Today we’re continuing our look at the historical accuracy of Band of Brothers as we cover episodes six and seven while Easy Company is in Bastogne. We’ll wrap up the series in our next episode of Based on a True Story.
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Dan LeFebvre 02:45
We left off at the end of episode number five, which means today we’ll be picking up at episode six: Bastogne. And the show when Easy Company enters Bastogne, they have a new commander in Lieutenant bike, and we’ll talk more about him later because on the show, they talked about him a little more in Episode Seven. But for now, we find out that easy has also suffered heavy losses, even with replacements are only at 65% strength. On top of all of that, they we find out the beginning of Episode Six, they’re also low on ammo. They don’t have nearly enough warm clothes, and there’s a dense fog covering the area, and that’s keeping planes from resupplying the men. In the show, we see general McAuliffe visit and he basically tells them, there’s no backup and there’s a lot headed your way. So do whatever it takes to hold the line. Can you give us some more context around what was going on here overall, and what is the company’s part was in best on
Marty Morgan 03:40
The southern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge. It reaches its ultimate climax with the fighting and then around the city of Bastogne. The Battle of the Bulge roughly falls into three geographical areas that we designate just because it becomes sort of a convenience and understanding this battle which unfolds across the battlefield that’s about 1500 square miles. It’s an absolutely enormous battlefield. And it’s an extremely complicated battle. And by dividing it effectively into three sections, it gives us chunks that makes it somewhat easier for us to digest all of the information associated with them. And we call them North shoulder, South shoulder and center. And the North shoulder is basically telling the story of things that happened in the vicinity of where the US 99th Division was where the Fourth Division first division where they were located in and around the twin villages of regret and cream Celts around
Marty Morgan 04:38
the area where a group of Piper will ultimately make a name, an infamous name for itself with massacres, leading to the bunya Crossroads massacre that we know is the malmedy massacre. The center part of the battle, just dealing mainly with things associated with paying fees but then on the southern end of the battlefield. What we see is an entire German Army Corps that crosses the orange river out of Luxembourg out of Germany into Luxembourg and then drives across the northern tip of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg until it ultimately reaches the Crossroads town of Bastogne. This is setting the table for our story. Insofar as the element that’s driving that assault, it has to, it has to reach the Crossroads at best stone in its effort to continue moving westward. Because if you can, if you imagine the way the German forces are situated in the battle, toward the right is toward the north shoulder toward the left is toward the south shelter the South shoulder has to overcome American defenses and luxenberg reach Bastogne, and then make use of the road network to the west of Bastogne, where you have basically seven roads leading into the city in leading out of the city. That Force had to overcome all the Americans in Luxembourg reach faststone use the road network to its West as a part of this covering mission, as they sweep to the northwest to approach river crossing sites of the moose River, which will put them in a position to cover the main force that will retake the Belgium port city and Antwerp. At the outset of the battle, something that heavily defines the experience of combat is that American units end up fighting with more dedication and more drive them the Germans had anticipated, the Germans had expected that by penetrating the front line or the MLR, the main line of American resistance that they would be moving then beyond the main line of resistance into rear areas and that in rear areas, they would be experiencing troops that were not necessarily the high the high end of combat forces. And they expected that because of that they would move faster, overwhelming the combat units piled up on the main line of resistance, get past them and then you’re in the rear area and you’re dealing with troops that are going to possess equipment that’s not entirely appropriate for fighting a heavily mechanized forced, and that you’re going to encounter units that are non Combat Arms units that will therefore be incapable of putting up an effective defense. That’s what the Germans banked on. That is not what they got. What they got was an American army that fought so extraordinarily well that I continue to learn about it. And I continue to be amazed by the way that the American army and its moment of greatest crisis held itself together and continued to fight on against what I believe is the greatest enemy that it has ever confronted on the battlefield. And the Bastogne story illustrates that point. I don’t want to say better than any others, but it illustrates that point quite well because at Bastogne. There is early recognition by the American military that the Germans are moving westward, the American military very quickly diagnosis what the German plan is. And in recognizing where the Germans were going, which is pushed to the west sweep up to the most recapturing Antwerp, as the Americans recognize that this is what was going on. The Americans very quickly scramble to send reinforcing units to critical areas on the map because the American military did not possess the luxury of being able to cover every point on the map. there just weren’t enough people. There weren’t enough men with rifles. And so the American military had to pick and choose where it would make it stand. Bastogne was chosen, because mainly the United States Army had the luxury of a little bit more time. And that luxury and time is something that I feel like we have to we have an obligation to mention this at the outset. And that the luxury of being able to move the 100 and first Airborne Division from its barracks, its garrison experience, and more Mughal to move the one Oh, first, a distance of just over 100 miles to Bastogne. The American military had the interval of time to do that, mainly because of the fact that men of the US Army’s 28th Infantry Division put up a heck of a good fight in northern Luxembourg. As German troops pushed across the or river into Luxembourg, the American military put up a fight that slowed them down at several critical places. Just to mention three quickly, the Fourth Division puts up a really good fight at a place called FMF and luxenberg. On the sewer river, right across from Germany. The river is the boundary there, you had two effectively two regiments of the 28th Infantry Division, the one on ninth and the ones hence they put up an extremely amazing delaying action as they pull back away from the river into places like decaires and Luxembourg and particularly in a place called clairvaux. And then ultimately, the divisions headquarters has to retreat from the city of wealth and northern Luxembourg. All of that is buying time that’s buying the time that it took to reposition the 100. And first from more Malone in France, to best known in Belgium, that’s no mean feat. And to say it briefly like that, it just feels so trivial. It feels like I’m not communicating the proper depth of the crisis because the American military does this three days, because the 100 and first Airborne Division is already there and in position with other units. Another critical point that I must mention because when we imagine what happens at at Bastogne during the days and weeks that’ll follow, particularly during the era of the siege of best on that period, during which for about a week, the city was completely surrounded by the enemy. During that time period, it wasn’t just the 100 and first Airborne Division in the city of Bastogne, you had a force of about 11,000 men, and out of that 11,000, you have about 7500 of them, belonging to the 100 and first Airborne Division, so the one who first had the greatest number of men in the city, but then you had to combat commands from the ninth Armored Division at the 10th Armored Division, it’s critically important to recognize that they were there in addition to attached Field Artillery battalions tank destroyer battalions you had, in other words, assets other than just 100 and first Airborne Division and it just goes without saying that they have to be at least mentioned. Now our story relates just to the 100 and first airborne, so we’re going to want to dedicate ourselves to talking about that. And that is incorrectly the emphasis of where we’re going to go from here, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge the fact that there were other Americans in the perimeter of Bastogne, that contributed to the victory of holding out during this brief German siege. An easy company factors into this by loading up onto trucks and carrying out what they call the tailgate jump which is they load onto a truck, they drive all the way across you know, bouncing up and down roads just to reach the city of Bastogne. They D truck. And from the point that they D truck, they’re north of the town, and they move in into positions just on the northern outskirts of the city. And as they reach those positions, they’re settling in for the big drama that is about to unfold, they’re moving into position on the 18th and the 19th. And the reality that is that when the German military ultimately makes contact with the American perimeter around Bastogne, which is contact that occurs before dawn on December 19, just north of best known at a town called no Ville, where a composite team has been positioned at a team that we refer to as team to celebrate led by an American major Nick Williams to celebrate by the time that the Germans contact that team pre dawn hours December 19. You have over 10,000 Americans in the city of Bastogne. They got there because the men of the 28th division and luxenberg bought them time enough to get there. So everything was frantic. Everything was sort of a desperate scramble. But this desperate scramble in the end pays this vast dividend because the enemy never manages to capture the city of best known the enemy is therefore not capable of using the road network leading to and then from the city as they move beyond and to the west of Bastogne. And this overall campaign to recapture Antwerp.
Dan LeFebvre 13:29
On the German side, how many? How many were they facing? Because we don’t we don’t really see much of that in the show. But you’re saying this the city surroundings? I’m assuming that they had superior numbers.
Marty Morgan 13:41
They did eventually the force if you count everybody involved, you could count up to between 75,008 1000 men so so it’s there they they outnumber the Americans, not by close numbers, they overwhelmingly outnumber the American force. Now to qualify that and put a sharper point on it. It’s not that at any specific and given time, you had 80,000 Germans attacking force of 11,000 Americans, but you you had overall multiple German divisions that in their overall strength could number that and best stone was basically in the middle of the road that they were trying to follow. So during the siege, there’s a moment where forces flow around Bastogne because the Germans weren’t stupid if the plan began to change, like a big weird mythology about German fighting forces in world war two that I hear repeated over and over again, even by people who should know better, as they like to imagine this fantasy of German troops were like robots, and they followed their orders to the letter, and they didn’t have the flexibility and freedom that Americans had to improvise. This is not true. This is so completely untrue as to be as absurd because the Germans they did have latitude to improvise within a plan and They could syncopate their way through something to the extent that if you encounter an American strong point, the instinct will then be to engage it, keep them there and then attempt to maneuver around that strong point. So the Germans eventually do that, by flowing to the north of the city, and then also to the south of the city, which is what produces the circumstances that lead to best them being surrounded us. But there was still basically out there surrounding the city, this numerically superior force of German, not just infantry, but also mechanized infantry. And units that were combat experienced units that have that were kind of being pushed to the limit themselves. A big theme in the two episodes that we’re talking about today is the way that the men were being pushed to the limit, which I think is such a terrific theme for them to have chosen to emphasize during these episodes. And the Germans were experiencing that too, so that for every hardship and American is undergoing a German is also undergoing it too. And I mentioned it not to try to develop sympathies with German fighting forces, but I mentioned it to say that there’s a greater burden on them as the force on the offensive than there is on the Americans is the force on the defensive. And for them, that burden was exacerbated to a significant degree by the fact that they’re dealing with some pretty gnarly weather conditions throughout all of this. So the Americans are shivering in foxholes, and the Germans are shivering too, while also bearing this added burden of attempting to lead a mechanized maneuver battle against a well entrenched enemy who was pretty well armed and extremely dangerous.
Dan LeFebvre 16:41
earlier episodes of the show, we did see the men of Easy Company was saying there’s plenty of artillery fire. So you’ve seen that up until now, but this time in this episode is a little bit different because they’re in the woods. And the artillery is to shattering the trees, we see shards of wood, going all over the place like shrapnel. How accurate was what we saw happening in the show.
Marty Morgan 17:03
Interestingly, it’s a little bit of two things. It’s a little accurate and a little inaccurate, it’s accurate to the extent that it is depicting with great accuracy, I believe, a reality of world war two combat which is first of all, that the great killer of the battlefield is artillery. On the battlefield of the Second World War, artillery kills more people than anything else, it kills more people than nuclear bombs. The artillery is by far the greatest killer on the battlefield, which is why to this day we recognize the artillery as the well we recognize it with this nickname that people that are in the artillery branch in the Marine Corps, and in the army. Artillery is the god of war. Or sometimes you hear artillery, it’s king of battle. And it’s because the artillery doesn’t care if it’s light or dark, hot or cold. If it’s raining or dry, the artillery always works. It works in ways that airpower will never work. airpower can’t work, especially during World War Two, the artillery, as the King of battle, is the greatest weapon on the battlefield that anybody has. And then you know, not to keep laboring this point, but we often get distracted. When we comprehend Nazi Germany during World War Two, we get distracted into things like their high end technology programs that have had getting Safa their, their vengeance weapons, like the one bus bomb, the v2 rocket, the v3 Super gun, we get distracted and admiring those weapons. And the reality is, is that those weapons never turned in results, that could even begin to compare to the results that German artillery did. So one thing that I know the first time that I saw these episodes, particularly Episode Seven, to me, it’s the most compelling and accurate depiction of the true, just terrifying danger that artillery presents. But then at the same time, there are over and over again referring to them as 88. And it’s pretty, pretty good indication is that there’s no 80 eights involved there, there ends up being an 88 and foie. And we can talk about that. But what we end up with are Americans on the receiving end, who as time goes by they begin to tell their stories, and they begin to relate them to people who were interested like family members and historians, with names like Steven Ambrose, and they all made assumptions about what was being directed at them. And the most frequent thing that you hear is the 88 millimeter gun and that 88 millimeter gun is far less prolific than veteran accounts would have you believe. So, on the one hand, we’re getting this really I feel like this very compelling and thought provoking depiction of how powerful artillery is on the battlefield in these episodes. But at the same time, it’s just over and over again, we’re bombarded with 88 And the reality is ad eights. While they probably did participate a little bit, the big killers were, the Germans had 105 millimeter field gun, and 150 millimeter field gun, their bumper should say field howitzers. They had 105 50 millimeter field howitzers, and then 105 and 5150 millimeter field guns. And those weapons were excruciatingly effective and accurate. In addition to that, something that kind of just gets blended within these episodes is that the Germans made extensive and effective use of orders, particularly their model Nike 3480 millimeter mortar,
Marty Morgan 20:42
which was a powerful weapon, which to the on the receiving end, could give you an impression of artillery. And so there’s not a lot of definition to this very day about exactly what weapons were directed against the men of EZ company during this time period. We do know it was artillery, the veterans accounts testified to 88 millimeter, there’s an 88 millimeter and foi, the reality is that it was probably a mix of all of the above that it was probably that 88, probably 105 to 150s, and maybe even mortars at different times. So they’re providing you with this extremely what I think is an achievement and depicting how effective artillery was in combat that really no other movie has matched yet. And they’re also depicting a reality of combat with Germany during the Second World War. And that is they’re depicting the tree bursts that are sort of famously a part of these episodes. And the tree bursts are being caused by the way that the Germans fused their their rounds, and that the fusing could be there effectively point detonating fuses that could be used on mortar rounds, and could also be used on artillery, and point detonation, provided for some adjustability. So where there was a plunger that sets off the high explosive inside the shell body. And you could make some adjustments to that plunger for sensitivity. So you can make it really insensitive, so that the round could come down to contact the earth. And then as it begins to get resistance as it punches a hole into the end of the ground, only then does it detonate. You can also dial off or dial back the sensitivity of that plunger to such an extent that as the shell, or more around descends down from tree branches, the slightest contact with anything would set off the explosive charge. The Germans understood what they were up against, they understood that they were dealing with people that were fighting from prepared positions. And that Believe it or not, when you’re up against someone who prepared positions, even with artillery, it’s very hard to kill them. When men dig into a hole, that really only the The only thing that can get them out of that is a direct hit, unless they have no cover overhead. And then if you could develop an airburst above them, you will distribute fragmentation down on top of them that can feel them even though they’re in holes. So that if you just had the sensitivity on point that many rounds set to where they only went off when they hit solid ground. if everyone’s dug in, everybody’s in for a wild ride and a lot of noise. But the artillery bombardment is only going to be effective, they get a direct hit. However, if you have people and dug holes, decisions that would otherwise provide a lot of protection, and you dial back your sensitivity, and you’re producing tree bursts, you can kill everybody with bursts that are directly above them. So this was a specific technique that the Germans used in adjusting and manipulating the fusing on the projectiles, either mortar or artillery to kill people who they understood, were probably in foxholes. And so when the Germans advanced, the mortar rounds, or the artillery rounds to the weapons to fire them, they did so with this sort of keen familiarity with what’s going to be on the receiving end. And they knew to dial back sensitivity so that you can produce the tree bursts and kill people that were otherwise protected by foxholes. And then also on a tactical level, one thing that they do that is, I think, quite well depicted in episode seven is that they did something that it’s an ugly reality of war, and it’s a reality that everybody was involved in. And that is that when they would pick a target for an artillery concentration, and they would deliver effectively a time on target concentration, meaning it’s at night, you can’t necessarily see the target. As the artillery fire support mission is being fired, you’re not able to evaluate how effective you are. You’re just sort of bombarding an area target for a certain quantity of time. That’s the fire mission. What they tend to do was they would have round one where you hit them for a time on target concentration for a certain period of time. Then you lift fire. You give them a few minutes. for everybody to start getting out of their holes and tending to their wounded, and then you hit them with a second round and then a second time on target concentration, and you’re catching people outside of their holes. It’s fiendish and it’s cruel. And that’s what modern world looks like. And that’s, I think, very well depicted in Episode Seven.
