pay it off. And so something is introduced during the break or manner sequence that will ultimately be paid off. And I find it very interesting the way that it’s introduced. And that sequence is this lust to collect a German Luger, which will obviously be paid off later in the series and an episode that we’re not scheduled to talk about right now. But we’ll get to that later. But I find it fascinating that with the Luger at breakcore manner, you are seeing as a direct sign of the writers at work. So john Orloff wrote this episode, and john Orloff knows that later in the series, we have to pay off the Luger and what we’ll do, I don’t want to give that away just yet. So you have to introduce the Luger as a thing before you can pay it off. And it’s introduced to us here. Maybe you can tell like I’ve been leading tours at Normandy for almost 20 years now. At least I did So up until 2020 with a little little gap in 2020. But during tours, you can probably guess like, there have been times I have overreacted in frustration with my tour groups by saying, alright, right now we’re going to start talking about movies. And we’re going to talk about DNA history. And I shouldn’t be like that, because people are fascinated by Band of Brothers, and they love it. And I have found that in the 20 years since the series came out. My leading tours in Normandy has always involved some discussion of Banda brothers to some extent. And it’s to the point where there were a couple of places that I have to take them that if I didn’t take my tour groups, they would meet me. And one of those places is breakcore manner that then leads to discussions like the one that we’re having. And I to the point where I have people on the bus throwing out a question like why do you think the series is so popular? And then I just go, oh my gosh, that could be a lecture by itself a free standing hour long lecture right there, but fit it into 10 minutes as we drive from point A to point B. But people will often ask about things like the Luger, and I’ll try to explain things like you see in screenplay writing, there are certain practices and formulas that you have to adhere to. And I’ll begin to describe things like the character of Herbert Sobel, how you have to play up one character as negative personality characteristics so that you can get the payoff of the character with the positive personality characteristics, you have to pay off you have to lay the groundwork for the tragedy of what will ultimately happen with the Luger by introducing the Luger before that payoff comes later in the story. And I’ll describe those things to everyone. And I think sometimes they don’t really pay attention to that part. But one thing that I know that people love when we go to break or is it becomes for them. It’s almost like it’s a hallowed ground, the way that Omaha beaches, we will get to breakcore manner and people are.
Marty Morgan 58:08
People were so thirsty for us to be told that during the Second World War, the very good people very intelligent people who were very patriotic, who we’re not like we are today, the world that we live in today, bombards us and tries to remind us, you must at all times be cynical and suspicious and skeptical, and disenchanted. Don’t forget to be disenchanted today. Don’t forget the mean, that’s all the television and your phones do as they try to remind you just to lose all hope in humankind. And yet, there were a lot of people, and I had the benefit in my career of talking to a lot of these people who went off and they fought for something and they stood for something. And I think one of the reasons that dip winners became one of the most adored characters in any series ever, is because he stood for something. And he exhibited personality characteristics that depart in a very powerful way from what surrounds us without sounding like a grumpy old man. We’re surrounded by a culture today. And I feel like that, that reality star culture is one that people get sick of after a while. Yeah, I’m just as guilty as anybody else and enjoying it. But eventually we get a little weary of that, and that we get weary of things that might look that might be spectacle, just because they’re decadent, and they might be a little degenerate. But people are interested in things like patriotism, and what you stand for and what you represent. And this series does nothing but give us that. And that’s why it remains so popular to this day. But it’s a TV series and it’s not perfect. And at the same time, it’s so great that I can’t stop talking about it. An interesting phenomenon unfolded shortly after the series came out, and that there was an effort to have dick winters upgraded to another metal. As you know, for the action of Becker Manor on on D day, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. And there was a big effort shortly after the series came out of people attempting to have him upgraded to the Medal of Honor. And I’m mentioning it now because it’s appropriate to mention it within the framework of compensation about Episode Two, because we’ll then have to deal with this later on when we get to the Crossroads episode. But that is an effort that ultimately went nowhere. And it’s probably for the best, because the reality is that tick winners did not earn the Medal of Honor, he did not fulfill the requirements of an award of the developmental of honor at Procore. Manor on D day, what he did was extremely brave. What he did was provided evidence of his skill as a combat commander, his personal bravery and leading the assault. And on every level, it’s an action that deserved to be recognized with an award. It’s just that that recognition could not come in the form of the Medal of Honor, because he did not qualify. It’s not a matter of my personal opinion, it is empirical because one of the qualifications for an award of the Medal of Honor, is that it has to be an action for which if you had not done it, no one could criticize you. When did wonders was ordered by 10. Colonel striker has pathetic manner to capture those guns, he ceased at that point, to be eligible to receive the Medal of Honor for whatever happened next, because he was carrying out an order. He therefore, was awarded the appropriate medal, Distinguished Service Cross and the fascinating thing to find about I found about this, since the effort came out to have him upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The thing that fascinated me about it was that my first thought was like, Why? What’s wrong with a Distinguished Service Cross? That is an extremely big deal. And to say that it’s not enough is to on a on a certain level trivialize it. Now, I’m mentioning all of this now, not because I want more hate mail, but simply because something’s going to happen later in this series where I think winters engages in something that would have been appropriate for him to receive the Medal of Honor. But we’ll get to that later on. Because we’re still on episode two, we have a long way to go.
Dan LeFebvre 1:02:08
Towards the end of Episode Two, there is something I wanted to ask you about. Because we hear some voiceover from winters, he talks about Easy Company securing Sainte Marie demont by nightfall, and then with only an hour’s rest, they go on to secure coleville. But then, beginning of Episode Three, we see the date of June 8. So I got the impression here that there was some action that happened between Episode Two and episode three that we don’t really get to see, could you fill in some of the details from history of what happened there at quiltville?
Marty Morgan 1:02:39
Yeah, there was some action there and he company was involved in it, it was not the kind of action that you would tend to make a series about. And also, it was during a process, it was at a time when a company was still forming up. And it was the comparison of what is about to happen to a company. It’s less significant. I don’t want to say it’s insignificant, I’m just saying that it is less significant than what is going to happen to them. In episode three, which is sort of the Big Show, that’s the next point at which the second battalion of the 506 is involved in heavy combat. So that after June 6, and before June 12, there’s some patrolling activity that takes place and there’s some engagement with the enemy. But they pale in comparison to the Battle of June 12 at Carrington. Well,
Dan LeFebvre 1:03:27
it makes sense why they wouldn’t show that then.