Dan LeFebvre 25:19
A lot of episode six in the show revolves around one of the medics named Eugene ro. And we see him on the frontlines helping soldiers as best he can that limited supplies but he does the best he can. We also see him going back into town where he meets a nurse named Rene and the to strike up a bond over their shared experiences of the hell that war is. And everybody that they’ve lost. Was Rene a real person in this this interaction between Eugene and Rene, actually based on reality?
Marty Morgan 25:48
Yes, Renee was a real person. Her family was from the area around Bastogne. She was at the time of all of this 30 years old, she chose to stay and to help. This brings us into this fascinating message meditation about Bana brothers, because the relationship that we see developed between them, which I think is beautifully presented by two actors who are so very, very good. In fact, I’m just gonna say outright that the Emmy Award for Best Actor goes Shane Taylor, I think he is, I think he carries this episode and he is so good. He is so good. In this episode, the actress who portrayed Renee lamere, her name is Lucy john, and I think she is absolutely brilliant than this minor and not I want to say minor. But this role that doesn’t have a lot of on screen time, that doesn’t have a great deal of dialogue. But anyway, the and this is where the meditation comes in. One thing that we do know is that Eugene Rowe and Rene lamere, didn’t cross paths. They didn’t have opportunities to interact with one another to develop a bond. And this was this was created as a as a product of screenplay writing for this episode. This episode is written by an absolute wizard and absolute master of screenplay writing Bruce McKenna. And what Bruce had to do was he had to confront a couple of realities, like how do you make a complicated story simple? How do you make people follow these events? And what can we do to develop this and tell the Renee lamere story, while we’re parents telling the Eugene rose story. And what he has done is he has taken two real stories and merged them in a way that they were not actually merged in reality. And I do not have a problem with it. What I welcome about this sort of thing is that although they never met, they never had opportunities to interact with one another. Maybe they did, I think it’s highly unlikely, but maybe they did. That’s all we got. We have no proof. At any rate, what Bruce McKenna did was he chose Rene Lemaire, and he created a story where the two of them interact with one another. And I feel like it produces the beautiful meditation on what was going on during the seizure of best stone, because, for example, just think if I had written the screenplay, where everything would be 100% accurate, and it would be 100%, boring and miserable, and uninteresting, that wouldn’t be dynamic. And you wouldn’t have this moment where you see the two of them interacting. And these two actors, the way that they interacted with one another was not the typical soupy melodrama that you would expect out of lesser writers. What you get are two actors where she’s obviously a conventionally attractive female, he’s obviously conventionally attractive male, and there’s obviously something going on, it almost feels wrong to say that there’s chemistry because in the middle of a very terrible reality, the two of them connect on some level, and they interact. And it’s all compelling character development that makes you care. And what I love about episode six, and just for the record, episode six is my favorite episode of the series. What I think is so fantastic about it is that now today, 20 years later, people go and visit Rene lameiras grave.
Marty Morgan 29:19
And it’s because of Bruce McKenna, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. And I think that is worth the price of massaging and bending the historical timeline a little bit to put characters within a context when one with each other that did not actually exist. And it made people care. Because people cared about that interaction. People looked at these two actors who interact with one another beautifully and create what I think is one of the most heart wrenching sequences in the series. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. It’s toward the end of episode six and it’s depicting Eugene has is in basketball. He has taken in I can’t remember who he is taken in. But they he arrives at the aid station Rumaila marason, they’re being assisted by a Congolese nurse More on that in the second casualty comes in, who has, as I recall it, he’s he’s very badly wounded is going to chest work. And it depicts you blood everywhere. And it’s this very compelling scene that shows Eugene and Ramit Renee attempting to save him. And then they don’t save him. And it’s just I went, I watched all this again this morning. And I watched that this interaction just over that one set piece. Between the two of them, I watched this interaction like five times in a row, and I was just like, oh, my god, these people were good. This was such such good storytelling and such perfect acting, because you see Eugene, stand up, and he shouts, and he’s shows what I think is sort of typical male grief. Because male grief, you heard it here. First, male grief often looks like anger. And so he expresses that in a way that is not Broadway and stupid and exaggerated. It’s very gritty and very earthy. And then he turns into two of them just lock eyes. And you get these dirty over the shoulder shots of the two of them. Mainly, there’s a shot, there’s a shot that they have one over her shoulder looking at him one over his shoulder looking at her and the shot over his shoulder looking at her she’s staring at him. And she just gets I don’t know how this actress summoned it, but she just gets the slightest little chin quiver. And it’s heart wrenching. Where I what I love about the scene so much. It offers us something we don’t see much these days. It offered us subtlety. And, and it was absolutely beautiful. And what I love about it is that I remember it 20 years ago when I thought saw for the first time, and I was so stricken by that scene. And that scene led me to rename the mayor’s grave that led me to care about her and be interested in her story. And here, I think, overall, we find the entire value of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. It’s not a war documentary. It’s not a war movie. It’s a it’s a drama that made us care about a cast of real people. And we still care about him too. And after 20 years, there’s a lot of good, there’s a lot of good there. There’s some bad, which we will be talking about in Episode Seven. But there’s more good that we are overwhelmed by the overall good deed that this series served the historical continuum, because I wrote a book about a Parachute Infantry Regiment, regiment of paratroopers who fought and all of the same battles. And I care about them. Yeah, I care about them deeply. And Steven Ambrose is writing and then this the filmmaking by Hank Spielberg, Bruce McKenna, this episode was directed by David Leland, all of these people made me care about another group of people. And I wonder if those are wonder if they sit back and think about the time that they spent working on banner brothers and go, that was the highlight of my career, I wonder if they do. But if I ever had an audience with any of them, I would love to ask them, who’s been about this the highlight of your career. And I’d love to hear what they had to say about it. But what they did, I said, I think they produced something that has served the overall greater good. And it promoted awareness and interest and enthusiasm about the history of the Second World War. And I’m always 1% in favor of that.
Dan LeFebvre 33:38
You talked about that scene with Rene and Eugene. And I think for me that scene over the guy who dies, you know, just blood everywhere. was almost a prelude like to the scene later on, where they’re both sitting there and she’s gonna give them some chocolate. You can tell they’re fed up with dealing with all this death and everything. And then a truck comes in call tonight and she doesn’t hesitate. She gets up and goes, goes to help another person. You can just tell them what’s going on in her mind and just like she’s about to crack, but nope. Okay, I’m called called to go help more people. And so no hesitation going off to help more people. And I think it was amazing acting. It was really, really well done.
Marty Morgan 34:18
I think so too, as you’ve already heard now, and also I what I love about Ben brothers too, on an overall level, just that one set piece when Rene and Eugene are sitting outside after this anonymous nameless gi has just died in pain and agony. And the two of them are sitting outside and she’s got dirty hands and she’s breaking off pieces of chocolate with her dirty hands. And the two of them are sitting there in awkward silence, chattering and let’s just you know, a little bit of talk. The halftrack pulls up, they call for a nurse she rushes to it. It This is something that I don’t believe we’ve seen a lot of and this is the idea of obligation and the idea of service and without sounding, you know a little bit too propagandized by Band of Brothers, I would say this, I remember what it was like to look at the way that the era of the 1970s in the 1980s looked at the subject of war, and particularly as that related to filmmaking. And that era was typically following a very standard new American discourse on war, which is post modern in nature, which is disenchanted and cynical in nature. Vietnam did that. Vietnam did that to us. The Cold War did that to us. And I understand that it became art to rather than be patriotic, and rather than emphasize ideas of duty, optimism, courage and sacrifice, rather than emphasizing those ideals, it became fashionable to emphasize disenchantment and cynicism. And that is really the struggle that we continue to fight to this day in American society, the struggle of what are we we still don’t know? Do we want to be modern and recognize patriotism and nationalism? Or do we want to be postmodern, and say, postmodern and post structuralist and say things like all nation states only bring oppression and only bring doom and gloom and death, and they only create plutocratic oligarchies. And that Americans should have only been lured into thinking this, this false mythology of an American dream and individuality and liberty. What we can’t decide which one we are. And I think that we can still accommodate both ideas and our overall political and cultural outlook. But to push back into the main point, it’s that also
Marty Morgan 36:49
the movies that were presented and served up to us during the 70s. And 80s, didn’t look like this. They they tended to do something that I found was, I think it was, I think it was a negotiation with the two warring sides or to divorcing parents of, of the old ideas of nationalism and the postmodern ideas of cynicism. And they negotiated a center ground which I think you can see represented in movies like platoon quite nicely, and that is that they had negotiate this idea of butterflies in the hurricane, that were just people and were caught into these bigger events and you know, curses to the big man and to the fat cats and the plutocrats that put us here and the circumstances and we’re going to stand for each other where they they’re not finding a deep connection to ideas of nationalism, so they’re not like blindly patriotic. They’re very nihilistic and their outlook. And I think, at least one thing that I absolutely adore about Ben brothers is that it brings me into a conversation about those ideas, because I think you see both ideas well represented in Band of Brothers. There’s patriotism, flagwaving. And there there are there there is a there’s a sense of people standing for something. And people representing ideas, and I should say ideals. And then there’s also a little bit of disenchantment, and I think we see that fairly regularly. We see that reflected by, for example, the attitudes toward senior leadership and Norman Dyck, and even there’s a couple of shots taken it, Robert Strayer. In the series, we were asked to entertain ideas of postmodern skepticism from time to time in the series. But in this one little vignette of Eugene and Rene sitting there halftrack pulls up, what is it that’s driving her forward? It’s this sense of service and obligation and helping, it’s not people, it’s a different idea than that which is compelling. Eugene, I don’t want to say that entirely. Because when this anonymous soldier is in there, bleeding to death, Eugene immediately responds, but a large part of the genes character throughout all of this is that he’s providing immediate medical intervention for people that he knows people that he lives with people he spends every moment with. And Renee, on the other hand, is providing medical intervention for people that she’s never even going to know their names, and she’ll never see him again. And I find that to be a fascinating moment when she rushes off to the halftrack. Because what’s pulling her into that? It’s not these ideas of I know this person. It’s the it’s ideas of service and duty. And I think part of the reason that we’re still talking about this miniseries 20 years later, is because we’re not often presented with these ideas. And with the relationship of these two, which I think is so beautifully depicted, were brought into that conversation. And this is one of the things that makes me value Ben brothers
Dan LeFebvre 39:46
certainly not depict it in a way that as well as it is, in this series, or in this episode, in particular, for sure.
Marty Morgan 39:53
Yeah, they could have been distracted into negative things. The Lesser filmmaker would have made their relationship more gratuitous. I’m Saying gratuitous like sexually, but it would have made it more over the top more Broadway more, you know, swelling music. And instead, these filmmakers presented that relationship in this very subtle way. And I wanted an unspoken way. And I responded to that in a very favorable way, obviously. And I think, I wonder why? Because that’s one thing. I’d love to ask McKenna because I wonder if he made it subtle, deliberately because he knew that he was borrowing two stories that weren’t really related together weren’t really related. And he was kind of forcing them together. Maybe it was that or maybe he just from the start just had a respect for that, and his prep work and his research and reading. As he began working on the series, maybe he read her story and admired that story, because, I mean, I’ll let the cat out of the bag, the Renee lamere story has a tragic ending. And that is that she is ultimately killed during a German heavy artillery bombardment that occurs on Christmas Eve. And she was at the time working within the aid station for the 20th armored infantry battalion of the 10th Armored Division in downtown Bastogne, in a building that is now a Chinese restaurant, and a particularly bad Chinese restaurant, I should mention, in the center of the city, that aid station was bombarded by the enemy. And over 30 people were killed soldiers. And then of course, also Rene lamere, which is something that is not directly thrust in our face in the series. But it’s something that in a very subtle, and how would I put it a very it’s a very subtle and indirect way. It’s presented where you see, Eugene has gone into the city. It’s after this bombardment, it’s after German airplanes fly overhead. And he runs to the scene of the church where, where he had encountered her, and it’s all damaged and collapsed in and, you know, he finds what is it that he finds? I think it’s is it part of her apron or part
Dan LeFebvre 42:04
part of either apron or like bonnet or something? Yeah, it’s something that we had seen her wearing before,
Marty Morgan 42:09
right. And then, and then then also just a big theme going here, where they, they present something and then they pay it off. When that’s presented, he finds that it’s this subtle and indirect way of saying she’s dead, she died. And he reflects on that he takes it with him. Then Meanwhile, he goes back up to the front line, and somebody’s bleeding and he pulls that out. And it’s this moment of reflection, all of itself, so beautifully done. But Rene Lama was not an aid station associated with 100. And first Airborne Division she was she was in an aid station associated with the 10th arm division. So she therefore was not really in a position to be dealing with 100 and first Airborne Division paratroopers, I’m sure she did, because there were 100 and first Airborne Division paratroopers all over faststone and Bastogne is not that big. But we have to recognize we have to admit that we’re looking at an interaction that probably did not happen. I’m not here to say that it’s lacking or that it’s bad because of that, but it is something that probably didn’t happen.
Dan LeFebvre 43:08
At the end of Episode Six. There is some text on the screen that explains that on December 26 1944, General Patton’s Third Army broke through the German lines and that allowed wounded to be evacuated and badly needed resupplies. Then there’s some text that explains the story of the Battle of the Bulge, as it is told today is one of patent coming to the rescue of the 100 and first airborne, even though no member of the 101st has ever agree that the division ever needed to be rescued. Is that true?
Marty Morgan 43:39
No, In a word, I understand it, I get it. It’s it’s a level of unit bravado that I find very admirable. And I would never dream of denying the 100 and first Airborne Division, that legacy and I would never confront anybody in the one Oh, first about this. But at the same time, there are some realities that we have to discuss. And those realities are limited number of people. The enemy has overwhelming numerical superiority. And they were running short on supplies and every category imaginable. And what this means now is that they were in a race against time. And that race against time, which was declining quantities of ammunition, declining quantities of medical supplies, and the declining quantities of medical supplies. That’s a theme in this episode that’s very well presented. And we’re dealing with a challenge is as simple as Eugene is trying to find a good pair of scissors,
Dan LeFebvre 44:37
took me a long time to find those scissors.
Marty Morgan 44:39
He eventually gets the scissors but it’s a long time to get that payoff. And the reality was that if the battle had taken a turn in one direction or the other if as elements of 37 thing, take battalion from Patton’s fourth Armored Division if if that battalion had been more energetically opposed by the Germans as it attempted to reach Bastogne. The perimeter around Bastogne would have been facing some harsh realities. And I would predict perspective by mentioning one thing that I find, tends to sit outside of the traditionalist narrative of the basketball battle. And that is that we had a large not want to say large, but we had a respectable quantity of artillery inside the best on perimeter during the course of the battle, or during the course of the siege, and the artillery that was there, brought ammunition with it when it came up, the artillery was delivering fire missions on almost a daily basis. And until about 4:30pm on December 26, the supply of ammunition for those artillery pieces was finite, and it was dwindling with each passing day. With it once we eventually see this moment where a tank from C company or something Italian, called Cobra King drives into the perimeter at best, it drives and approaches the southern perimeter of best town. And when it reaches the perimeter, it’s the moment that we recognize as marking the end of the siege, we have relieved Bastogne, but we only relieved it with a very narrow corridor. So even though we like to point to that moment as being the moment where it’s over, Patton’s Third Army reached us. It’s not over yet, because a process then had to begin and began on December 27, of widening the corridor. Because the corridor was just this narrow, narrow corridor was basically one road wide, leading up from a town called sn Wah to the south, leading into the southern approaches the best on the process of widening the corridor would involve more fighting, it would cost more lives. And that process would go on for the next few days, those days that would pass all the way up until basically the new year. So there’s no foregone conclusion at any moment in any of this. There’s never a moment where you can say, oh, now we have that because any well organized and well directed German counter attack against that quarter could have severed it and best on would have been encircled again. That didn’t happen. As much as I respect the combat prowess and the expertise of the men of the 101st Airborne Division, and the men of the other units in the in the best on parameter in the ninth Armored Division and the 10th Armored Division and all these other supporting units. They were in a race against time that they could never win. They could never win it. If it went more than 10 days. They were done, and they would have to surrender. And so yes, it took somebody establishing an overland corridor to reach the city. Of course, now we know that before that overland corridor was established, it was possible to, through an air link, provide some provisioning of the city of Bastogne. And that was all great. No, because you could get ammo and get med supplies and you could get other important things. In fact, a glider flew in an entire surgical team into the city, which is a harrowing and very admirable thing that happened. But at the same time, you couldn’t evacuate casualties. And you couldn’t do that. And that’s a point that’s brought out nicely in Episode Six, where, you know, when, when Eugene makes his first trip to this aid station, this sort of slightly fictitious aid station and church that also includes Rene lamere, who was with an aid station for another division. When he comes in and he sees the basically the pews are lined with wounded men that need to be evacuated. He says, Why haven’t these men been evacuated yet? Which is when he receives the news that that’s because we’re surrounded, we can’t evacuate anybody
Marty Morgan 48:38
that was eventually going to produce circumstances where the man exerting command, Tony McAuliffe, who was the divisional artillery officer flattered. First, were general McAuliffe was going to have to make a decision to surrender. And of course, we know that the Germans were demanding that surrender as of December 22, which is when the famous ultimatum comes in through the lines of F company, 327 fighter Infantry Regiment. There have been two German officers brought to general college headquarters at the barracks and vest on. And when that ultimatum is presented to general McAuliffe, he, of course responds with nuts as his responses in a famous moment that we all talk about, and that is also depicted in the series. That was all well and good in December 22. But on December 22, Tony McAuliffe didn’t know how this battle was going to end. None of them knew. What’s the endgame here. All they knew was that they had to hold out. And this idea of holding out and staying where you are and doing your duty, it descended from Tony McAuliffe, all the way down to the enlisted ranks in the company 506 all the way down to Rene lamere.
Dan LeFebvre 49:41
Did they have contact did they know that Patton was trying to work his way through or were they just waiting and hoping that somebody would be coming,
Marty Morgan 49:48
they had contact, they were able to communicate, they were able to communicate using radio because they were cut off. But radio communication during the Second World War was something that was very limited. Nevertheless, there was a radio link that was Established by which the perimeter was capable of communicating to the outside. Although they could communicate, they still were suffering under the adverse circumstances of trying to deal with the weather, trying to get through intense enemy opposition. And it was all as a part of the overall background of the largest ground battle that American forces will fight during the Second World War. It’s a point that I find because I’ve been leading tours in the area of the Battle of the Bulge for 20, almost 20 years now. And one thing that I find and basically educating people about the Battle of bulge is that not everyone’s a history major, not everyone’s going to take these facts and details and commit them to memory. And then Ben brothers comes along, and it provides something that’s very engaging and very compelling. And people got very enthusiastic about it, to the point that they focused on the story of a company. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s a broader story out there. And that broader story, I think, makes the company story all the more compelling, because that broader story is that all along this line, we’re fighting this intense battle against an enemy, who we had here, too, for assumed was getting close to the end of his rope. And instead, what happens on December 16, it 44 the Germans throw 250,000 men at us and a counter attack that, at least on the highest levels of command was not fully anticipated. So it’s I think, important to it’s great to be enthusiastic about a company and to get interested in the best known story. And Bastogne is one small chapter, out of about 100 other chapters that were unfolding just in the Battle of the Bulge at about the same time. And it’s, it’s a strange reality emerges in attempting to become someone that can educate people about the Battle of the Bulge. And a problem that I experienced with it, when I took it on, is that it’s effectively a lifetime, you have to, you have to have more than a decade of your life to commit to meaningfully important dedicated study of the Battle of the boasts a subject before you really get to a point where you begin to get it to where you grasp the bigness, I remember that when I was traveling there, I remember the at least the first five years was spent being lost. I spent that first five years just gone. Wait, wait a minute, where am I? Where’s this where? And then I’d read something like, Where’s losery? Wait, where’s hammer rule and ruse losery? And where are they in relation to basketball and and eventually, there’s basically only one solution to that and is that it’s just committed to memory. And that takes time, it takes a lot of time. In order to get to the point where you appreciate the breadth of the battle, you kind of end up spending the better part of your adult life, not everybody, everyone’s going to do that. But everybody I think still is not everybody with a large number of people are still very interested in the story. And with that interest, I find Band of Brothers provides you sort of the perfect table setting. It’s the perfect presentation, here’s a manageable chapter of this broader story. And it’s good, we’re going to depict it for you, in a compelling way, with beautiful people who act great. And you’re going to love it. And we all still love it
Dan LeFebvre 53:22
sounds like they made the right choice, though. I mean, granted, the story of Easy Company goes beyond just the Battle of the Bulge. But to focus on a smaller portion of it. Like if they tried to do too much, there’s a lot of movies and TV shows that try to do too much. And as a result, it gets lost. And I think it’s you know, it sounds like by taking at least a smaller portion of it, you’re able to tell that story a lot more effectively and draw people in a lot more so so that they can you know, take the time to learn more about the rest of the story. Exactly.
Marty Morgan 53:53
I can bounce it off of what I sometimes given to calling the worst movie ever made, which is the 1965 movie The Battle of the Bulge, which is a movie that tried to do it all. And that movie has lots of problems. And that movie, I think suffered from the attempt to do too much that you just identified.
Dan LeFebvre 54:13
It sounds like you’d have to come back on and talk about that one
Marty Morgan 54:15
that. That would be a fun one. That would be a fun one. I gotta tell you. I mean, it’s so funny that I mean, I think back to that a few minutes ago, I was talking about the 70s. And really the 60s 70s and 80s. It produced basically a genre of film. I think people will sometimes sort of coarsely just say there’s, there’s war movies. Well, I would I would identify multiple sub genres within the war movie genre, because I find that there’s that from the 60s 70s and 80s. There’s a post modernist war movie, and the parameters really are like, sort of like either man, they’re keeping us down. rich man’s war poor man’s fight, where lions being led by asses we You’re the victims of these larger political forces. And it’s all very disenchanted very cynical. Prior to that, there was an era where everything was sort of like syrupy over the top. flagwaving corny patriotism. I’m not saying that patriotism is corny, I am saying that the way that it was depicted in films in the 1940s and 1950s, it has a quality now that we can’t digest it. When I look back at like a movie I really like is the movie defensive Wake Island that came out during the war. I’ll go back and watch it over a movie like wall canal diary from during the war, I’ll go back and look at him. And I’m like,
Marty Morgan 55:39
I get it Okay, or, well, that’s very close to me From Here to Eternity. It didn’t go down easy anymore. Different time, we’re a different audience. And the audience that was consuming this product, in the 40s, and 50s. They were being served with totally different products. And it was patriotism in a way, if it was a patriotism that doesn’t look like the patriotism we have now today, we still have it, it’s not gone. But at the same time, there’s still something there, it’s less over the top. And if you could attenuate ideas of cynicism, and over the top patriotism, if you can attenuate those ideas and find a middle ground, I find that Band of Brothers often strikes that middle ground in a way that resonates with me for the historical time period that I’m consuming that product. If my grandfather came back, I wonder how he would look at it. I know a little bit about the way that the veterans of EZ company reacted to the series. And it was not all favorable, just for the record. I think they were more than happy to be made slightly famous for a while in the latter years of their lives. But they were also quite critical about it. Can I give you some insider gossip real quick. This is Access Hollywood, Vanna brothers. So I had worked at this Museum in New Orleans at the time that better brothers came out. And we had a premiere event where they show that one hour treatment of the 10 hour Broadway series. And we showed that we had a large number of the the veterans of Easy Company will present for that premiere event. And I’m jumping ahead a little bit we have a rendezvous with the SEC seen coming. It’s the only sex scene in the series. And you know what I’m talking about? It’s in that episode seven, episode eight. I think it is depicting a GI fraternizing fraternizing with a German woman. And I remember that the veterans were deeply offended by that, at this premiere event, because that little cut of this man and this woman engaged in sexual Congress that offended them, and they were infuriated. Not all of them, but many of them were. And I remember thinking like, yeah, I guess that would be a little weird. For me sitting there with my grandchildren. That might be a little awkward, I could see that. But at the same time, I think what it does is it illustrates what their idea of the series should have looked like. Because I think their idea would be one where sexuality is not a part of the conversation. In my years of conducting interviews with World War Two veterans, those years are almost completely over now. Mainly, because there’s no veterans left, there’s still some out there, but there just aren’t enough for it to be meaningful anymore. But in my years, I could see how they were not all that receptive to bringing things like direct sexuality into it, at least not like in the presence of their families, or at least not to the full extent, that ideas of racism, were not necessarily something that were situated in the way that it would be presented to the broad audience that might include the grandchildren, that they might add a conversation with me talk about sex and race a little bit. And they might talk about it with candor. But when it’s there, and it’s in front of their children, and they’re a named character as a part of a mini series that’s based on a true story. They were not entirely comfortable with it. And I think what they might have wanted a little bit more of was sort of the 1940s and 1950s approach, that sub genre of the war movie, rather than the late 20th century sub genre of war movie, because they’re two different animals. To just lump them into war movie is so unfair. And it’s I think, also unfair to take Banda brothers and bounce it off of lesser movies. I won’t name any because I’ve had too many friends that have gotten very upset with me for trashing their movies. But let’s be honest, in the last 20 years since Banta brothers have their brother has anything else come out that can compare?
Dan LeFebvre 59:38
I mean, there’s a reason why we’re talking about this 120 years later.
Marty Morgan 59:42
There is and and that’s the kind of big part to play in it. And it’s just because nothing else has really come around. And it’s there been a bunch of movies they’ve been I for the most part, lesser movies, the Brits are pretty good ones like I’m a huge fan of Finn red line. I think I greatly admire that film. But it’s sort of fun. And it wasn’t even all that popular. Anyway, I just mentioned it just because it’s, I think, unfair to take Banda brothers and compare it to something like now I’m just I’m going to name one this one’s largely safe. I won’t make very many people angry at this to lump Band of Brothers in with wind talkers. For example, it’s not entirely fair, I don’t think it’s it does service to better brothers because Band of Brothers is having a far more complicated conversation with ideas like nationalism, and post modernism and romance and nihilism, and disenchantment, all of these beautiful ideas that I’d love to think about. They’re all there. But that’s why this series, it’s so much fun to turn back to the series periodically, and have those conversations all over again. And also, to watch it. So well depicted, like details that emerge in this episode that I just admired is such an extent, like one thing that this episode does. Well, I mean, it’s the series in general, is there’s a dedicated there was a dedication to accuracy and portraying weapons equipment, and uniforms and banner brothers that, that I To this day, I just, I can’t help but admire it. There are moments in that, particularly the patrol when Eugene is asked to stay back, the patrol goes out. And Julian, PFC, Julian gets killed. In that scene where you there’s a point where you see the machine gunner, and he’s moving with the browning in 1919, a six light machine gun. And that is a level of detail that I appreciate, because that is a weapon that is being used by airborne units for the first time during Operation Market Garden. And it’s being used, it’s used extensively by the 100, and first Airborne Division during the Battle of volts. So that I can’t help but admire the filmmakers, who they make a commitment early on to depicting those details correctly. And there was a commitment with Banda brothers that there hasn’t been in other projects. I think it’s spoiled us. Because we’ve looked at other movies as other movies has come out, we’ve kind of I at least I know I have had a higher expectation that they would live up to that. And Bana brother said, a very high bar with that authenticity, and it’s still something that I admire about it. So it wasn’t perfect. Because I don’t think it’s possible to achieve perfection. But it was very, very close to perfect.
Dan LeFebvre 1:02:23
You make a great point, like when you’re talking about Eugene and Rene, if they had been historically accurate, we would not know about Rene. So in that way, I think end of the day, what what it’s a TV show, it’s not a documentary, it’s, you know, it’s, it is an entertainment medium, right? I mean, it’s telling a real story. But it is an entertainment medium, and so it’s not going to be 100% accurate. And so I think they made some of those choices, specifically to be able to tell her a nice story and to be able to put a spotlight on on her and what she did. And if they were being 100% accurate, we wouldn’t know.