Marty Morgan 1:03:30
Right? Yeah, it’s not I don’t want to say that it was uninteresting or not dynamic or unimportant. But it’s just that they had so they had to serve your data, you had to have DNA, there’s no question. And then you’ve got to have carentan. Because that’s the next big, big action. And also, the point I’d love to make here is that what are we doing? We’re telling the story of this one group of men, and the exceptional experiences that they endure during the course of fighting in the war in Northern Europe, in 44, and 45. And a critical part of serving that story is telling the story of the characters, and the bleak character of all of this stick winners. And it’s at guarantee that we have the next big opportunity to portray him and the exceptional leadership that he embodied. And so they’re going to clearly just get they’ve got to get DNA and his Distinguished Service Cross action out of the way and then they’re going to be left next to keratan. Because even though it’s a 10 hour series, you can’t tell every story. And it fascinates me to watch the way that these writers just because I had to do it myself so many times it fascinates me to look at their work and and look at the decisions they had to make about this is what we’re going to do this is what we’re not going to do and it makes me it is it makes me esteem them even more. Because so many rock solid decisions were made about storytelling throughout this process and under circumstances where you really don’t get caught Parents because we have to remember that. Although Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks executive produced this series, every episode is being produced, directed and written by different people. If somebody had described this to me before I saw the series I didn’t, I wasn’t aware of having different writers and different producers until after the series. If somebody had told me that that was what was happening, I’d be like, Well, you’ve got yourself the prescription for a disaster. Because production by committee, it rarely works. And my god here in Banda brothers, it works and it works so exceptionally well that I can’t believe it. Because everyone I mean, it we’re talking about also a group of people who are there all at the top of their game, everyone here is super experienced. Everyone knows a lot about storytelling. Everyone knows about how to make something happen. And at the end of it, oh, I was so just blown over by how good the series was that to this day, when I sit through it again, I have to remind myself that there were some problems with it, I’ll notice them, but I am able to step outside of the guy that could go thing, go do things like, you know, they just depicted an M one rifle that has a postwar gas cylinder lock screw on it. And that didn’t exist until the late 40s. I can step out of that person, and just be the person that goes man, that episode was awesome. I loved every minute of it. That’s good
Dan LeFebvre 1:06:28
to be able to step back and realize that it is entertainment end of the day. You mentioned Carrington, in Episode Three, we see Easy Company attacking Carrington. And according to the show, it is the only place where the Allied armor from Omaha and Utah beaches can link up and then head inland. So until the airborne can take care and tan, the armor is stuck on the sand. Current tan is defended by a regiment of German paratroopers. But when easy gets there, the show suggests that most of the Germans have left town so even though it doesn’t really take long for easy to take carentan. Afterward, they need to defend the town against a German counter attack. The show does mention that the Germans might have been planning a counter offensive. So the impression that I got while I was watching this episode was that that counter offensive must have been against the invasion in Normandy. That’s maybe why most of the Germans left Karen tan, but then the airborne took the town and so they turned around and had to try to take it back. Is that a pretty good impression or a good overview of what happens there? Karen
Marty Morgan 1:07:28
- Yeah, you’re on the right track what the Germans recognized because keep in mind, we’re not dealing with a stupid enemy, we’re dealing with an extraordinarily and painfully intelligent enemy. And the enemy knew good and well that Karen tan was going to be the point where two landing beaches were capable of linking up with one another, that the reality of the terrain and the area around carentan, or the reality of the terrain separating Omaha Beach from Utah Beach, was that it’s a River estuary, it’s the mouth of the series of rivers. That’s the the Fear River, the top river, and the do the river that separating Omaha and Utah or these three rivers, and then the marsh lands around them. And when you have environments like that you need bridges to get over them. Karen Sam became an important Crossroads town because with the 13 Highway and a series of bridges leading into it, and it made it possible for the mechanized fighting forces of the US Army fifth core landing on Omaha Beach, to push into the interior and then turn to the right, and move toward the west to link up with forces of the seventh core that landed on Utah Beach. And the Germans quickly realized that well, without carentan, they can’t make up because the marshes in the area made it such that you’re never going to be able to get vehicles First of all, vehicles, you’re not going to get them over rivers, you’re not going to get them through marshes, they’re going to have to use the roads. And so the enemy understood that if we hold this town, we’re preventing these two beachheads from linking up and the Germans recognized correctly, that that would constitute a significant setback. And ally planning. They didn’t know exactly what we were up to. But they could use an intuitive process to understand where we were going with this. And they realized that if we don’t if we deny them guarantee, they can’t link up. And that means they’re not capable then of moving on to the next phase. So we hold carentan there’s a shuffle because the Germans rush to get a force there. You’ve already mentioned in the form of the of the German six fallschirmjager regiment regiment is an airborne regiment. That regiment is at first holding down under repeated attacks. And kind of the Paul Harvey Rest of the Story version of this is that what the series doesn’t mention and it doesn’t mention it because it really can’t. It’s telling the 506 story, but there is an attack that emerges before he company conducts its attack on June 12. And it was an attack that was led by paratroopers of the 500 and second Parachute Infantry Regiment and other one of the regiments and honored and first airborne, specifically men of the Third Battalion of the five second and there’s a very dramatic and gala action on Causeway leading from the town of St. kundiman. South toward Carrington. And the battle that unfolds at the Karen dam Causeway will ultimately result in in a medal of honor action for Lieutenant Colonel Robert Cole. So the 100 and first Airborne Division sends another force to attack Karen tan from the north, the force is only partly successful in achieving a little bit of a foothold in the northern outskirts of the city. But the force is so compact depleted that the forces and have a significant enough size to make that foothold turn into capturing the city. And the result then is that the 101st Airborne Division launches a flanking counter attack that comes in from the west. And that flanking counter attack is what we see. So well depicted in that gritty sequence, and Episode Three of what the second battalion with the 506 is attacking, and they come under fire for machine guns in the second floor of a little cafe that I think it’s called cafe to Normandy, although there was not a cafe there at the time that had that name. But the filmmakers wanting to remind you that you’re in Normandy, so they named a cafe that I think we see something very important in that scene, you know, the scene I’m talking about where they’re on the road coming in, that you can see the cafe at the end of the road, the enemies firing at them, the men immediately do exactly what infantry always should do in the presence of enemy automatic weapons firing, that is they should seek cover and concealment. So the men hit the sides of the road, winters realizes that he has to maintain momentum, because they’re committed at that point, they’ve committed to such an extent that it’s no longer practical for them to withdraw or disengage. So they’ve engaged and he has to push it through. And when you coming under fire from an enemy weapon like that, the instinct is you have a couple of options, call in artillery support, collinear support, or pushing close to neutralize it. And at that point, winters didn’t have artillery support, and he didn’t have air support. So his left really with there’s no option, you can’t disengage and fall back. Because if you do that, you’re making it easy for the enemy to direct, effective automatic weapons fire against you while you’re trying to withdraw. And he realizes that there’s not going to be in the air support or artillery support. So that leaves what one possibility that leaves attack and pushing close to the gun. The closer you push into the gun, the more you are reducing its overall effectiveness. I know that sounds weird. But with a belt fed automatic weapon like in this case, they’re depicting in German and G 42. The closer you get to the weapon, the harder it is for the gunner operating that weapon to engage a bigger target, meaning the closer you get with an infantry company, the gunner is more and more directing firing individuals rather than at groups of men. And if the individual if you force that gunner to begin engaging individuals, all you have done is make make it quite easy to knock the weapon out because the weapon will, will traverse around to engage an individual or maybe two or three of them. And that will open up the opportunity for someone else to direct effective firing. You see that because one of the main characters runs in and throws a grenade and on this machine gun on the lower floor. And I’m mentioning it all of it all of this because
Marty Morgan 1:13:09
we’re here we see something powerfully important demerge we’ve seen when winters is dispatched by Lieutenant Colonel straighter to capture the guns, it’s like or manner, that’s a direct quarter go in there and use your infantry officer skill to carry out this mission. Winters does it need carries that skill out? At Carrington, we’re seeing something a little bit different. And what we’re seeing is that winters is maneuvering the company into position to push into the town. They have a meeting engagement, as it’s called in that we’re moving, they’re maneuvering in a position. And although they may have expected the enemy to be there, they were slightly surprised by the fact that suddenly automatic weapons fire opens on and winter’s on the spot has to make a decision and he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t think about it. It’s immediate, everyone gets up, he’s yelling and screaming. And at one point, he’s kicking men in the pants, to get them to move in closer to the gun to maintain this momentum. And I think that’s an extraordinarily important storytelling point. Because later in the series, we’re going to see a leader who, under circumstances almost identical that leader collapses falls apart and becomes indecisive. And so the attack on carentan is being used, again to show that dip winters is he’s exceptionally gifted as a leader. And we see that powerfully so and then he’s there in the middle of the battle, the battle sequences, extremely exciting and engaging and we see Easy Company pushing these paratroopers out. As you correctly mentioned a few minutes ago, when the sixth fallschirmjager pulled out of the city, it wasn’t a plan that okay, we give up on keratan just let it go. There was plan to come back, they were going they weren’t coming back. And it’s just that those those plants were not able to materialize because of the way that we fought them and the way that the 100 and first Airborne Division fought them and other units as well. For them very, very well. The plan had been that, since the sixth volume Jaeger regiment was only a regimental size force. It was being supplemented by elements of a newly arrived unit that had come up from 200 miles from the south, the 17th ss, and the 17th sS panzergrenadier Division was moving into the area with some of its of clerical naptime longer or its recon elements had already moved up into the area immediately to the east of Karen tan. And it had the makings of effectively a Waffen SS divisional sized attack to recapture Karen tan. Now, that doesn’t emerge eventually in the end, but that was what the Germans were planning, as you correctly already mentioned. And what we see after Easy Company has has captured keratan is we’re seeing a part of the ongoing combat around the city so that although the 100 and first airborne division has moved in, and by June 12, they have seized the city of Carrington. It’s not that like everything was over at that point, because we’re seeing additional combat we see, in fact, climatically the scene that’s built around a very important storytelling storytelling element, we see the scene with the Edelweiss and the counter attack at a place that’s called bloody Gulch. And just a quick word about that. We we haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room yet. And that is that this episode, to a significant extent is featuring an individual named Albert life. And each one of the episodes is there presenting characters to us and these characters are, they’re doing certain things as a part of the storytelling. And the character interests me very much. And I thought maybe you’d be interested in talking about that for a minute.