Marty Morgan 1:03:01
We would know our story. And you know, there’s another story there that I haven’t mentioned yet, but I’ll mention it briefly is that there are depictions of a dark skinned woman in the aid station with Rene lamere. And that woman, although she’s not named, and she doesn’t have dialogue. Her name was Augustus Shui, and she only passed away in August of 2015. But a gusta was Belgian Congolese meaning that she was descended from Congolese parents during the colonial period, when the Belgians had a colony in the Congo, obviously. And a large number of Congolese people came back and there to this day in towns like Brussels and liasion, Antwerp, their entire areas where Congolese people live, and it creates a multicultural, a dark skinned reality and modern Belgian society. And that reality was there. 76 years ago during the Battle of the Bulge, and Augustus Shui she did just along with Rene Lemaire serve on a voluntary basis, she was lucky enough to survive and live to old age something that Renee lamere never had a chance to. She lived to 30. And that’s as far as she got a gusta ci, we stretched it all the way until 2015. And I met her twice I think it was and we know her story now, because Bruce McKenna made these decisions. If I ever get a chance to meet him, strangely, I worked on a project with him, but I didn’t get to meet him. But if I ever do get to meet him, I’d love to go, you know, when you wrote an Augusta chaoui character into the screenplay, or to the story for Episode Seven, did you think that you were going to be creating an A star, I mean, he became a star, she became somebody I said, Episode Seven, Episode Six. She became somebody that people got interested in and people read up on and study and now there have been books written about her and there was a documentary made about her. So The enthusiasm that is directed toward Rene lamere, to an equal extent is directed toward Augustus Shui is as well. And by God that is a greater good on every level. Because that’s a fascinating aspect of the human story of the Second World War, the experience of Afro Belgians one has anybody ever talked about that? gusta, chewy, became later in her life, someone who was recognized, decorated and celebrated because of this series. And I think that’s an absolutely incredible thing. And I wonder sometimes, Bruce McCain, I’m sure it may be I’m not imagining him being up, pat yourself on the back type. But, you know, I wonder if he ever sits back and does the math. And that math would include like, he made several people in several different nations care about two women who otherwise would never have been central in the story of combat during the Second World War. And we are so much the better for knowing who Rene Lemaire and Augusta ci we were.
Dan LeFebvre 1:06:06
Well, if we head back to the show, we are now at episode number seven. It’s called the breaking point. According to some voiceover from Lipton Easy Company is called on to help push the Germans back through the Bulge. So we go from Bastogne to the our den forest on January 2 1945. Can you give us some more geographical context to clarify these two locations and some maybe some historical context around where the Allies were and where the German lines were at this point?
Marty Morgan 1:06:34
Right at the point where we begin Episode Seven Bastogne is no longer surrounded, there’s a corridor that’s connecting Bastogne to friendly units to the south. That doesn’t mean that the fighting is over there. I found overwhelmingly in trying to educate people about the battle the bulge, is that we believe that in the afternoon on December 26, when Cobra King drives into the basketball parlor perimeter, they imagined that it was all over and it was all done with but the reality is, is that beyond that moment beyond December 26,
Marty Morgan 1:07:08
fighting around Bastogne doesn’t go away, it continues and in fact, it starts getting worse in certain ways. And the way that Easy Company fix it fits into It is that easy company is during this critical time period just after New Year’s, you imagine the perimeter around bellet. Bastogne being a clock Easy Company is basically the 12 o’clock position just north of downtown and Easy Company as we begin, episode seven is occupying positions and a wooded area that’s called the Bois Jacques very close to an old railroad line, just north of downtown, just off to the east side of the highway that runs between Bastogne and towns to the north called no Ville and Italy’s anyway. Easy Company, as this episode begins, is dealing with the harsh experience of living in foxholes, and bitter cold because at this point, you’re you’re there living in temperatures that by by day sometimes climbed up above freezing, but by night, we’re typically below freezing, and camping in weather like that is not fun. And when you add people shooting at you, it really means nobody’s having a great time. And I feel like Episode Seven, it really leans into calling emphasis to this the misery of fighting in this space stage of the Battle of the Bulge. And I think the episode does this very, very well. down to the level of small details like decliners tempting to shave first thing in the morning when it’s when it’s cold outside cracking the ice and the ice and the ammo Can I was winters I think, using his bayonets to try to crack the ice. That’s winters. Yeah. Trying to shave with Germans walking right into your perimeter and just calling a very powerful illustration to the fact that the lines were beginning to get blurred in that area where you had a frontier where at the beginning of the battle when Easy Company first arrives, it passed down, there’s this recap, retraction period where during the siege, the era of the season till the 20 until December 26, they’re attempting to just hang on, and then they push out a little bit and then give up some ground and then now it’s, it’s coming to the point of reckoning and that reckoning is basically the theme of this episode. And the episode builds that suspense in a really cool way that I think that it’s from the outset, they’re talking about being in position self before and how they will eventually have to capture voice. That’s the grand climax of this of this. This episode is that battle. We’ll get to that here shortly, I’m sure. But it all starts off with Easy Company occupying positions in a wooded area that’s called the blashaw literally meaning the jack woods and Easy Company in those positions and the pleasure is dealing with the fact that As a result of units being rotated on and off the line, because that’s a, an element of the Battle of the bolts story that really should be brought out, the series didn’t have enough time to deal with it. But reality was that when you put men up on the line like that, and they’re enduring extremely difficult conditions, and they’re also suffering attrition, not just as a result of enemy action, but also as a result of weather, which is depicted quite nicely here, because in the last episode, they teased something that’s paid off in this episode, and they teased up, teased up this idea that Joe toy is suffering. And he’s suffering it. And it’s depicted nicely in the previous episode where he’s got immersion foot, which was becoming a big problem. And that was a problem that affected the readiness of these units that were having the man this line, because the enemy, even after Christmas, even after New Year’s, the enemies out there, the enemies close, they can’t come off the line, they can’t relax. And that means that men are out there, and men are suffering and we’re losing cash, we’re losing people, we’re experiencing casualties as a result of immersion foot, that’s also known as trench foot. And when you’ve got somebody who develops a case of immersion foot, that truth is not effective. The only way out, is to pull that man off the line, your choices are pulling them off the line and get him and get the condition addressed. Or he will no longer be a soldier killed, lose toes, he’ll eventually no longer be able to serve. And so they were beginning to deal with people that as a result of at this point from what December 9 from December 17 18th, all the way through New Year’s, you’ve got troops that are out there, the bitter cold. And in many cases, as is brought out at the end of that would be Episode Five, they bring out the fact that when they rushed to bass down at the beginning of the battle the balls, they weren’t particularly well equipped for long duration exposure to extreme cold weather. And that ultimately changes a little bit but that doesn’t help us get through Christmas and New Year’s. And so that by New Year’s you’ve got people that are suffering from immersion foot Easy Company is experiencing those casualties because Easy Company is living in foxhole positions that are by night below freezing by day, sometimes creeping up above freezing, but still really cold sometimes not even getting above freezing during the day. And you’ve got guys that are just cold and wet constantly. And that wears people down that wears people down fast. And the these two episodes six and seven really depict that very nicely, especially seven, an easy company’s position now. They’re in positions at the pleasure of the line separating them from the enemy are beginning to blur at this stage, because in order to prevent men from becoming combat casualties as a result of like attrition from whether you rotate them off the line, and so sometimes men from Easy Company rotate off the line. And sometimes you pull an entire company off the line replace it with another company. And this process of juggling units from being on the line to being in reserve. It sometimes leads to it leads to mistakes that happen and one of those mistakes that happens eventually is that on the road leading from a little town that’s called misery to foi which is where Easy Company was in position near halt station in the boy shock on the east side of that row. As it turns out, there’s a section of the shock woods that the enemy ultimately gets into positions there. And what it does is it creates the awkwardness that we see depicted at the outset of this episode and that awkwardness is that you’ve got winters is shaving and
Marty Morgan 1:13:41
a German is coming up to us they’re slit trenches to go to the bathroom and they’re slit trenches and winter season through the mist and he says what what I can’t read what it says does He say Hanta Hawk coming to hear Chanel and and he takes this prisoner in and this prisoner just literally walked into not just the company, mainline resistance, but he walked he came in behind all of that and walked right up on the battalion command post the battalion headquarters because winters is no longer with these accompany winters is now with the battalion headquarters wonders as they’re shaping will back from the main line of resistance and a German soldier walks into their slit trenches. And this is an important point because it precipitates this move that takes place that’s depicted nicely in this episode. And it’s this moment where they engage in what they call the 1000 yard advance some sources call 1000 yard move. And that is where Easy Company advances from the area where I was shocked to clear these woods to basically to the north east of where they were in their positions. I mentioned that because it begins a choreography that is it’s not particularly well represented in the series. I’m not criticizing the series because I think that the series can’t really tell that story. Well, this nuts and bolts movement of sometimes just the company, sometimes the battalion sometimes just parts of a company, sometimes parts of the battalion as these units are being moved around and shuffled to cover all of this line with people who are getting to the end of their rope in terms of what they’ve been called on to do. And as they’re doing this, they engage in this 1000 yard move. They clear the areas, they eventually then come back to the blood shock, but and I think this is an extremely important point to emphasize how easy company is then moved into something that is described in both the books and the miniseries as the woods over looking for. And I have found that over the years, people have assumed that what that meant was the wooded area that we know is the Bois Jacques and basically any tourist visit to Bastogne today involves people visiting the wash off this little section of woods where there are still existing foxholes, some of which are even original from World War Two, not all of them, but some of them. But and it’s still possible to find winters foxhole where this incident happened. And reenactors over time have come in and greatly improved some of the foxholes because it’s now sort of like live action role playing that reenactors will go and camp in the boys Jacques during the first week of January sort of just as a means of having an experiential moment with band brothers and battle the bolts history anyway, but still there, foxholes there and people tend to go there. What is often sort of not recognized and it’s because the series doesn’t really go out of its way to point it out. The series does so in a very oblique way. And that is that they’re in the boy shop, they engage in this 1000 yard advance on January 2, where you have a couple of tragedies where Julian gets killed. And then this this notable moment, where hubler negligently shoots himself in the leg and eventually dies as a result of the world. Then Easy Company recovers from the 1000 yard move. They returned to boy Jacques, but then they continue moving to the west and to the northwest, from the Bois Jacques to a wooded area that we tend to now just call the waterfall zone. And the waterfall zone is between the 13 Highway which is the highway lanes and in Oakville and then the new the modern Interstate and the area. Those are the woods overlooking foie that are indicated by the voiceover, which is carwood Lipton’s inner monologue throughout this episode. And something I’d like to point out real quick is that this episode, Episode Seven differs from the episodes that have come before it and the episodes that come after it insofar as it has an enormous amount of voiceover monologue. You have a little bit of it in previous episodes, but mainly what is carrying this episode forward, is you come back to narration from cart with let them over and over and over again. And that that voice over narration is providing very important exposition about what’s going on. And I mentioned it just because Graham Yost wrote this episode, and I feel for him because how in the world would you write this episode where Easy Company goes on the starts in the bizarre 1000 yard move, then comes back to the shop, then goes back then goes to the butterfly zone, and then goes into reserve, because the Easy Company goes into reserves starting on January 5, they’re on reserve through January night. And then they when they come off of reserve, they go back up through the blood shock. Some men stay in the boys shock and then other men go to the body fat zone where they’re separated by a couple of miles. It’s quite complicated. And that complication I can feel for Graham Yost, because he was like, how do I tackle this? How do I carve this out and make this make sense? I don’t want to go into all of this painful narration of well, a small detachment of Easy Company remained behind and the boys shot, they were temporarily assigned to D company. And while I have to explain all that, the way he solved it, I think is masterful because you know, there’s this there’s this moment that I think is actually charming because this episode exists mainly to develop three characters. And first and foremost, it’s carwood Lipton played by Donnie Wahlberg. Secondly, at the outset, we’re developing the Donald hoobler character, until we say goodbye to him on January 3, then we’re developing. Of course, the Norman dike episode. I don’t have the nor night character. I don’t even want to say his name just yet. But then, more importantly, we’re developing the Ronald spear scare. And I think that we developed him a little bit in Episode Two, and now he’s really getting a great deal of development in the form of this scene that I think is actually kind of charming, and it’s provides this really cool moment of dramatic foreshadowing where we’re reminded that Spears is an admirable character. While we’re simultaneously getting Greek chorus stuff about daikon being not admirable, but the way that it’s done is in this one little this moment where you’ve got Christiansen perconti and one other soldier, I can’t remember who it is. And they’re in their foxhole. And they’re talking about they’re gossiping about Spears, killing the prisoners in Normandy, and then Spears walks up on them, you know that? It’s a great moment. Want a cigarette?
Marty Morgan 1:20:25
Yeah. Exactly. And then everybody’s just sort of locked rigid. And, I mean, it would be wrong for me not to mention the fact that Christiansen is Michael Fassbender at an early moment in his career, and it’s been fascinating to watch where he has gone since they are brothers. And then through what played by James, Madea was perconti. At any rate, we’re getting the development of characters through all of this. And that development is coming mainly through voiceover narration by carwood, Lipton. And as the years have gone by, I’ve tried to think of ways like, well, if I wrote that episode, how would I have written it, I have not come up with a better way of approaching this or tackling this subject. And the way the graham Yost did it. And that is that you’re kind of left with you have to pull everybody right back into the moment, you have to explain there’s a lot of exposition there’s a lot of you have to explain a lot of what’s going on. Because otherwise, it’s the sense behind it is going to be a lot less apparent. And and he did so with all this voiceover monologue, which, under some circumstances can be like it over does it. But I think this, I think it’s just just what we needed. It’s an interesting little change of gears for the series, isn’t it because we weren’t really being moved forward, bit by bit. And then also, it’s there are moments where you’ve got the voiceover narration will give you a line, and then you have characters on screen, providing dialogue that directly relates to what you’re hearing in voiceover narration. And I think it’s just really nice storytelling, and I really like it a lot. And then I suppose I’m gonna go ahead and just rip the band aid off and really get down to it. Because I think that this episode, which I love, it does some very bad things. This episode does something that would be wrong not for us to tackle in this discussion, and that is that it basically abuses the historical legacy of a real person. But we’re not quite there yet, because I haven’t complained yet about the Luger. Can I do that real quick?