Dan LeFebvre 1:16:47
Yeah, definitely. I because it does focus on him quite a bit. The way that the show kind of depicts it, we can tell that he’s got some some sort of mental challenges. It seems like in the show, the doctors call it a hysterical blindness. He actually goes blind. It’s at some point. And then winters comes in and talks everything winters got rookie ricochet or something like that. So he went into get looked at and saw blight there and, and winters talks to him. And after winters talks to him, blight gets up and says, Yeah, I think I’m okay. Winters like, wait, you can see, you know, his his sight was returned, and then later in the episode, we do see blight getting shot in the neck by sniper, even though he is taken to a hospital live at the very end of Episode Number three, there’s some text that says that he never recovered from his wounds, and he died in 1948. So yeah, can you give us a little more of the real history on blind story?
Marty Morgan 1:17:41
Sure, because Albert bloods does not appear to have gone through any of the things that are used as depictions of his character in the miniseries and fascinates me because he’s depicted us, as you’ve already pointed out, experiencing psychogenic blindness as a result of trauma. And that winters then speaks to him. And that comes from the book that’s definitely mentioned in the book, but it’s not mentioned specifically associated with our replies. The storytellers had to pick somebody that storytellers wanted to incorporate that as an element of the story because that story in the book of the psychogenic blindness, that’s a powerful story. If you can imagine, after what the series has already taken us through all of the difficulties in the travails and the ordeals associated with training, all of the difficulties and ordeals associated with introduction into combat normally, that you could have somebody that gets through all that tough guy training gets to Normandy, and then that person is beginning to show evidence of not really being the perfect warrior. And, my friends, that is definitely something that happened during the war, there are men that go through airborne training, and then they get to a fighting unit, and they are just not cut out for it. That happens. I’ve got cases galore of that happening. In fact, there are examples of men who refuse at the door, as we call it, its refusal at the doors when you put in the door to jump from an airplane into combat and people that just won’t do it. And that’s that’s the reality of the way that the human mind interacts with the experience of combat. There’s a great deal of great psychology out there about this. But what we now know and I think it’s safe to declare is that some people are perfectly capable of getting through the ordeals, training and incapable of getting through the ordeal of combat. extremely effective. I’m going back to silver now, you got to stop me but it’s an extremely effective way of sort of rooting out the people who just aren’t cut out for it is to really turn up the intensity and training because it’s a pretty decent predictor. It’s not 100% reliable, but it is a decent predictor that if it’s somebody who can’t handle an intense training regimen, they probably will not be able to handle combat. For that reason. There is power purpose behind the types of training that we see depicted in Episode One, there’s a purpose behind Sobel being a bit of a hard case being tough on as men, that that has a process of identifying who is ready for combat and who isn’t. That’s so Paramount because you can actually have to get through all of that. And then they get to combat they don’t do well. And that’s the theme of something that actually happened time and time again, with people who experienced combat in World War Two. But that is definitely not something that Albert Bly experienced. So in this way, the series just sort of picked him out of the lineup and went, Okay, you’re going to be our guy who is traumatized by the experience of combat. And you don’t need me to tell you it’s, it’s a little, it’s, it’s too bad. They chose him. I don’t know who else they could have chosen. But whoever they chose for this would not be ideal. There were certainly men in the 100. And first that that sort of buckled under the pressure of combat. But Albert wise is not one of those men because Albert blinds he enlisted in the Army three times. So the first time was what brought him ultimately to Normandy when he was wounded. When he recovered from those wounds, he was discharged based on those wounds. And then shortly after being discharged, he enlisted in the Army again. And then he served for a period of time, and was discharged a second time. And then he went back and joined the army a third time,
Dan LeFebvre 1:21:31
all during World War Two.
Marty Morgan 1:21:33
Now these, it’s during the the other two enlistments are during the post war time period. But he In other words, everblades remained in the United States Army after the Second World War and, and Albert blys did not die until 1967. He ultimately dies and 67 coincidentally, after he attended a memorial service associated with what EZ company had gone through during the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne, but he went to that, and he, he developed an infection after that, and he died as a result of that infection. And he died at the, at a military hospital. And I think it’s these buttons in Germany. So he was still in uniform in 1967, over 20 years later, when he dies, and so there’s, there’s just no evidence of him, having been traumatized at all, let alone to the to the extent of being experiencing psychogenic blindness. And although that is something that happened, and that’s clearly a topic that the filmmakers wanted us to consider, and they wanted us to understand. And I, I can respect why they wanted that to be a part of this, because what they’re trying to say is you can have, you can have tough guys that make it through all of this, and they get into combat and it breaks them. Because my experience of dealing not just with World War Two veterans, but veterans of the current and contemporary conflicts is that that’s definitely the case that you can have extremely tough people, and you put them under very trying circumstances where there’s a lot of emotional stress and a lot of physical stress. And they’ll run out it was depicted to me at one point as being a bottle experiencing combat is like a bottle. And sometimes some people their bottle is so small, you can’t pour any anything into it. Some people their bottle is so big, that they can go through something as trying and traumatic as World War Two and their bottles not even halfway full. There are some people though, their bottle is bout here. And with every little battle, you’ve dropping some liquid into that bottle. And eventually, by the Battle of the bolts, the bottles full and they can’t take anymore. It’s been, I found that to be as an especially thought provoking way of depicting the idea, because some people bear it better than others. And a point that I frequently make on my tours and in my writing is that we have examples of soldiers who were pre war professional Army soldiers who had went through very difficult training, and they got into combat, and they didn’t do well. And we have examples of people who were drafted and went into combat. And they went AWOL as soon as they could. And they fled from the experience of battle. And we also have examples of people who were drafted, who went into combat. And by the time it was all over, they were wearing a medal of honor. And that just I think says something very, very complicated about the human experience.
Dan LeFebvre 1:24:20
Makes sense. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s going to handle experiences like that differently. And I could see how you know what, what you’re saying with the filmmakers want to tell that side of it and to bring that story out. But little things like saying that blade died in 48 I mean, that’s just text at the end of the episode little things like that. I’m like even then you didn’t really have to say that you could still tell the story and you didn’t have to falsify that little bit that little bit of text there. I tend to nitpick on stuff like that when I see that
Marty Morgan 1:24:51
Yeah, and I don’t blame you because Come on guys. You can get that right they got so much right in this series. So much is so freakin great. Why would you jump in on that, interestingly, and just sort of prepping for our conversation, I saw something somewhere where someone would ultimately say, well, that’s we put that in, because that’s what’s in the book. And so I went and pulled out the book. Last night, I sat here and I went through every mention of blinds in the book does not say that the book doesn’t say that he died in 48. Unless I missed one, there’s always that possibility. But I mean, at this point, I read this book, the month it was the month that came out back in 1992, when I was in grad school, and I think I’ve probably read it 10 more times since then. And I don’t remember the book saying that somebody claimed that it’s in the book. And I don’t find evidence of that. And so there’s always a possibility that I certainly can sympathize with. And that possibility is that you get to a point where production is so big, and you’re trying to manage it with a certain set of people, we reach a point where you can’t solve problems simply by just pulling more people in. Because to pull somebody in from the outside, they’re going to be less familiar, they might not there, they might not be able to make a really big positive contribution to the production. And it’s under those circumstances. That’s That’s why the pre production is so critical. When you’re the pre production phase, when you’re trying to go Alright, we got to make 10 hours television, and we’re going to need uniforms and weapons. And we’re going to have airplanes in this thing. And we’re going to have big stars, and we’re going to have unknown actors. And we have to have like, there are a couple scenes in there where there are more than 100 extras in a shot. And this that that blows my mind trying to coordinate that sort of thing. And you have to sit down. And imagine a time period when in a year from now we’re going to be filming this shot on location with 100 extras. Alright, let’s make all that let’s do all that planning right now. And that’s, that’s a tall task. And really, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that completely. And one point that I think that I have, I’ve heard this certainly in the little, you know, little chintzy TV productions I’ve been involved with. And I guess I can say this for video games, too. But I’ve been told that the beginning like, we’re gonna make mistakes, we’re going to try to not make any, we’re going to do our best not to make any, but we’re going to make mistakes. And for better brothers to have made this specific mistake, it’s weird, it’s hard for me to understand. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. And I get it. And it for me takes nothing away from the overall power of the series.
Dan LeFebvre 1:27:27
Moving on through to the next episode, we’re on episode number four, this is replacements and we have new soldiers arriving to replace the men that Easy Company has lost since D day. And throughout the entire episode, we get the sense that the battle hardened men an Easy Company don’t like the replacements. I think one of the real vets said it best in the introduction to the episode when he explained that they didn’t want to get friendly with the replacements because they simply didn’t think their replacements were going to survive. So you don’t want to become friends and then go through the losing yet another friend. Was that really the relationship? And what it was like between the D day vets and the replacements that joined Easy Company later on?
Marty Morgan 1:28:09
I don’t think so. And I’ll tell you why. Although you do find a little bit of evidence in the book, and you find some evidence, and certainly the personal accounts that were submitted in the interviews that Dr. Ambrose conducted with the veterans for music company, you find a little bit of some hints that maybe there was a little bit of hostility toward replacements. But I believe that that is also something that the series greatly exaggerates. And there’s one thing that I feel like we have to mention, and that is that there is a theatricality to this whole thing of so you newcomers Welcome aboard, I’m in charge you people need to look sharp, and we’re tough and you guys are going to have to be tough like us. But there’s a little bit of theater associated with that. And that you don’t want to present this terribly warm and approachable front to new people. Because there’s a you want to establish, let’s face it militaries, after all, are nothing but hierarchies. And when people enter the hierarchy at the lowest level, you frequently remind them of that that has certainly been the experience of my professional life in the working world. And I would say to that, yeah, although I’m talking about a different regiment and a different division. I do feel like I could say something knowledgeable and informed on this subject because I did write a book about an airborne regiment that’s that fought in Normandy. And my experience of talking to those men, which for the record was after the HBO miniseries Bana brothers had come out. I found that often they loved to point out like, Hey, we didn’t treat our replacements like that. We were very warm, very friendly. And in fact, as a part of writing my book on the 507 I talked not just with the plank owner, their equivalent of the Tacoma men men that had been with the regiment since the moment that it was formed. The old timers that have been through Normandy, and then they’re fighting during the battle vaults and they get replacements. I’ve talked to To the replay, I talked to the replacements as well, and the replacements would go out of their way to tell me Hey, it wasn’t like in that HBO miniseries at all, these guys were wonderful to me. And in fact, I saw one of the one of the most moving and heart warming examples of friendly camaraderie I’ve ever seen in my life, and that there was a 507 veteran, who was an original five oh, seventh guy that went all the way back to the frying pan at Fort Benning, when the regiment was formed in 42. And he was a radio operator, and he was hit on the drop zone during Operation mark, excuse me, Operation varsity in March of 1945. And when he got hit, there was one of their replacements of replacement that had been sent to the 507, after the Battle of the Bulge, replacement had that had only been in that regiment for about a month. And this old timer radio operator gets hit. And this replacement ran up there, getting shot out the whole time picked him up and carried him out. And both of those men survived the war long enough for me to know them both and to interact with them. And there was a relationship there, like no relationship I’ve ever seen in my life. And I can imagine that there’s nothing that can compare to that experience, where you’re with a person who saved your life. The man’s name was Bob, Bob’s life should have ended in a ditch along the side of the drop zone, near Veysel in Germany. But this kid named car randomly picked him up and carried him out and saved his life. And he lived to old age to such Lj age that his life overlap with mine. And I told the story. And so that’s why and in preparing for this, I had a feeling we talked about this issue of replacements. And I feel like for the purposes of making an interesting film, that what the series did was it took the theatrical wear, I don’t think necessarily that and you even see it to an extent you see, like the guard here character, at times is presenting this very gruff, outer appearance. And he’s a little hard on the replacements, and let’s be honest, it’s theater. It was it was sergeants acting a certain way in front of the new guys, to teach them something to reinforce ideas associated with military hierarchies. And I don’t believe that there was a unique experience in the 506 where they were mean to their replacements. I think it was all c actrix. And that the mini series saw those theatrical and made a bit more out of them than the mini series maybe should have. Got
Dan LeFebvre 1:32:32
Yeah. Would you say that there are signet? There are quite a few examples throughout this entire episode where you see that even to the point I think, James McAvoy, his character, I remember his name, where he’s, he’s he’s wearing the
Marty Morgan 1:32:45
T’s Miller. He’s James
Dan LeFebvre 1:32:46
Miller. Yeah, he’s wearing like the pin that they got for D days. Like Wait, you weren’t you weren’t there.