Dan LeFebvre 1:22:30
Yes, yes, I was gonna ask you about the loot because it’s it is set up not I think it’s set up actually a few episodes earlier who kind of get the idea that they’re looking for a German German Luger, and then finally find it. I think it’s actually more lucky that is looking for it at one point, and then you know who bill gets it? And this one, and as you mentioned a moment ago, yes, it goes off. I think it I think the the shot in the show, I think it mentioned that it clips his femoral artery or something like that. And so he ends up bleeding out,
Marty Morgan 1:22:58
did that actually happen? It did, indeed, it’s such a sad tragedy. And I should just mention that my study of the history of the Second World War has mainly focused on the American experience in the Second World War. And, as you know, I’m very interested in combat forces where they experience combat and I, through that very interested in weapons and equipment. And a very sad and dark reality that I’ve had to recognize is that during this war, we sent a lot of people overseas in uniform, and a very large number of them, died as a result of negligence and firearms. kmG. And I can’t even begin to tell you, it’s just the relentless bombardment of cases of people who are unintentionally, they unintentionally shoot themselves, they unintentionally shoot another soldier. This is a reality of war. And when you have
Marty Morgan 1:23:47
multiple nations undergoing full national mobilization and sending millions of people in uniform into combat, you’re going to have problems with this. And there was sort of an epidemic of of accidents, often fatal, as a result of firearms negligence. And in this case, you’ve got particularly sad example of that, and that you had the setup and the payoff, and I actually think I might be wrong, but I know for a fact that this is being that this Luger issue is set up and Episode Two, I think I have a recollection that it might have even been set up in episode one. I’m going to go back and look tonight when we get finished, but superduper early, and here we are episode seven and it gets paid off and it’s paid off in tragedy because yes, Hooper does negligently shoot himself. He does not shoot himself with the German POV Luger pistol. He ends up shooting himself with a Belgian pistol that was made by a company called February Nasional that’s often just referred to as fn. It’s the FN model 1900 pistol, which was the first slide operated semi automatic pistol. It was designed by john browning and it was in 32 caliber And I believe there’s even a piece of dialogue where they say something about it. It may it might not be in the series, it might be in writing additional writing about the series, but I know that it has come out where they say the weapon didn’t have a safety and that’s not true. Because if there’s one thing that characterizes john browning in his pistol designs is that he was constantly cautious about designing firearms that have safeties, and in some cases, multiple safeties, for example, he ultimately designed a fistful called the model 1910. And that is a pistol that had three safeties, it had a magazine safety, so if you remove the magazine wouldn’t fire, it had a grip safety that could only be disengaged when you grip the pistol, and then it had a manual safety. Browning didn’t get to that right off the bat browning began realizing that having multiple safeties on a firearm was the best bet he would ultimately then design this excellent method later on, but we’re not here to talk about pistol designs. The reality is that brownings model 1900 32 caliber pistol had manual safety on it. And what probably happened is that hoobler not being familiar with that pistol and also hoobler being I think the extent of his familiarity with, with pan guns would have been with the government issue of 1911, a 145 caliber pistol. And so he gets this Belgian made fn 32 caliber pistol which is taken off of this officer that he this German officer that he shoots off of a horse or off a horseback. And he’s quite proud of it. And he’s talking it up over and over again and eventually ends up shooting himself in the thigh and he perforates femoral artery, and I’m sure you’re aware of it. But if you if you get hit in the femoral artery, things happen so quickly that people rarely they rarely survive it, it. I mean, it happens a minute, you can bleed out in a minute, by being hit there. And that’s what sets the stage for this tragedy. One thing I would love to ask for filmmakers is why you chose the Luger. And I think they probably chose it because then there’s less exposition, where you’ve just sat through my exposition about, here’s the brownie model 1900, or the FN model 1900 pistol designed by john browning, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, safety, manual safety, you know, they don’t need all that nonsense. All of that is just blah, blah, blah, that doesn’t have a place in this storytelling. And rather than trying to carve out very specific realities about what the pistol was, and realize, they just chose to go with Luger and Luger is something it’s one word, it’s very easily recognizable. It’s probably the most famous of all the German pistols. And just they’ve made a decision, filmmakers made a made a decision in favor of storytelling. And I really just can’t criticize them for that I can respect that decision. Because what what’s the story here? What is the story we’re telling, for telling the story of the breaking point, that’s where we are. And part of that story is that people are miserable people who are suffering Easy Company is going through this period where it’s experiencing its greatest level of attrition. And men are dropping like flies from contact with the enemy, from the natural environment, and then also from the capriciousness of the experience of modern war where you have a great guy that’s with you from the start. And he pops himself in the leg with this pistol he wasn’t familiar with, and he’s gone like that. That’s the story that they’re telling. It’s not meant to be a lecture about German handguns in World War Two.
Dan LeFebvre 1:28:31
At that point, it doesn’t really matter what the weapon is, they’re telling the story that this tragedy happened. Exactly. And that
Marty Morgan 1:28:37
I find that’s an extremely compelling set piece. And the across this broader episode, where we see a lot of people, either they’re gone for good, or we see them irrevocably changed. And I say I use irrevocably changed, because we have to confront something that’s about to happen in the overall company experience of World War Two, and that is the night of the bombardment, before midnight, January 9 1945. And pre dawn January 10 1945. The experience of that time period, January 9, and 10th. One cheesy company is subjected to enemy artillery bombardment, we see people killed, we see people wounded. We see people maimed. And then we see one person in the form of Lieutenant Compton, who is irrevocably changed by that experience. He’s not wounded. He’s not killed, but he’s never the same again. And that’s the thrust of this episode. This episode is trying to bring us into this world of appreciation. And it’s doing so in a way that I don’t know that there aren’t many movies that can make you appreciate this dark reality of combat quite so effectively as episode seven a band of brothers. And the Luger story is such an important part of that bigger story. That will include the show And it will include people losing limbs as a result of the shelling and people being literally blown into smithereens people who are, there’s nothing left almost nothing left of them. To make that point sink in, you have to include the Uber story. And I can see why they that why grandma’s looked at this. And when I got it, I gotta streamline this. I’m going to have to change a little bit of the historical narrative, but I’ve got to streamline this. And I’m thankful for that, because that was something that pulled the people’s tug at their heartstrings. And I find myself going to places like the boy Jacques, but I find myself answering questions from people questions, like, you know, like, why is why did the Germans not have a safety on the Luger? And then I go, Well, what actually happened was the Luger has a safety and then I go blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I play that out. And I should thank Graham Yost for giving me a career. Because, in a way, that inquisitiveness, the fan, following that the series develop, has led so many people and to ultimately making a decision to engage in historic travel to these locations. And this is, that’s something that, at least until 2020 I was involved with. And these are the conversations that we would have at places like the blackjack, where they would ask me, you know, why was the looper so dangerous? And, and I, misrepresenting how I feel about it, I actually welcome the opportunity to discuss things like that. And this series has given me opportunities now for 20 years to discuss things like what happened to him. And so don’t get me wrong. I’m not disrespectful to the series. I’m very appreciative of it.
Dan LeFebvre 1:31:46
Well, you alluded to something that I wanted to ask you to dig into a little bit more and that is the shelling we see Joe Toye and Bill Garner just get severely wounded. And as you mentioned, but Compton, he’s right there, he sees his two friends lying on the ground. He he shaken up robot, he’s not physically injured himself. But you know, you can tell he’s just broken by that. And then soon after that, we see malarkey starts to hit his breaking point. Lipton manages to get malarkey off the line a little bit, tongue, go Say goodbye to book and then Lipton voiceover comes into play here again, he said, you know, even going back 50 yards for an hour or two can make a big difference in the soldier state of mind. And since the title of this episode is the breaking point, we’re starting to see the breaking point here. What was the the mental state like for the men of Easy Company at this point in the war,
Marty Morgan 1:32:35
we’re starting to see a large number of the men exhibit symptoms of combat exhaustion. I believe when we when we talked last time, a subject that came up was that the way that I have had combat veterans express it to me and I was raised by a combat veteran, just for the for the record, I’ve not been in combat myself, but my father was, it was in kind of a lot of it. The way that I’ve had multiple combat veterans express it to me is that you think of it as like a bottle, and the bottle can be half empty or half full. And that bottle is how much hardship you can endure. And some people have a bigger bottle than others. And that the process of basic training and the hardships that you endure during basic training are designed to figure out who has a bigger bottle than other people. And that then you send the people with the biggest possible bottle off to endure the realities of combat. And even then, you get people that get out into the into it, and they can handle it easy. But only for a certain amount of time. There are some people that can handle all of it. And in some cases in my life, I’ve met people like that where no matter what hardship was presented to them, they just managed it. And some people just were out faster than others. When you add to that the wild card of seeing people that have become a part of your immediate friend cohort and your immediate tribe, because there’s been some fascinating recent writing about how for men and women in combat, that it becomes sort of a tribal experience that they develop a tribal kinship with the people they’re with and experiencing combat with that when you see those people one after the other getting snuffed out, it traumatizes you, I believe what it does is it makes makes it forces you to confront the possibilities of your own mortality. And that you then tie to that the emotional connections that you have with other people that are taken away, and they’re taken away as a result of the fighting. They’re taken away over stupid things like a negligent discharge of a captured pistol. They’re taken away because of minor wounds they’re taking taken away because they just can’t take another minute of it and they psychologically reached a breaking point. And this whole episode meditates on that which is why I think this episode is so incredibly important to do overall story being told in Band of Brothers and this this episode is so good and doing that it does it so very very well than it doesn’t excruciating Lee well with the way that it shows but Compton come up and begin to crumble when he sees toy and Garnier maimed for life. It shows malarkey beginning to crack. Because people that were so close to him, we’re just they’re now gone. And it shows how, how important the main character of this episode is to keeping it all together. And the the central character here is of course car would look that this is his episode. I just cherish this moment of interaction between Lipton and malarkey, where malarkey is just he’s not doing well. I think in fact, the voice over narration that we get about this is that it’s relating to mock and pen color, which we should talk about, but just to, you know, to preview that and talking about mocking bacala carwood. Lipton’s voiceover ends up saying mocking bacala we’re good men. Their death hit malarkey, the hardest, malarkey his best friends in the company had been Compton mock, and pinkola. In less than a week, he’d seen two of them die. And the actor playing malarkey does this I think a beautiful job a character who let’s just face it that you know, up to this point in the series, a character that’s been sort of jovial and a little bit of a not I don’t want to say clownish but a character that has, at times brought levity to the overall story. This character turns and becomes dark as, as he’s tortured by these people that he was close to being killed and maimed. And this is the essence of the episode. It’s the essence of the breaking point, because that’s what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about how you can take men at their peak of youth and physical fitness, you can take men that are very, very well trained for the experience of combat, you can take men who are veterans of combat, and you can put them in a position where you expose them to such hardships that even they are driven to their breaking point.
Dan LeFebvre 1:37:13
I think that there were some voiceover from Lipton that set it really, really well. And it goes right in line with what you’re saying where there was talking about competent and saying that you’re competent, took everything that the Germans had to throw at him. But the moment that he saw his friends lying on the ground, he just broke and nobody thought the lesser of him for I can’t, I can’t imagine what that would be like. But I think the show does a really good job of telling that his band of brothers, right, so they’re there together. But as soon as they start to see their friends, just in a moment like that right in front of them. And you’re talking about monk and bacala. Those were the Those were the guys that were in the foxhole. Right and direct hit correct?
Marty Morgan 1:37:54
Yeah. Where were let’s just crawling toward them.
Dan LeFebvre 1:37:57
Yeah, let’s just call. They’re like, Oh, come here. Come here. And then yeah, just direct it a moment. They’re gone. Yep. So I’m assuming that actually happened.
Marty Morgan 1:38:04
It did. It did indeed. And to give you a detail that I believe might be edifying for you as that what the series doesn’t tell you is that in the aftermath of all this fighting, there were units that I like to talk about a great deal because I so admire them in their units within the US Army that work. Quartermaster, graves registration companies that come in, in the aftermath battle, they go into areas where there were there were dead, they recover the they recover the dead, they process them, and they take them for burial. Well, the quartermaster graves registration unit that eventually comes to the woods and comes to the area around foi and recon. Yeah, they collect up the dead, they temporarily bury them. And there is a there’s still a German cemetery and recording right next to Foy. But there used to be an American Cemetery, there were about 2700 Americans were buried, they remained there for 44 to 48. Till they and then they were ultimately taken and concentrated at an American Cemetery, just outside of Luxembourg City. mk and pakala. There were actually remains of them that were recovered. However, the when the family received telegrams, the telegrams that they received, were explaining to them that they were at first they were missing in combat, and then eventually what they received was a separate category, separate from the categories that were more familiar with. And those categories are KWI A and POW killed wounded in prisoner of war or am I missing an action in addition to those categories, k wi Mia and PA W. In addition to those four categories, there’s another category that’s called f o. d finding of death in the United States Army created this category for cases. Just like what happens to Skip mark and Alex pinkola when they’re killed in the bada fest on January 10, and that is that you had a first person eyewitness to what happened to them. And in this case, it was Lutz who watched them die. And then they’re on an immediate basis were no remains left, a US Army graves registration team goes to the water fasm goes to that foxhole, it finds human remains. And, and to a certain degree, those remains were identify a bull. So at first, somebody says I saw him died, then they’re missing. And so from January 10, when they’re killed, until eventually when a graves registration team gets there, which is months later, the family, the family has to know what happened to them. And there’s this interval of time. And the government couldn’t tell you one way or the other because the government didn’t have proof of their death in the form of their bodies. And but the government did have the personal testimony of an eyewitness. And so the government had this category fo D. And they were both given that category. Until then, subsequently, a graves registration team recovered remains, as my understanding that they recovered remains at the hole where MK and pinkola died. They recovered them all in basically one group. And then after the war, they were separated enough that they could be compared against paperwork. And it was possible during this post war time period to identify, okay, this part of the remains belongs to skip muck. This part belongs to Alex and Kala so that eventually, they were reinterred in Luxembourg in identified graves. And they’re both there to this day, when I visit that cemetery with guests on tour, we typically go by and visit both of them. Because that story is compelling. That story says something I think important about what was going on. And that is that not everything is neat and clean. And families might just get this telegram that’s not really telling you one way or the other, not just for the record nine, nine times out of 10 when they got notified of someone being Mia, that would eventually turn into the either confirmation by the recovery of remains as K or it might just be a finding of death during the course of the war. And that’s what happens with mckeithan Cola, although in the aftermath of the war, eventually enough of their remains were identified for them to be buried. But that wasn’t done during the wartime so the family didn’t get Telegraph’s announcing to miss Kay, they got Telegraph’s announcing a finding of death in the matter. Wow. Yeah, harsh.
Dan LeFebvre 1:42:43
I mean, it’s incredibly important role to be able to identify that but I could not imagine the horrors of war as it is, but to be a part of a unit that goes in and has to identify pipe.
Marty Morgan 1:42:58
I couldn’t imagine not to put too much of a gruesome point on it. But I have worked sort of on a long term basis on two stories about Normandy that relate to the subject of my first book, The 5/7 Parachute Infantry Regiment. And that was over recovery of remains of Americans at two villages, one called MMA one called clen. And at MMA, they were Americans who were murdered by the Germans. And film footage exists of the summation of their dead body. So for 16 days, in June 1944, these Americans were, they were temporarily buried at this in this churchyard of this little village. And then the Americans, as a part of a war crimes investigation came back and recovered their graves. And they filmed the recovery because they it was important to document what was happening for this war crimes investigation. And the footage, it’s, if you want to see it, I’ll send it to you, I can’t look at it anymore. It is so horrible. It’s what you’re seeing are people that had their brains blown out. And then you’re seeing their bodies after they were buried for 16 days. And the footage is a part of this recovery. It’s showing the men of this graves registration team that goes back and recovers the bodies of these men who had been murdered. I can’t imagine the nightmares that those people must have had in the years after the Second World War. I can’t imagine but
Dan LeFebvre 1:44:27
it’s, I still see me so important to able to tell the families like what to give them that confirmation of what happened. And you know, to be able to identify that it’s,
Marty Morgan 1:44:37
I’ve already kind of brought this up. But I want to use this now to explain a certain point. And that is I’ve already brought up the idea of the sub genre of war movies from the 60s 70s and 80s. In the era of I’m just going to name it I’m going to just call it post modernist war movies, the the disenchanted and cynical war movie. That’s an era that could never explain What I have seen from the greatest registration teams during the Second World War, because what I have seen is that an analogue time period, these Americans approached the most gruesome job of them all, with such care and purpose and conviction that your I am almost eight decades later. And I’m kind of examining the work that they did. While camping in the field during a war. I’m examining the work that they did in an analog era. And I find so few mistakes, that it’s astonishing. And during a time period, when it would have been easy to make a whole bunch of mistakes, I find that these people rarely made them. And then when you see photography of the men working, it’s especially fascinating because the reality of the of the American military in the Second World War is that it was the subject of segregation. African Americans served in segregated units. And sometimes they served in these Quartermaster graves registration units, as grave diggers. And there are photographs that show an army chaplain standing over a grave because they would, they would establish a temporary cemetery, the bodies of the killed would be brought to them. And they would one after the other, they process their paperwork because they didn’t want to make any mistakes. They didn’t want to family getting wrong information. And they did so with great care and precision. And then for every one of them, when they were placed in the ground, they had a religious right said, depending on whatever their religious belief system was. So in the army in World War Two, you could be Catholic marked on the dog tags with the C, you can be Jewish, marked on the dog tags with an H for Hebrew, you could be P Protestant, there are Americans of Hawaiian ancestry, who served that are Buddhists and Shinto lists during the Second World War. And the army chaplain corps had to provide for everyone, which I think is a pretty cool thing. And there are photographs that are taken in Normandy of Army chaplain standing over a grave, saying whatever last write that person’s spiritual convictions called on them to say. And then the grave diggers are standing off to the side preparing to put Earth on top of that casket. And they’ve all taken their headgear off, and there was in silent prayer with the chaplain over it. And I find that to be extremely moving. That’s something that doesn’t really I think, fit in the postmodernist genre. Because I’m supposed to be reminded over and over again, that we’re supposed to be cynical and disenchanted. And I look at moments like that, where I see, I don’t know that these differences that the postmodern period wants me to be infatuated with, I don’t know that those differences existed, the way that I think postmodernism sometimes wants them to exist. And I what I see instead is this sort of silent contribution to the war effort of people who had to deal with the dead bodies. And I mentioned the two villages that I deal with MFA where the murder victims were in this other village clan, where the quartermaster graves registration unit had to come in after the fact. And they found a grave site where the Germans had buried our war dead. And they had one area where they had individual graves for complete sets of remains. And then when the Germans collected up the dead, they collected up a bunch of body pieces where they were loosely non associated. You might have a head, you don’t know who it is, you might have an arm or a leg. And the Germans created a separate pit where they buried those two. And so the grace registration team then had to come in exam the complete sets of remains in the pit where the body parts were. And that’s, that’s some dark nightmares right there.