Marty Morgan 1:32:52
And that scene, that scene, I kind of love that scene. Because this is going to take us now to exactly what we were just talking about a minute ago and that you remember the protagonist, the person that’s pushing that in the scene is that it’s it’s Cobb. Cobb approaches Miller. And he was like, so what you were there and he’s got, he was aware of the Presidential Unit Citation, which the regiment was awarded for combat normally, even though he was a replacement, and he was not in Normandy. Nevertheless, he was in the regiment, therefore entitled to wear anything that the anybody in the regiment was entitled to. So Cobb comes up to him, it’s like, are you in Normandy and he starts giving him trouble about it to the point that you see Miller’s character James McAvoy reaches up and kind of sheepishly removes it and takes it off. And then I think it’s randleman
Dan LeFebvre 1:33:35
I think it was randleman. Yeah, yeah,
Marty Morgan 1:33:37
random it comes up and goes cop. You weren’t in Normandy. Because cop got hit in the you might remember cops wounded in the airplane, and cop sees no combat normally, but he jumps. It’s just that he sees no combat and calm. What they do to cop is comparable to what they do to Sobel and then what they will eventually do to Dyken later episodes, and that is that throughout this Congress kind of portrayed as being this caustic and pugnacious mean guy that is kind of testy with everybody. And then eventually the Webster character will write about him after the war, and describe them as being extraordinarily friendly. And so once again, I believe we have our screenplay writers, and Episode Four is Graham yes to Bruce McKenna, Bruce McKenna, who, if there’s anybody on planet earth that knows how to put a story together, it’s Bruce McKenna, for crying out loud, and they needed to develop tension, and then provide resolution just in that one little vignette. Look at the match. What we’re seeing here is a Master’s class in screenplay writing, because what we’re seeing is that you need tension. And the tension comes up from comes from Cobb going, Hey, why are you wearing the distinguishing citation? Then McEvoy takes that away and there’s a little moment of shame and awkwardness and difficulty. Then what happens random and goes coffee or an enormity either, kind of like resolving the issue of like, leave these young guys Whoa. So As much as we like to focus on the cop side of that interaction, what’s the payoff in that scene? It’s the random one interaction. You weren’t normally either stop it.
Dan LeFebvre 1:35:10
But he actually he waited until Miller Left. Right. So So as far as biller was concerned, he didn’t get that kind of resolution, which I think kept that conflict going throughout further, you know, further in the episode, as far as Miller was concerned, I thought that was interesting that randomly waited for that. It’s like, okay, yeah, you weren’t there either. But I’m not going to say that in front of the replacement, but keep that conflict between the old guys and the new guys,
Marty Morgan 1:35:35
keeping up appearances. And I can see why I can see why that’s useful when you’re in a position of hierarchy as a senior NCO like randleman was, and you have old timers that were with you in combat normally, and you have new guys that are Fresh Off the Boat, and you have to maintain that hierarchy. Can you imagine what I can’t American wrap my head around what it must be like to be a little bit older and wiser. And you have to manage 19 and 20 year old boys who have become paratroopers. And with all of the testosterone associated with that. And I think there’s really only one way to manage that. And that is to maintain order and discipline. And insurance toward maintaining the good order and discipline is to at all times kind of being level headed, and even keeled and allowing moments like that to unfold and not publicly shaming somebody else, like randleman certainly could have done to calm. So I could see why you need why that would be important to the senior NCO because when you’re an NCO, suddenly you’re in a different world, you’re not just one of the guys anymore, you have responsibilities. And although your level of responsibilities may not reach up to the higher level that the officers have, you still have to see to the troops and take care of a managed soldier drama. And that was a great example of it in the way that it was depicted there in that scene. I think it just sets us up for what we’re going to be seeing. Certainly what develops with the Miller character and the cop character in the next episode, where one gets killed, and one almost gets killed. That’s what
Dan LeFebvre 1:37:06
that was speaking of. We’re still on episode four. And kind of the backdrop to this episode is operation Market Garden. According to the way the show explains it, the job for the airborne is to liberate Eindhoven in Holland, and then wait for the tanks there. It’s a plan of general Montgomery. So they’re under command of the British, everybody kind of groans when they hear that, and, but if this works, then they’ll be able to push the Germans back over the Rhine back into Germany. And the idea is to get the war to end by Christmas. Then, of course, the end of the episode, we find out that operation Market Garden was a failure. So how well did the show dude depicting operation Market Garden?
Marty Morgan 1:37:46
I think the show provided such a powerfully effective depiction of Market Garden that it meaningfully changed the way that people understand it. When I was a lot younger, when I was a kid, there was this movie that came out that I know you’ve seen called a bridge too far. And a bridge two part changed my life. It remains to this day, my favorite World War Two movie. And I just, it’s got problems. Maybe we can talk about those one day, but it’s got a lot of problems. And I still absolutely love that movie. I think it represents some excellence in filmmaking. And it basically was the benchmark until Ben brothers came out the way that Band of Brothers spends time in the Netherlands during Market Garden. I’ve just I feel like I have a unique and fascinating perspective on it, because I remember what the world was like before Ben brothers. And I remember how you basically had World War Two enthusiasts like me, and you know, other older people that paid attention to such things. And everyone else largely just didn’t really pay attention to Market Garden. And then Ben brothers games out and Brandon brothers brought focus to that, by spending a lot of time in the Netherlands during two episodes. I’ve watched the way that all of these people who were born long after I was, I have even watched people who were born after band of brothers came out, grew to two young adulthood, watched it, and fell in love with the subject and have begun reading about it. I’ve watched these Market Garden episodes reach people in the United States, people in Belgium, people in the Netherlands, of course, because people I have people friends in the Netherlands, that will go to places like the CrossFit site, and to them that’s hallowed ground, and they have the personal attachment of the Association of that with their country’s liberation from German occupation. I also had this weird experience in that the last time I stood at crossroads, which we’ll cover here shortly, but the last time I was there, I had a couple of clients in my tour business. And I took these two clients to crossroads, and I’m standing there telling the story, and a young guy who was about 19 years old and his Girlfriend walked up and they started listening. And I could see him in the background there listen hanging on every word that I’m saying. And when I got finished telling the story, the young guy wanted to ask me a couple of questions about where things happened specifically. And I immediately noticed that he was German. So I start talking to him and his girlfriend. And it was just this extremely young German couple. And they were both interested in Banda brothers and they had come to the Netherlands to walk the ground where Easy Company had walked. And I and I thought to myself in that moment, like, holy, and this just happened in 2019. And so I looked at that moment, like holy cow, hear this thing is, I bet Bruce McKenna, when he sat down and wrote this episode, probably at some point in 1999. I wonder if he imagined a scenario in which his work would produce longevity like this. I can’t imagine that anyone has that kind of an ego. I can’t imagine that anyone is like, yeah, I’m gonna write this scene, and it’s gonna be so damn good. Germans are going to be gobbling this thing up in 20 years. I’m sure he didn’t do that. But that’s what he created. He created something that spoke to people so powerfully that even people from Germany are still talking about it after all these years.
Dan LeFebvre 1:41:17
In the show, the way that we see it, how we see the capture of Eindhoven happen is there’s not a shot fire, there’s parades in the streets, the Dutch are welcoming the Allies into town. And then later they run into the Germans in a town just down the road. What was easy company’s part of Operation Market Garden,
Marty Morgan 1:41:35
the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment outlanded with the rest of the division and on a series of drop zones and clear landing zones immediately to the north of the city of Eindhoven. And their immediate mission overall was to seize a series of bridges going over the willamina Canal, and then move into and secure the city of Eindhoven itself because the city of Eindhoven would be the first city reached as the ground force. The guards Armoured Division of the 30 core moved up from the start point, just over the Belgian border and a town called lwml. as they move forward, they would move first to the town of Eindhoven. And then beyond that, they would move to river crossings of the moss River and the wall River at Nijmegen, and then ultimately they would move to the crossing of the lower Rhine River in front of the city of Arnhem, where they would link up with the British Airborne Division 31st Airborne Division, easy companies, critically important role in all of this was seizing the town of Eindhoven itself, and this is what’s depicted. I was in Eindhoven. Last time I walked in the streets of Eindhoven, which was, wow, that was September of 2019. And it seems so long ago. Now, I tend to take my, my groups on a little bit of a walking tour around town and around Eindhoven, there are these little markers, and I can send you a photograph of it if you’d like to cut away to show it. Just as another quick note, if you’re listening to this, and you want to see those photos that Marty is talking about, you can find those at based on a true story podcast, comm slash 182 based on a true story, podcast, comm slash 182. There are markers in front of houses in this one housing area. They’re pieces of brass that lists the name of the person who lived there, the date that the Germans came in and took them and deported them into the concentration camp system. And then it lists the date that they were killed, and the concentration camp where they were killed. And they’re just all over the city, the Dutch people suffered miserably during the German occupation. And when you imagine things like that, when you think of the human experience of what the Dutch people went through, I feel like it helps you to understand quite a bit better the scenes that you’re seeing in this episode, particularly the street scenes of the adoring public creating a traffic jam of humanity that the tanks can barely get through. And men making out with women and people being given food and be people being treated like royalty. And I have to admit that I’m the big nerd that quote I quote Band of Brothers every now and then because that’s what nerds do 20 years later, and one of my big quotes and I say it every time I go to the Netherlands is like, quote Webster, who said they all speak English. They all love us. What a fantastic country. Because as you can tell, I have not had negative experiences in the Netherlands. I have actually a wonderful time there. And it’s the funny thing is it brings me to a beef that I always bring up with the series, although I shouldn’t be too critical about this. But they kept saying Holland to this and Holland that and I hope and it’s not in Holland. I know that is in a different part of the country. Paul is in North Holland in the south Holland and they’re oriented toward the coastal side of the Netherlands in Eindhoven is not in that section. But still everybody just calls it Holland. And when I tried to point this out to people, they often look at me like what, why and I just let it go and just go Okay,
Dan LeFebvre 1:44:50
that’s probably why they did it in series. Like we’re not going to explain all the geography, we’re just gonna let it go.
Marty Morgan 1:44:55
Do you do you really need a pedantic nerd and they’re going well, actually, actually, about Howard part of the country is coastal, this part of the country is called and now you don’t need that. But I do like to point that out sometimes when I feel like being difficult.
Dan LeFebvre 1:45:10
That’s great. Well, if we head back to the show, we’re up to episode number five now, and this is crossroads, Lieutenant winters and a squad of men attack a German position, they managed to catch the Germans off guard at first, but more just keep coming and coming. I think someone mentioned a whole new company of Germans on the other side of the dike that they’re attacking. So winter’s causing an artillery strike, which is then followed by German artilleries. And we end up seeing Easy Company fighting amid a barrage of explosions just going off everywhere. At the end of the fighting, we learned that the Germans had their ADH zoned in on the crossroads. And they were lucky to get away with 20 201 debt. How much of that actually happened?
Marty Morgan 1:45:51
This is perhaps the most historically accurate depiction of the series. So much is done right here that I struggled to, to pull out of it, things that are wrong, and the things that I would pull out would just be petty minor and hardly even worth mentioning. Because, as you correctly indicate, this is depicting a series of events that unfold in this area on blocks just on the south side of the lower Rhine River between a town called vandyke and a town called Hedren. And it’s all built around this action that takes place on October 5 1944. And I think there’s something masterful about what goes on here. Eric Jefferson wrote this episode, and I think wrote it extremely well, because as you know, it starts off. I mean, I think it might be I’ve already identified what I think is the most powerful episode conclusion of the series. I think this is the most powerful episode opening up the series, because you remember how, after it goes through the veteran interviews, you get black screen, and what does it fade up to heavy breathing and running. And suddenly, I was like, oh, something’s going on here. And it’s a depiction of this charge that decliners LED on October 5, toward the positions of the German positions near pattern, where we believe is probably two companies of Waffen SS panzergrenadiers, who had been ferried across the lower Rhine River, and had reached this ferry landing and we’re assembling probably for a further attack. what it looks like now is that the Germans had this big plan for an overall attack toward an into not just the command post area, the position positions the second battalion at the five or six, but maybe even toward the regimental command post of the 506, which was at a place called squander loft, which is what’s depicted at the opening, you know, winters and Nixon and a few other men are summoned to the regimental headquarters when winters is reminded, I need you to finish that after action report for the October 5 action from Colonel sink. And then we’re back to what is it we’re back to what should be the most boring and dumb thing ever depicted in a series. And that is a guy who’s not even a good typist trying to, like single punch type type type pipe, punching out this after action report. And if somebody had told me before the series came out, hey, you’re gonna get to Episode Five. And it’s all about this guy writing an after action report, I’d be like, really, really? What moron came up with that? And Tom Hanks directed it. Eric Anderson wrote it. And I struggled, this might be my favorite episode of the series. Because it’s, I think perfection and storytelling. The typing out the after action report creates the opportunities for flashback flash forward. And it’s all done with you’re seeing people that are at the top of the trade, presiding over telling the story. And I think this story might be the best story told in the series, because it’s telling the story of what dick winters did, on October 5, when he was confronted with a series of circumstances whereby he was like he had been presented with a carentan. Back in Episode Three winters is is confronted now with all right, I have no other option. This is what we do.