Dan LeFebvre 1:48:48
I couldn’t do it.
Marty Morgan 1:48:49
I don’t think I could.
Dan LeFebvre 1:48:52
We see throughout ever since the beginning of the show, we’ve seen quite a few different leaders of Easy Company. We’ve seen a snowball shot off with and there was Meaghan winters Heyliger for a little bit. And then there’s Lieutenant Norman Dyck, he seemed to in Episode Seven he seemed to pretty much avoid trying to do pretty much anything including making decisions, he will be gone for hours at a time on a walk somewhere. As we start to see the the mental state of easy companies men start to fray. That’s just exacerbated in the episode by the lack of leadership from Lieutenant Dyck. And then finally, when eg company has to assault the ton of foi in the heat of battle, Dykstra seems to crack under pressure, we can see winters watching from the treeline, he gets angry. He’s just watching it again. Like he actually starts to run out there. And then you know, he has
Marty Morgan 1:49:46
to be called back and he said, He’s called back, call back, your leader
Dan LeFebvre 1:49:50
battalion you can’t run out there. Um, so instead he sends Lieutenant Spears to relieve dike and all the men just seem to be relieved that somebody’s competent. In Spears is now in command. How accurate was the show’s depiction of Lieutenant dike?
Marty Morgan 1:50:06
It was deeply inaccurate. And this is really my only criticism of Banda brothers. Because what they did in their treatment of Norman dyke was, I think, unconscionable. I think it’s slightly disgraceful because what the series did for the purposes of certain storytelling. And keep in mind, I love this series, I’m devoted to it. I greatly admire this series and all of the people that were associated with it, and I’m thankful for it. But there’s no other word for me to use, then unconscionable to describe what they did to this person. Because in all realities, it looks like, well, I should put it this way in all realities. The recollections of Lieutenant dike and his career in the United States Army, were not characterized by stupidity, or in decisiveness, or all of basically every way he’s depicted. None of that seems to have been a part of his actual career in the United States Army. In fact, based on all accounts, his leadership appears to have been extremely sound, he doesn’t even seem to have been terribly disliked. Released, there’s really not a significant amount of evidence to suggest that, sure, there was a little bit of moaning and complaining from the company, Ben because they didn’t like him because he didn’t strike the daunting figure that that winters had, or that, for example, spears had or Compton, Compton was an extremely capable leader that everybody likes. But for reasons that I think, are unfair to Dyken, his legacy, he is remembered has not been quite as much of a leader. And I believe that it’s it was circumstantial, to an extent, because imagine the circumstances, it’s almost like the series can’t make up his mind, make up your mind are these people being driven to the breaking point, or is like a terrible leader, you have to make up your mind because you can’t have both the series wants us to over and over again, meditate on the idea of these people are suffering, everyone’s at their breaking point. Their attrition is taking them away at one at a time. And I believe that under those circumstances, it would be easily possible for someone to develop a little bit of bitterness and hostility toward a leader, and particularly toward the leader that they’re on a daily basis working with, and that would have been Lieutenant dike. I also feel like it’s worth mentioning, again, I know I mentioned it last time, but it’s worth mentioning again, that there were some tough boots to fill, when you go from winters to the next person taking over. And it seriously could simply be these negative opinions. They could have lingered when Dr. Ambrose began writing the book. And when Ambrose was hearing from the veterans, during the time when veterans were still alive, it could be that some of that hostility came from less familiarity, where they were far more familiar with winters, they were completely comfortable with winters, they get a new guy, and then they’re thrust into the worst period of suffering that they experienced during the war. I don’t believe that it is inappropriate for me to project into that and go, you know, it’s, you’re asking a lot of people to welcome and warmly greet and outsider. I further to this point, like to observe from time to time that although I wasn’t in the military, I’ve been around it a lot in my life. And I’ve seen the way that people lead in the military. And I have seen over and over again, that there are appropriate places for certain levels of leadership, and that you have a first sergeant who’s on a daily basis right there with the men and interacting directly with them. And you have that first sergeant there for a reason to serve that purpose. That first sergeant’s there to deal with soldier stuff. And then you have officer leadership, and that officer leadership is dealing with a different level of responsibility. And the level of responsibility that that officer leadership is dealing with are things like what the company is supposed to do on a tactical level of keeping the unit supply, communicating effectively with other units. And with that in mind, I don’t believe that it’s necessarily all that unreasonable to expect that your company commander will, on a regular basis have to go back and communicate with the battalion headquarters of the regimental headquarters. That’s not unusual. He might not necessarily be right there in the foxholes with the men at all times. Because this is something that’s being used to pick on Norman Dyson this episode, isn’t it? They’re using this whole thing of dice away making phone calls. And I have to admit, another thing that disappoints me about the series, particularly this episode, is that the way that the character is presented on camera is very clownish and Broadway and exaggerated. We’re sort of clubbed over the head a little bit with Norman Descartes. We were And dunk is like there’s a moment toward the end where there’s a voiceover narration going on Lipton’s talking about it. And it’s depicting some men there with confident and confident looks off dike standing off to the side, and he’s like, I’m not right, Lieutenant. And he goes, Oh, yeah, that’s right. You men, you men handle it, I gotta go call regiment. And it’s depicted in almost this clownish way that to me, it really pulls me out of the series violently because the series is so good. And it’s a moment where it’s a lot less good, I think. And it’s completely unfair, you don’t you’re not here to talk to me about my opinions of Banda brothers. But that’s an opinion. But I’ll move on to the bigger point. I mentioned my opinion simply to say that, as a result of the needs of being able to carry a story, they’re making a villain out of Norman Dyck, and they’re making him into this exaggerated, sickening villain, where he’s completely inept. He’s completely incompetent. And then the big finish of this entire episode, which is the January 13 2045, attack on foi, he is depicted as what coming apart at the seams, which is something that did not happen is so unfair, it is unconscionable for the writers of this series, to have taken a person who actually lived a person who has a family and to misrepresent the realities of his experience in the war to such a degree to engage in character assassination to the extent that they did. If I had unfettered access with David Frankel who directed the episode and Graham Yost, who wrote the episode, I’d say, Why Why did you guys we got so deep into the series held the end of the series is almost in view at this point. Why is it that you had to do this to him? I see
Dan LeFebvre 1:56:47
a very big contrast to that come to a head here in Episode Seven, where when Spears is the one that’s taking over for dike, up until this point, the men have all these stories about spears and how he’s, he’s this this great leader and then when he actually takes over like one of the first things that we see him doing the series, his spirits, runs right through the German line to hook up with a company on the other side of town then runs right back. And so we’re seeing just this brave heroic action from Spears happen, right just moments after we see dike just crumbling under the pressure and we’re seeing these huge contrast there
Marty Morgan 1:57:25
are sniveling, almost childish Dyck, who’s throwing down his handset for his SCR 300 radio in frustration, and he’s taken off his helmet and he’s he’s catatonic. And none of that. Absolutely none of that happened. The reason that Spears takes over is because dike had been injured. But dike was wounded, type of shot and the shoulder. That’s the reason that Spears takes over. And then I’m not here to take away from spears and spears did sort of run through the middle of the battle. But he didn’t run through it and sort of this fortuitous over the top Hollywood Broadway thing.
Dan LeFebvre 1:58:03
You see the German soldiers pointing at him like Wait, what is he? Like?
Marty Morgan 1:58:07
Yeah, dopest German soldiers that go Wait a minute, this American just ran by? It’s very compelling, is it? It’s a kick ass scene. Oh, it’s great scene. Yeah. And it’s sort of happened like that. But I just I feel it’s so unforgivable for them to have made dike and and what he wasn’t type was a white type was wounded on the battlefield and honorably serving in battle when he was wounded at a time and he was wounded in such a way that he could no longer continue to command that unit in action. And that’s why Spears is called and, and the fact that the writers I understand writing, and I understand what they have to do, but the fact that they would do that to somebody who has a living legacy in the form of children and grandchildren. I think it’s very, it’s to put it mildly, very disappointing. I don’t think they needed that. I don’t think that they had to reach and go with the nuclear option the way that they did, they could have, I think, with a much more subtlety, certainly subtlety. That was what was demonstrated elsewhere in the series, they could have with greater levels of subtlety made it out where he’s a little bit less of a commander. But but but you the reason that it’s here, the reason that we’re looking at it is why, because we want to make Spears look decisive. Because, and I’m here complaining about something that I absolutely love. I love the fact that we have a departure from the genre of the postmodernist war movie, we have characters who are depicted as being not just brave, not just honorable, but decisive men of action, something that we universally admire. And we’ve seen winters develop like this. And now we’ve seen Spears developed like this. And as much as I love the fact that these attributes that these characteristics, something that is that is kind of largely been absent from if I could compare it to a movie like Pluto, where you really just don’t see positive attributes well represented and you get what I I believe is this skewed picture of what US Army units fighting in Vietnam look like? Here you have these positive attributes being presented. And I welcome that. And I admire that. And I just wish that they hadn’t assassinated the character of Norman Dyck like they had to get that job done. And if I ever had a chance to talk to them about it, I wouldn’t be careful not to be offensive. But I’d be like, you know, did you guys think about children and grandchildren? When you did this to this man? Did anybody at any point go, you know, you know, you got shot in the shoulder in the middle of the field of battle? And that’s why Spears took over? Did they ever pause and go, Well, you know what, maybe we shouldn’t? Or did you do what I think they did? I think what they did is that they had in Ambrose in the written pages of the book, which is laying around here somewhere. And the written pages of the book, they had some indications of Dyck being a little bit less of a commander. And that they, they just took those and they slammed him into overdrive. And they, they went over the top with it. I think that’s what they did. And I think it was because they had a problem that I sympathize with. And that is that they had to tell a story, they had to tell it in a compelling a compelling way. And they had to take the central cast of characters and elevate them. And part of the way that they have elevated them here, part of the way to elevate Spears, they chose to knock down dike.
Dan LeFebvre 2:01:21
It also elevates Lipton though, because at the end of the episode, there’s a moment where Spears is talking to Lipton. And he flat out says, you know, since since winters left, Lipton has been the leader of EZ company, and pretty much saying that, you know, because dike wasn’t around that, you know, Lipton was the one that was holding them all together.
Marty Morgan 2:01:42
Exactly. But while I think that’s good, and I like that, and carwood Lipton is kind of like he is, you know, the series has character number one, it’s winters, this character number two, it’s hard to say might be lifted, I think it might be lifted. And so I can understand needing to elevate him. And this episode does that that’s the big payoff for the car would lift in character, and that that closing scene where they’re listening to the choir at hospital, and spears has this beautifully written monologue, where it’s like, it’s been you first sergeant. I love that. That’s one of my favorite moments in this in this episode. But to get us there, they felt it necessary to tear down dike. And, and if I could just once again, point back to this is my ideas about post modernism as a sub genre and war films. Because here we see a moment where Band of Brothers, I think, can’t make up its mind. Because on an overall basis, I think that Band of Brothers is presenting as something that fits nicely within one, the patriotic paradigm of remembering the American experience of World War Two, and that is that we fought the good fight, that we did the right thing, and it was the just war. But here, I think what we’re also seeing is a little bit of a glimpse into a band of brothers that also wants to be Platoon, a band of brothers that also wants to go, because there’s even a little line of dialogue that to me, sounds very, very Vietnam to me. And it’s this line of dialogue about it’s a car with Lipton voice over monologue point where I might have written it down. It’s he’s saying that dike always seemed like, Easy Company was an annoyance. It’s something to that effect. Oh, yeah. Yeah, there
Dan LeFebvre 2:03:26
was something about him. I don’t remember the exact line. But it was talking about how like he was he was connected. And he was using EZ company as a step to something else, almost like, you know, almost like he was given this command so that he would have some combat experience so that he could move on to something bigger and better things or what? Not that exact line, but something along those lines.