Marty Morgan 1:49:07
We’ve already set the stage. But to keep it you know, short to the point what had happened was, the Germans ferried these Waffen SS troops across the lower Rhine River. And these two companies were in a position to where they could have severed the second battalion of the 506 from the regimental headquarters. In other words, if they had managed to organize and launch an attack south, they would have cut off the second battalion and the 506 from the rest of the regiment. And if that had happened, the second battalion of the five or six would have been left with no alternative but to begin to withdraw. If they didn’t do that could easily have been destroyed or forced to surrender. And so this is bad guy taking the ball and going on the offensive and back I had a pretty darn good plan, and the plan was fairly the men across the river in the darkness of night In such a way that the Americans aren’t aware of it, and then throw two companies at him. I should mention this winters in the mid of the second battalion are spread out over an area that’s basically too big for them at this point because by the October time period when the company is fighting on the island in the Netherlands 506 itself had lost 40 officers and 293 enlisted men in combat. So they’re taking serious losses. The regiment was now down to 119 officers in 1800 men that’s the regiment is at this point because of combat attrition under strength. So the second battalion gets pushed up toward the river at this town called Rand eight. And the second battalion doesn’t have enough people to guard the real estate that they’re supposed to guard. So winters does this with a series of outposts. And with patrols and one of these two man patrols. before midnight on October 4 1944, they walk up on a Jeremy position, there’s an exchange of fire hand grenades are thrown, one man is wounded, the pullback to ramdac. And when they get to ram dike, winters immediately responds, by organizing a fourth of men, they move toward the position where this exchange of fire happened. Winters realizes what he’s up against. He sets mortars back, he sets up the light machine gun section. And he moves men across the road, lays out their target and how they’re going to engage the target. Just because they were, you know, slightly fortunate the enemy was making it presenting an easy target, because you might remember the series, the enemy was sort of men assembled around a machine gun that was firing to the south. And as they were firing, they made themselves, you know, quite conspicuously visible in the night. Winters organizes the attack, they hit them, and they hit them hard. Winters comes up with an extraction plan, so he’s not just there in position to hit him. But then he has laid out a plan for how he can get everyone out. And that is that as soon as they open fire, the mortars would then provide a cover for them as they withdrew. And they hit the enemy by pushing way forward. And of course, the black of night they hit them, the mortars begin firing, they then pull back to this designated fallback point near where the mortars were, in this ditch along the side of the road near this crossroads, and when MIT winters pulls everyone back to there, they have engaged the enemy effectively, and they fallen back, it’s still before dawn. This is the point at which winters loses duplin. You might remember that’s now meaningfully depicted in series. And they wait out the dawn at dawn, what becomes automatically obvious to winters is that the position he had put his men in and keep in mind, he’s got a force of about 35 men. And he’s about to go up against two companies. So he The enemy has overwhelming numerical superiority at this point. Winters in as the sun begins to rise, he realizes that we’re this ditches is that to his right is this road, that’s that’s a high road that’s functioning as a road on top of the dike in front of him is a dike. The enemies on the other side of that dark winters realizes as soon as the sun’s up that oh, well, where I am now. As soon as the enemy starts to figure out what’s going on, he’s going to realize that he can easily move behind the cover of these dikes. And outflank me where I am now, if I sit here long enough, he’s going to figure it out, and he’s going to hit us and we might not survive it. And winters realizes in a way that similar to what he realized in the Karen tan, back on June 12, he realizes that I don’t have time to think about this, there’s no other option I can’t fall back, I have to attack I have to attack now, which is the point at which he issues the order the one order that nobody ever wants to hear and that is fixed bayonets. And as I think the does this feel like the series depicts, in such a good way, I mean, they even capture attention of the men as they’re putting their bandits on their own one rifles and they’re getting ready. And they depict winters, pull out an M 18. smoke grenade and he gets ready and he’s looking at everybody, everybody, they don’t look scared, which I think is it would have been easy to lesser director, because let’s keep in mind who directed this episode, Tom Hanks, the lesser director would have been like, I want you to look scared. They could have overreacted that easily. But instead what Hanks did is he had to look like okay, like deep breath look like deep breath. Like, here we go. You’re not scared, you’re ready for it. But this is definitely a big deal. Take a deep breath. And then there’s a confusion about the cue immediately, and that is that the attack was supposed to begin with winters throwing smoke to cover their advance. That’s basically textbook for bent mitting infantry officer school. But that’s still pretty smart thing. It shows you that he’s thinking that he’s going to use smoke to cover them as they advance so that if the enemy does have observation on them, the enemy won’t be able to see them the entire time and direct accurate and effective fire on them. So winners throw smoke and then immediately begins running. The other man hesitate because they were told wait for the smoke. There’s a little bit of a delay as the As a smoke grenade burns its fuse down.
Marty Morgan 1:55:03
And as that delay unfolds, you see the rest of the men waiting back in the ditch. And what this does is it produces the situation where dick winters is all alone, running across this field, and he runs up on the dike and there sits an entire company of Waffen SS Panzer Grenadiers. And, you know, his big moment of truth for I think the entire series.
Dan LeFebvre 1:55:24
And that’s that’s the moment I think in that episode, they, they focus on him running up on very young looking SS soldier and, and firing on him and, and killing him. And that’s kind of a moment that I think we see a couple times both in the beginning of the episode and then later towards the end as well. They replay that back
Marty Morgan 1:55:45
Friday, it haunts winners. It’s doing something that I believe not many films have done. Most of the films in the post Vietnam time period, full of disenchantment and cynicism, what they tend to do is they tend to produce, they tend to depict people in combat, you either have a conscience, or you’re an animal, there’s a thirsty animal. But here, what we have is we have an extremely competent warrior, who has a conscience, and he’s going to kill, he’s going to kill and destroy the enemy. But then he’s his conscience will remind him of that person that he killed. And that’s why I find it, you would think that it would be the boring part of the episode when dick winters takes the past and goes to Paris. And he awkwardly Can’t he, he basically suffers through this awkward experience in Paris. And he doesn’t enjoy it. He’s a little bit haunted by this very young kid. And a reality of what the Waffen SS was experiencing at this point of the war is that as a result of the top out attrition associated with the Normandy campaign, not even mentioning what is happening on the Eastern Front, but as a result of the Eastern Front, the enormity campaign, and then the withdrawal to the Siegfried Line. The Waffen SS has experienced heavy attrition. And the way that the Waffen SS dealt with that attrition was that they added people to the ranks, and the German military was beginning to run low on recruiting aged males. And the result was that more younger and younger recruiting aged males are ending up in these off Waffen SS units. And that’s depicted here, which I think it’s predicted. And it’s presented in a thought provoking way, where we’re led to have that conversation about he’s he’s in the SS. So we’re not supposed to feel sorry about Waffen SS troops getting killed. But he’s so young, how can he be thoroughly politicized to the extent that he’s dangerous, but you know what I feel like, although it’s not said, I find myself reading my own conversation with the story into it by going winters has no choice, this ideology, the ideology that created this abyss, that he’s fighting his way through that elite ideology, it’s more important for that ideology to be brought to an end than it is for him to allow his conscience to resist killing a young person. And I find it fascinating to contemplate these ideas. And I’m so thankful that they made this series so that I could have these conversations and I had them 20 years ago. And I’m so thankful that we’re still here 20 years later talking about these issues, because these issues are too important to let them just dissolve into oblivion.
Dan LeFebvre 1:58:15
Something that you did mention was the attrition not only on the German side, but also in Easy Company as well. We kind of see this towards the end of episode number five. As we see a change in leadership. We see a wintrust gets promoted to captain he takes command of the battalion. And taking his place leading the company is Lieutenant Heyliger. And then he ends up getting shot by an American century who misidentified him in the dark. And that leaves easy under the command of someone named Lieutenant dike and we’ll learn more about his leadership or lack thereof as the episode was show later on in a future discussion as we look at a band of brothers but as we start to wrap up this discussion here, we’re leaving Easy Company as they’re about to enter Bastogne and according to the show, they are at 65% strength and under command of Lieutenant dike. Is that a pretty good summary of the position that Easy Company is in right before they’re entering Bastogne?