Marty Morgan 2:03:48
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And doesn’t that just sound like the old trope of every cheesy Vietnam movie, the ticket punch, the lieutenant, the new Lieutenant who doesn’t know us, and it’s a little bit of it is a little bit of a cliche within the genre. And they have turned to it in a series that I frequently just shower it with praise about how it got beyond cliches. And here’s the series of steps into a cliche, and I don’t particularly care for it doesn’t matter because in the end, this episode is fantastic. This episode is simultaneously terrifying. And it’s then simultaneous and then it’s heartwarming. It pulls at your heartstrings. It sucks you and I got sucked into it from start to finish again. And I loved every minute of it. And I think it’s unconscionable what they did with the dike character. And I don’t think they needed it. And I think it was a brief foray into the Vietnam era Heart of Darkness with a little bit of a cliche, and can’t I be that person can’t I be the person that simultaneously loves something and criticizes it? I think I can. Hope I can. But because I simultaneously love this episode and then I and it really gets under my skin and really bothers me especially The date thing, because when Easy Company joins this battle, this, you know, climactic moment on January 13 1945, and they begin the assault on foi, you end up with a very complicated choreography of events. That involves dike not crumbling because of his incompetence but dike being incapable of continuing to lead the company because he’s wounded on the field of battle. Spears takes over Spears has to join two separate but simultaneously maneuvering elements on the battlefield. And there’s a reason why they’re not in that they’re not using the radios to communicate. In fact, this is depicted but never explained. And it’s depicted as you see, you see dike, he takes the handset of the SCR 300, radio radio type that was called walkie talkie. Because in World War Two, it was the backpack radio that was called walkie talkie. And then the SCR 536, which is that big fat Motorola radio, that was called handy talking. So dykes on the walkie talkie, the SCR 300. And he can’t get through to anybody, and they show him have like a tantrum, and he throws the handset down, which by the way, you just as an infantry officer, lesson number one, no matter how pissed off, you get, don’t throw the handset on the radio down, you’re going to break your damn handset. I think it’s such a trope to show I’m so frustrated and they smashes the handset, but they show him do that, while he’s having this, you know, this moment of mental incapacitation. And then they show another element where the talking on the handy talkie, the sci fi 36. And they’re trying to coordinate on the battlefield, they can’t coordinate. And it’s because the radios aren’t working. And that’s why suddenly this necessity emerges where winters called Spears up, and then send spears and to take over. And the sequence that although it’s not entirely accurate, I think it’s extraordinarily well acted and I watched it like three times in a row earlier. And I was like, you know, Damien, you really just you get hit it out of the park. And it’s depicting this frustration where witches keeps trying to lunge toward the battle. And Colonel think is like dick, you’re not in charge a company anymore, come back. And it’s like he’s holding the mic on a leash. And then winters frustrated, go spares get up here and spears runs up. And he goes, get out there and take over. And the turns around. And in that one moment, just in those few lines of dialogue, I thought Damian Lewis acted like a damn battalion officer, and it looked, it looks so convincing. To me, it looks so good, where I think the lesser actor would have turned that into something that looks a bit silly. And I I’m saying it just because I like to acknowledge that I think that that was that he represents greatness and acting in this series. And he really comes across as comes across in what we expect. And that is for him to be, you know, alpha for him to be in charge and to be very direct and very decisive. And these are the things that I think everybody, when they saw them, everybody kind of liked them. And it’s because let’s face it, we’re bombarded by popular media culture today, where we don’t really see that we’re what we tend to see are the extremes, we see like, exaggerated toxic male alphas. And then we see sort of the opposite end of that scale. And we don’t understand that there are a lot of guys that went out there as citizen soldiers, that they were trained into the role of becoming combat leaders, and they performed very effectively. And I feel like Damien loose really, I’ve really felt like he’s really portrayed that nicely. And just that one little moment, but in this bigger moment of Easy Company caught in the middle of that action and spears is sent to take over and then functions as not just company commander, but also as a runner, trying to coordinate these to maneuver elements on the battlefield. And just for the record Easy Company was temporarily assigned to the Third Battalion that the 506 for this action. And the Third Battalion when the action begins, Easy Company spearheading the attack, there were multiple elements maneuvering, there supposed to have been a mortar concentration that delivered smoke to obscure the objective. So it didn’t look so dumb to me. The way it’s depicted in the series is you’re seeing a whole bunch of engines running across an open field being shot at by machine guns. And then they’re ultimately subjected to mortar fire. And it looks like something that I’ve seen depicted over and over again in the postmodernist genre, and that is that war is stupid, and the people that fight them do stupid things. And that’s often not true. It’s very, most of the time it’s not true, and that really wars often led by extremely intelligent people who think of everything. And as a part of that attack, what was supposed to happen is that 3025 or six, supposed to lay down a mortar barrage of smoke rounds, and that barrage got canceled shortly before the attack kicked off, and then the mortar barrage comes in late, and so they don’t have the obscuring smoke, that would have protected them much better. And if that obscuring smoke concentration had been delivered, as it was supposed to be Battle probably would not have descended into that moment that critical mass that you see in the series, calling for Spears to take over when when die gets wounded. And as a part of that, if there was a concern that the enemy had gotten as a result of a captured field telephone line alive hot field telephone line is believed that the enemy had listened in and that the enemy had infiltrated the communication network. And so as a precaution, within 3506, they had a radio and field telephone blackout that started right as the attack began. And the result was that the so about 9am, the attack kicks off, they’re still two hours into it. And they’ve made no significant headway. And they’re suddenly under this radio communications blackout, which is why you’re seeing deich trying to call people up on SCR 300. And he can’t get through and other men trying to communicate with him on sci fi 36, and they can’t get through. And then suddenly, it’s necessary to send somebody in to coordinate the two elements. Because, you know, maybe you’ve asked this question yourself, I remember the first time I watched the series, I went, so why is it that Spears has to run over to this other group? Why don’t you just call each other on the radio?
Marty Morgan 2:11:10
I was wondering if you see people with radios in the scene going, Hey, hey, what’s going on? Why don’t they just call each other? Why are there one of the radios all of a sudden just not work? And we now understand a little bit more about it because a point I have not made yet in our discussions on this series is that one great byproduct of the series. So Steven Ambrose wrote a great book, HBO made a magnificent miniseries, and then other authors have come in, in the years afterward. And they filled in enormous amounts of detail, levels of detail that were not a part of Steven Ambrose’s original book, and I kind of love that that is that this HBO series that aired the Ambrose begap, the HBO series in the HBO series began about a dozen dozen books about Isa Easy Company, that books that would never have existed if it weren’t for HBO. And all of these books are edifying. They give you greater in levels of insight into the personal lives of the people that are involved. They give you greater insights into the actual battles themselves, which is where a lot of this information is coming from. I’m speaking specifically of a book by a guy named Ian Gardner that I admire a great deal. And Ian’s book fills in a great deal that we didn’t know about this action. And it’s suddenly I think, elevated in importance. It’s not just like Trekkies going to a Star Trek convention. It’s not just sort of a pointless exercise. I’m making Trekkies angry. Now, I realized that, but it’s not just a pointless exercise of fannish enthusiasm. It has actually led us to deeper levels, deeper, more complicated levels of appreciation understanding for this one company, and Steven Ambrose set out to write that book, to tell the story of an infantry company in combat in the European Theater from DNA to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. And then these other authors have come in after Dr. Ambrose, and have filled in even more detail, I think it’s fascinating that Band of Brothers, the miniseries created a gravity and it still exists, because let’s face it, we’re still under COVID lockdown. And I’m already although I don’t think I’m going to be able to go to Europe, in 2021, I’m already getting inquiries for people that want to take battlefield tours that include Battle of the Bulge in 2022. People still care, people are still interested. And it’s not just old people. It’s not like me, but I can’t get enough better brothers and I need more. It’s not people who were born in the 50s and 60s, I’m seeing people who were born after I got out of graduate school. And they’re interested in Band of Brothers. And in other words, they were born in the 1990s or after 2000. And they have watched this series and they love in a respect and appreciate the series. And they’re wanting to go and visit these battlefields. It’s that isn’t as fascinating. This is a cultural phenomenon that was created by this. I mean, I know it sounds absurd for me to make this comparison. But I remember that when I was in high school, and then ultimately in college as an undergrad that it was sort of a thing for people to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And you maybe you did that too, and people would go and it became like an audience participation thing. And it’s something that has fallen off. I’m sure it exists out there somewhere to this day. But back in the 80s in Birmingham, Alabama, it was the thing for people to get super pumped up about Rocky Horror. And it to me this sort of looks like that, in a way. It’s it’s, I think, coming from the same general direction, and that is that Rocky Horror represented something just to a certain group of people in the way that I in the same ways that I think Ben brothers represents something to people and rap, and in a way, they’re behaving a lot like the Rocky Horror people, because I mentioned earlier that, like, there were reenactors from Belgium and the Netherlands and from France, who will travel to the blood shock And they’ll go there in the first week of January, and they’ll camp in the foxhole is out there. And to me, how is that different than Rocky Horror?
Dan LeFebvre 2:15:09
Marty Morgan 2:15:12
It’s colder, and there’s no popcorn. I think it’s culturally the same thing. And that just shows you was just and I think in the same I just would love to hear some of the people that made this miniseries happen, I’d love to hear how they feel about looking at it now, especially when the actors come back and go to Normandy, and then go to Bastogne. And people love these actors to this day, and land. I mean, our veterans are effectively at this point gone there, a few alive, but basically all the main EZ company veterans are no longer alive to tell us the story. And I’ve been fascinated by the fact that there’s a monument that I wanted to mention to you that so easy company now has several monuments. And there’s one that’s slightly controversial that’s at a place called halt station very close to the boy Jacques. And now it’s well known that people visit the boy shock, which is a place where Easy Company was although that’s not where Easy Company was when they were shelled. On January ninth and 10th. They were the point of phezzan. But still people go to the blackjack, it’s accessible, and it’s on property that people can get to that hasn’t had all the trees cut down. So people like to go there as a part of getting closer to the series. And there’s a monument near that. Basically, the area of the foxholes Jacques has become a monument of its own now. But there’s also a monument that’s in the town of classroom, which is just up the road from Foy. And there’s a very, very simple Memorial there. And it’s one of the earliest memorials that easy company that was put in to remember what Easy Company did and interested me that when that memorial was put in, they chose Russia. And let’s face it, that’s not exactly the most famous place from the Banda brothers book and many series experience. There are places that are slightly more famous. Certainly the boy Jacques is better known, but Russia was chosen because, and you get it in lines of voiceover narration from Carlos Lipton, at the end, where you know, they, after the attack on foie, they have a brief period of time where they’re not directly in combat, they move up through a town called ko brew. And then they move on beyond Cobra to Russia. And you get the the now famous line of voiceover narration from carwood Lipton where he says, it was the first time we spent a night under a roof since I think he says, Does he say December 19. It’s something he says since December, and I think he says since Christmas. But he mentioned the fact that they moved in there that the nuns brought out the the choristers, the children, to sing to them. And it’s in that setting that you have this beautiful moment between Lipton and spears, you know, it’s always been you first started that one, that little, that little monologue. The reason the company chose that was because for them, it felt like we finally gotten through it all. And so for them, the area around the restaurant was, I think, viewed warmly, in a way that those words weren’t. Because I am not all that convinced that those guys were super enthusiastic about going back to those words, because they saw a lot of ugly things. In those words,
Dan LeFebvre 2:18:32
I could see that way, the way at least the way that the show depicts it. There. It’s you have this getting shelled in the woods, it’s bitter cold, your friends are dying around you. And then just the contrast is your inside. Much warmer. Your friends are around you minus the ones that you’ve already lost. But you know it you have this stark contrast of what they just went through to what they’re experiencing there.
Marty Morgan 2:19:00
You get a moment of somber reflection that I think the series I think it serves that moment up to us very nicely. Everything’s candlelit. You have children singing, I think also there’s a an element of the discourse here that’s worth mentioning is that I think I’ve told you, I did not work on Bana brothers, but I worked on HBO as miniseries The Pacific. And the Pacific was not a success, like Band of Brothers. The Pacific was not well received like Band of Brothers was. And of course that’s, you know, the one I worked on the one that didn’t do well. Whereas HBO hit it out of the park, a band of brothers and continue to hit it out of the park, because it’s still memorable. Well, I think part of the secret to that success is that there’s a cultural familiarity, and that we have on a regular and frequent basis throughout this narrative. The Bana brothers narrative we have a regular and frequent interaction with civilians that are recognizing the company as liberators, that’s Russia moment. Just think of that reward and think of the payoff that is associated with that we went through all that misery and that blood and suffering in the woods. And here we are, and these people that we have liberated, and they want to sing for us and give us some food and give us and we’re sleeping inside and the one book stick out how many scenes I kind of quit counting, but they’re through Episode Seven, there are several scenes that are just men and a whole shivering. I’m not criticizing it. It’s not funny. But there’s no other way to present that then. Even in Episode Six, there’s a scene where I learned Eugene has like a bolt upright moment where he’s in a hole with two other guys and he bolts up right? There’s In fact, the scene, you know, the scene when Lipton comes up to I think it’s when Lipton goes to winters is the battalion operations officer. And he reports what happened to hoobler and winter says, where’s died when there’s a sitting there shivering, literally shivering and trying to drink something warm out of a canteen cup, and he wants to wear it, no, we’re dying is because the company commander should be here doing this and diet and, and lifting kind of covers for dike. As a part of that, you know, sort of, I think, unfortunate character development, those decisions that were made by the filmmakers. And if you’ve already heard me, I’m on, I’m already on record for being critical of that, at any rate, there’s a lot of this depiction of cold and shivering. And another moment where we’ve seen this episode sort of turned toward the genre of postmodern World War Two movie, insofar as the way that it treats the dike and his story, where he has to be depicted as the incompetent, ticket puncher. And then now we have turned back to the more patriotic paradigm of this is why we fought this battle, this is why we went through this misery, because we’re here to liberate these people. And that’s why I find Band of Brothers to be a far more intellectual appraisal, a far more intellectual discussion of not just World War Two, but also the way that the American nation is understanding its military past. Because then two brothers, it’s engaging both sides, because there’s really two sides to the debate. And that’s flag waving, patriotic exceptionalism. And then nihilistic post modernism. And this episode is giving us both of those, and in so doing, forcing us to have a discussion of these two ideas in American history that, let’s face it, 2020 and 2021 has been a pretty somber reflection on those two ideas. That’s why I find that the series is, it’s such a landmark because first of all, it’s so damn good. But then secondly, because it’s also, I feel intellectual in a way that other treatments of world war two subject matter have not been?
Dan LeFebvre 2:22:55
Well, you’re talking about as easy companies, they’re inside for the first time in a while. In the show, we see liftin on his notepad making a roster of who’s left. And according to the show, they entered Belgium with 121 men and officers 24 replacements for 145 total. And they’re leaving with 63. There’s numbers accurate.
Marty Morgan 2:23:18
They are and those numbers, I think, just by this, the simple and judicious dropping a little bit of numbers in is reinforcing what the entire episode has been here to do. And that is to tell us that there is a price, and that these men are paying the price for that for the liberation because a central part of the the didactical discussion that goes on in this episode is isn’t it fascinating how they can they almost they almost like distract us by making it a compelling human drama. And during that time, they’re also while distracting us with human drama. They’re also going and we’re going to have a bureaucratic reconfiguring and restructuring of the command hierarchy within the infantry company, something that the lesser writer would just turn into miserable boredom, right. But there is a restructuring that occurs because this this restructuring that emerges is that first platoon is under Lieutenant jacquelene. Second platoon ends up under Lipton because of course what is waiting at the end of this the payoff, taking Lipton and making him our star character, what’s the final thing that happens with him as a part of his story arc and Episode Seven, he becomes an officer he’s promoted to an officer he becomes an officer and recognition for his leadership. So he takes second to be elliptic take second platoon and then Ed shames takes there between the two. And this shuffling which, when left up to the lesser writer, would have turned into bureaucratic Oblivion, and it would have been miserable and no one would have cared if it had been left up. To me, it would have been awful, and it would have been a disaster and everybody would have been distracted and looking at their phones. But we get a solid writing team who comes up with a very, very creative way of presenting that information to us. And by presenting us this information, it’s also then suddenly becoming a reflection on the attrition. Look at all we’ve lost. And so we start the episode with what Easy Company has a different company commander. And we’re about to send peacock home and things are about to change. And we’re about to have this big battle. And we end the episode with what we’ve paid off. Basically, two of the big characters, bigger characters, the series liftin and spears. And you know, it’s the moment on the peacock thing is that there’s this brief, almost cutscene. And it’s I think, deliberately a little bit jagged, where they cut to this whole thing when Nixon receives this message from, I guess it’s from regimental headquarters and the messages, it’s sending him home, because they’re picking one man from every regiment. And Nixon wasted off, which I think is fascinating, because over and over again, how do we see this portrayed, we see it happen in this episode with Nixon, who has an opportunity to go home, and he doesn’t take it. And I think that speaks to the more patriotic paradigm that I was just, I was just commenting on a few minutes ago. And then we see also, malarkey has the opportunity to become one, he has the opportunity to become a headquarters guy, where life is good. And what does he do? No, sir, I’m gonna, I’m gonna stay here with the company. And then that gets paid off with like, why don’t you just go back for a couple of hours? And he goes, That’s okay. It goes, Okay, I’ll do that.