Marty Morgan 1:59:11
It is because in the aftermath of operation Market Garden when they were finally withdrawn from the Netherlands and withdrawn from combat, they go into effectively a garrison experience, which is well depicted in the series where you’re seeing some of the men engaging in these complicated close order drill scenarios in this company area, which kind of cool it’s kind of a nice thing to see in the series. Even though marching and you know remaining in step is not something that’s really important for combat you’re seeing that there’s although they’re in garrison there’s still training and through the vehicle of men watching movies and men taking trips back to Paris we’re beginning to get this idea of okay easy’s out of trouble now, that maybe the immediate threat of combat and death violent death and and World War Two combat maybe that’s that’s gone. Only two Then, at the end of the episode, we begin to see the sequence of events set in motion that will ultimately deliver the largest ground battle that the American military fought during the Second World War, the Battle of the Bulge, and it’s fascinating to watch the way that Easy Company, even though it had been pulled out of combat after a period of intense attrition, the type of attrition By the way, that airborne infantry was never supposed to endure. Current infantry was envisioned as being used tactically in major operations to secure immediate objectives and then pulled out you even hear an acknowledgment of that in an earlier episode, where they say just that, I mean, someone’s sardonically even saying, No, just think boys, we’re going to put you in for three days. And then we’re going to
Dan LeFebvre 2:00:40
think that was let’s pretending to be the general Colonel stray or something somebody was like putting on the voice or something like that, yeah,
Marty Morgan 2:00:46
three days, it’s less, and it’s impressions, which is something that happened. To make this character lovable, which makes this character, we consider the Greek chorus quality of these characters to pop in and out and give us parts of their personality, let’s is this great character, and that he’s with us from start to finish. And he’s this, he lightens the mood from time to time. And it’s a, it’s a great part of that, that character arc. Anyway, he’s making fun of this whole three days in and out. And that’s how they were supposed to be used. And when the 101st Airborne Division is pulled back, that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. They’re supposed to remain in garrison until the next big airborne operation. And unfortunately, the enemy gets a vote. And the enemy votes that no, you guys don’t get to go enjoy your past, you guys don’t get to go enjoy a wedding in another country, you guys are still going to have to fight us. And what they’re about to endure is in almost every way, the worst ordeal that they will face during this story. As we move toward the siege of best stone in the fighting that happens around pass stone. And they pivot. I mean, it’s, of course, Tom Hanks is going to pivot nicely from the beginning of the episode where it’s depicting combat on the island. And at the crossroads. Of course, he’s going to pivot to that to garrison life. And then this looming beast that kind of comes up unexpectedly, and this idea of the Battle of the Bulge, and he pivots, do it nicely, have the men relaxing a little bit and then then gambling, you’re showing people paying off debts from gambling, and we’re seeing soldier life outside of combat, and then the reality of combat jumps back in. And the reality of the intense attrition comes back in with this scene, and I still find hard to watch the scene when moose heiliger gets shot, I find that hard to watch that. If anything, what it does is it shows you that the experience of combat in World War Two, it doesn’t matter how good you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re righteous or evil. If you’re well trained or inept. The experience of combat might just mean that you get shot by one of your own men.
Dan LeFebvre 2:02:45
And I’m assuming that actually happened then.
Marty Morgan 2:02:48
It did it did heiliger. Luckily, he survived it. World War Two was done for him. In fact, he survived until 2001. He survived long enough to see the episodes in fact, but it still it’s it’s difficult to watch when it gets hit because it’s depicted graphically. And it’s depicted with the right kind of effect. That moment is not just it’s not fortuitous, I feel like it says something powerful, where it says something meaningful, that gets paid off again in a later episode. And that, you know, heilbrunn gets hit winters, and one of the other officers who wasn’t anyway, it doesn’t matter. They rushed to his aid after he shot, and they administer morphine. And then you see a character that we’re going to see more of this character who is about to have his moment in the spotlight. Doc row who comes forward, I actually really love this moment of dialogue where doc row shows up and he’s takes heiliger. And they’re putting him in the ambulance to take him away. He asks the officers, you know, what did you give him? And they’re like, I we gave him this? And he was like, What do you mean, you don’t know? How much do you know? And they go, we think we gave him this. And right as they’re slamming the doors of the ambulance, dock row looks at two officers and says you are officers. You are grownups, you ought to know. And then he stormed off. And I thought, young doctor, oh, it’s not real. And you know what, that’s something that. I don’t know. I think only the medic could get away with that. Only the medic could get away with pushing back against the hierarchy and scolding to officers when truth be told, they deserve to be scolded. They needed to be scold your officers, you are grownups and you need to pay attention. And in this way, there’s a coda to that moment, there’s a coda to the episode right there, that I find to be so powerful because we’re seeing not just triumph. It’s not a typical war movie. It’s not just, we’re winning, and we’re killing the enemy. And then every now and then you have to be sad because one of the friends died. It’s something that’s intellectually deeper than that. And that’s, I think, the reason why that seems to affect me and why the series still affects me. And I just love that whole code of that gets paid off in. It’s paid off in this episode, because, you know, Garnier goes, he comes back to the regiment. There’s this awkward scene, which I think is magnificent. There’s this loaded quality The scene when, by now winters is one operational officer for the battalion. He’s 17, an ops officer, and he’s got an office and he won’t sit down behind his desk and they’re in there kind of holding court with winters in his office, and Garnier returns to the unit. And there’s this awkward interaction with them where Garnier has, I think it’s a he has a letter about heiliger. He’s got a letter for heiliger. And he’s now he’s got a letter about him. And he says something about heiliger. And you can see that there’s the two officers kind of glanced at each other awkwardly, like, yeah, that issue. Oh, boy, it’s partly that they’re relieved that he’s alive still, and then partly like they felt to blame for it. I feel like there’s something there that you just don’t see in Motion Pictures anymore. There’s subtlety there. And it’s so rich, you can almost carve it with a knife. And those two actors are so freakin good. That all it takes is just them shooting a glance at each other. And it speaks so much about their characters and what they’ve been through and what they have yet to go through. And I just, I love the fact that you get such good writing and such good characters, because I’m often asked when is the next series going to come out like this. And I don’t think we’re ever going to see a series like this again. I guess I still struggle to understand what all the emotions were. But I just know that there’s something big and powerful there that I still feel when I go back. And I watched this series. And I’m kind of thankful that you invited me to be here, because it gave me this opportunity to watch the series again in the post Game of Thrones era. Because and I know this is now the third time I’ve mentioned Game of Thrones, and I’m mentioning it for a reason that I’m sure you figured out by now. Look at the series that we can recognize as being massive successes. Band of Brothers was a massive success for HBO. And then there was Game of Thrones. And when I watched Game of Thrones, I remember thinking, I haven’t felt like this since panda brothers. I remember going you know, I haven’t cared about characters like this since Banda brothers. And we all know how Game of Thrones ended. And the band of brothers didn’t leave us like that.
Dan LeFebvre 2:07:09
Thank you again so much for coming on chat about Phantom brothers. And we’ve only talked about episodes one through five today. So we will be back to continue the series. But until then, you do have a show on the Science Channel that everyone can check out. So can you share some more about that?
Marty Morgan 2:07:21
Yeah, I appear on a show that’s called war on Earth. It’s on the Science Channel and in what on earth we what we do is we investigate oddities that can be seen from space. So satellites look down at the planet Earth pick out strange things. And it used to be that they sent me to investigate these strange things all over the world. And in recent production, they have only sent me to things within driving distance of New Orleans where I live, but we’re still making the show and we still have we have an entire new season. That’s due to premiere soon. And if you ever get a chance to tune in, I believe we’re still on a Tuesday night broadcast slot if you’re watching on broadcast cable, but then they also put them on the internet as well. So be sure to check out what on earth go.
Dan LeFebvre 2:08:02
I’ll make sure to check that out. Thanks again so much for your time.
Marty Morgan 2:08:05
Dan, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of the conversation.