Dan LeFebvre 2:26:38
That was to say, by the book, they were bucking to it, it’s like, Okay, well, I’ll do that for my friend. Because I think the way it looked, instead, it was, Buck would appreciate that. And so I think he was more doing it for his friend, as opposed to,
Marty Morgan 2:26:49
I’m going to do this for me. Dennis, isn’t that a beautiful meditation on where we are now, where I mean, what other movie is going to show you people what other movie from the recent historical time he’s going to show you people that are like, I can’t do that. I have an obligation to these people. We live in an era that sticks a middle finger up with ideas of obligation. It’s all about you. It’s an individual less, that’s more of an individual, of an individualistic era. And that’s the world that we inhabit now, isn’t it? I mean, we this without sounding like a cranky old person, it’s the social media landscape has sort of, may not have fundamentally changed, but at least it caused a lot of attention to ideas of individualism and doing things for yourself and self promotion, and self aggrandizement behaviors. And look at the cook of Banda brothers, which over and over again, does what it shows us people who are guided and governed by senses of obligation. And I find that fascinating, because I had a grandfather who fought the Second World War, and I had an uncle who was in the Second World War Two. And there have been books written by people, sometimes with names like the greatest generation that are meditations on this idea of is on a generational basis is the generation of the 1920s that fought World War Two, were they better people. And I don’t know that we necessarily need to make the quality judgment of better. But I think it’s fair to say that they’re different. And I think that it’s fair also to recognize the fact that a lot of what informed their day to day experience, were senses of obligation and duty. And I for 1am, fascinated by the fact that this is a series that addresses these ideas that brings them up, brings them to light and brings them into the conversation because I’ve spent my entire adult life studying this. I mean, I’m the greatest cliche of all 51 year old white guy that studies World War Two history. There’s how many of them basically all 51 year old white guys, studying World War Two history, and I’ve been a cliche in every respect. The more I look at the subject, the more I am convinced, and I’m also a sort of dyed in the wool postmodernist. And yet, I look at this generation, I think I see I see something special about I believe that they felt sense of obligation. I also just just to interrogate ideas of post modernism, I have seen the exact same character attributes exhibited by people who fought Vietnam, people who fought in the Global War on Terror, and people who were still fighting that war. In other words, I’m not so sure that the greatest generation correctly identified what made these people great what made what’s what made spears and Compton and winters and Lipton and all of these people I’m not sure that they have that the greatest chip that broke up correctly identified what made him great and I because I don’t think it was all about when they were born. Because Because Broca’s argument is that it was the experience of being raised in the Grade during the Great Depression that made them and being brought up during the experience the trial by fire of World War Two. And I’m not so sure that that’s precisely what did it. I think, in other words, that every single generation has a little bit of that in it. I’ve been around people who, who are younger than me who have experienced combat during the last 20 years. And I see in them every single characteristic and attribute of the broker identified. So it’s clearly the the appropriate evaluative structure is not the generation. But I think it’s actually the Spirit. And so it’s just a way that Band of Brothers is informed my philosophy about American history is that I’ve recognized through the characters have been two brothers, that it’s not purely just that generation, that there’s a greatness like that out there. Among every generation, that’s just being wait that’s waiting on the people that feel sense of obligation and duty. people that do things like what malarkey did when he waved off his opportunity to go be a headquarters NCO. Like when Nixon waved off his opportunity to go home, I think the reason they broke up saw it like he did with the world war two generation is just because they’re so damn many of them, we put 16 million people in uniform. For God’s sake, we’ve never seen like anything like that. And I don’t think we ever will again. And so it looks like that generation was primordially, destined to create the greatness that broke our saw. And it doesn’t seem quite so generational to me now. It’s just that the generations haven’t been called on in the same way. Because I certainly see that a generation that was born after me. In fact, the generation that was born after I got out of college, they seem to exhibit the exact same greatness. At any rate, this is a sidebar that you didn’t ask for. But I still find that Band of Brothers is magnificent for bringing up these ideas. And, and in Episode Seven, we see a clip a couple of great moments with characters who reflect on this idea, this idea of, nope, I got an obligation. I can’t leave, I have to stay. I’m like, I haven’t mentioned joy in this yet. Joe toy who had messed up feet, and then it was wounded. And what do they do? He comes back to the company, even though he’s not supposed to be back yet. And look at the consequences of that decision. He could have just stayed in field hospital back and passed on. He comes back to the company, he takes his place on the line, and boom, loses his leg.
Marty Morgan 2:32:40
He pays the price for that decision and what compelled him there? It wasn’t what I think all of the post modernists want us to think all the time, which is that nobody really wants to do these things. But they do these things because they’re rewarded. No, I think he had a sense of obligation to his comrades, that he knew that if I’m not there, somebody else is doing the work I’m supposed to be doing. And let’s face it. two episodes ago, Bill Garnier did the same thing. Garnier went AWOL from field hospital, so that he could rejoin the company. And that company then, you know, because he rejoins it. He’s in Bastogne. I mean, even if he had stayed the full time in the field hospital, he probably still would have been passed on. But still, it’s a fascinating example of there are people out there that are governed not by our lowest instincts, because let’s face it, you turn on the news and what what do you get now you get burned by basically the lowest instincts of humankind, the news media, the television wants you to be disenchanted. I had the privilege of being in Normandy on June 6, that would have been for 70th anniversary 2014. And Barack Obama spoke. I had seen him speak once before at the cemetery on data. So I’m speak for the 65th anniversary in 2009. I heard him speak again in 2014. And the President said something that we’ll never forget. And I know he didn’t write it because I know he has speech writers I understand that. But whoever the speech writer what his speech writer for the 65th anniversary did not do him well, because his speech was forgettable and uninspiring. His speech writer for 2014 for 70th anniversary, knocked it out of the park. Because the speech that the President read, he used the words it’s like the the world wants you to be cynical. But all of these people when he gestured toward the 9388 graves and the cemeteries of these people will not let you be cynical. And I know it’s a presidential speech and that to be a true postmodernist, I’m not supposed to be emotional about stuff like that. And I know it’s Barack Obama and all my friends don’t want me to like him. But for rock obama was an extremely effective media personality and he had no An extremely effective speech writer that wrote that speech for him. And it produced a moment that I won’t forget. And I thought it was right on target because what the world wants us to be is completely cynical. And the world wants us to step aside from ideas of obligation and duty and optimism, and World War Two history. While it has plenty of the abyss in it, it also has things like some malarkey, refusing the opportunity to go be a headquarters guy and staying on the line where he could lose his leg or get killed. And he chooses to do that out of a sense of obligation. And this is one of the many reasons that I absolutely adore this episode. I think it’s, I think it’s beauty and filmmaking and writing. And it’s also at the same time, a deeply disappointing episode because of the way that they unfairly mischaracterize and Miss portray the legacy of Lieutenant Ike. I don’t know if you ever saw this, this excellent little documentary about the war in Afghanistan. It’s called Restrepo. Maybe you’ve seen it. And there’s a point where the main characters, his name was Restrepo. And he’s killed. And it’s all real. It’s not active. It’s all in a documentary of the journalist that was embedded with this unit. And there are just some of the meanest, toughest
Marty Morgan 2:36:24
airborne soldiers I’ve ever seen. That at the moment, when he gets killed, they are so thoroughly destroyed by it, their morale is absolutely destroyed. And they’re reduced to weeping incoherence at the sight of this person that has just been killed. And to me, when I watched it, it just it hurt to watch it, to see the way that these men, these airborne soldiers who were at the peak of their physical fitness, how they were driven to the same edge that we see these characters in this episode of this miniseries driven to and how it, they just couldn’t take it up. That’s like, That was too, that was too much. And it destroys them. If you ever get a chance to watch it, I found that that moment, helped me understand Vanda brothers to another to a higher level in a way. And then this way better brothers, it’s this, because of my relationship with the series now is 20 years old. It’s the same thing for you. It’s that we’re all looking back now on 20 years of loving this series. And I find I take these things from other projects like from Restrepo, and I pull them in to this and they informed and helped me understand a more, they bring me to a more complicated understanding of Band of Brothers and, and we can certainly see that with the company. But Compton can handle combat, there’s no question about that. But one combat that brought him down. It was seeing people that he knew and he loved people that were a part of what has in recent writings been identified as his immediate tribe, and to see them killed and destroyed and, and being maimed and he could not handle his but that’s where his bottle ended up being full. And done. malarkey was close, but not quite over the top. And it literally became the How did they get comping out, they very wrote it off as immersion foot trench coat. And they use that as a means of getting them off the line. Because let’s face it, you can use somebody up. And I think that’s what this episode is talking about. It’s about how these men who represented the absolute, namely the apex, these are the most well trained, well equipped, and well lead soldiers in the United States Army. And as a result of what happens around Bastogne. They’re driven to the breaking point,
Dan LeFebvre 2:38:48
hence the title of the episode, and hence the title. But thank you so much for coming on a chat about Bandon brothers, we will be back to wrap up the last three episodes. But until then, for someone listening to this, who wants to learn more, can you share a bit more about your work?
Marty Morgan 2:39:03
Oh, sure. If you um, if you’d like to learn a little bit more about some of the work that I’ve done, I published a book about the 507 that came out shortly after Banda brothers came out. It’s called down to earth, the 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War Two. It’s not the same story. It’s not told as well, because I’m no Steven Ambrose. But it was my attempt to wrap up the combat narrative of one regiment of paratroopers during the Normandy campaign. But I would also encourage people to go out and if and if you like the series, go back and read Stephen ambrosus book, Ben brothers, because there’s quite a bit more in the book that you’re not seeing in the series. And then I would invite anyone to go out and read work by authors like, like Ian Gardner who have in the years since the HBO miniseries they have contributed to the scholarship of the subject, by writing and researching more, so there’s plenty out there to read up about and I think that’s basically all we got at this point because I’m not convinced that HBO is gonna spend multiple millions of dollars to do another world war 210 part miniseries again?
Dan LeFebvre 2:40:07
Well, we never know what the future holds, but not in the immediate future perhaps
Marty Morgan 2:40:12
never know what I’d love to see. In all seriousness, what I would love to see and what I think it is kind of the right time for is to create a story similar to this only about one of the African American units that fought in World War Two, because there are plenty to choose from Black History Month every year, rarely really delves deep into the subject. The 92nd Infantry Division fighting in Italy would be such a fantastic subject. And I think you would find the same characteristics and attributes present among the African American soldiers fighting in Italy that you do among white paratroopers fighting for the 100 and first Airborne Division from da to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. I was recently working on this history channel miniseries, it’s not in production, it was the preliminary work, the pre production work that goes into getting an H History Channel miniseries made, and I’ve worked on previous history channel miniseries and the one that we were recently pitching. And we’re going to do it in 10 episodes like Ben just like the two brothers. And we were picking what subjects we wanted to do. And we wanted to cover a broader picture than just the European Theater. But for the European Theater, we were going to have one episode that was built on the Battle of the Bulge. And I ended up over the holidays doing a deep dive and research. And we wanted to kind of wrap that around a main character in a way that the storytelling suddenly looks a little bit like manna brothers now doesn’t it? And that you’re, it’s character driven. And I found this character named jack Thomas that I wanted to make our central character and he was an African American from Alabama, who was drafted into the United States Army in 1942. He was assigned to a Quartermaster trucking company, meaning that after D day, he was a part of what they call the red ball Express driving trucks back and forth bringing the supplies to the fighting front, the red ball Express sort of begins to it’s no longer existing like it had before after around mid November 1944. And at that point, the red ball Express begins functioning on a more local basis around Luxembourg and Belgium. And then the Battle of the ball starts, these men are involved in helping Belgian civilians evacuated, which I think is a really interesting part of their story. And then as a result of the very, very high attrition of the Battle of the Bulge, which is something that episodes six and seven, a band of brothers tells us the story very nicely as a result of that very, very high attrition. The army on a very brief basis, puts some segregated units in the field, and they end up coming in the form of what the army called fifth platoons. And in a in a number of infantry regiments, they have fifth platoons that are in segregated infantry regiments, meaning white infantry regiments, and they add a platoon of African American soldiers. So this guy, jack Thomas, is given an opportunity to volunteer be given an opportunity to volunteer and become infantry. And he takes that he volunteers he goes through a little bit of training. And then he is put in the fifth platoon of a company of the 16th Infantry Regiment of the ninth Infantry Division. And he begins fighting with that unit all the way until April of 45. We’re there in a little town in Germany, not far from Nuremberg, where, during an attack that stalls, he runs forward, helps to men to safety, then picks up a bazooka and uses it to knock out two tanks. And he is subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for the action. So he went from draft D, to Distinguished Service Cross. And I think that’s absolutely fascinating. At the end of the war, he goes back home, he’s processed out and he’s discharged at Fort Benning, Georgia. And he goes, spend a couple of days at home and then immediately goes back and re enlist in the army. And state stays in the army until 1967. And he is actually still serving as a drill instructor. And then eventually, I mean, he has so relocated his life that when he dies, he’s close to Fort Benning, and he’s actually buried now at the Fort Benning post cemetery. And I find his story to be just exactly the kind of story that needs to be told. Now. There’s a reason why that guy, that guy who could have just stayed a truck driver, and never been in harm’s way and never had a shot fired at him. But instead, he wanted to be upfront. And he ended up being upfront and he proved just what he was made of in Germany and APR 45 when he earned the Distinguished Service Cross, which is an extremely impressive decoration. And then I think he proved it once again when he re enlisted in the army and stayed in and he went literally from being a draftee, to a Distinguished Service Cross recipient combat veteran and a lifer. And I think that’s a story that needs to be told.
Dan LeFebvre 2:45:06
Sounds like your next book.
Marty Morgan 2:45:08
If I could ever get another, I would love I would welcome the opportunity to write about him. And I was friendly, I was friendly with the only surviving African American Medal of Honor recipient from the Second World War. His name was Vernon Baker, and he was a lovely human being. He received the Distinguished Service Cross in April 1945, and northern Italy nearly town called Monte Musa. And then in 1996, under the Clinton administration, he was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, he was not the only one, several others were upgraded. But he was the only one still alive. And I was friendly with him and traveled to Idaho where he lived and interviewed him and spent time getting to know him and getting to know his story. And then eventually, we brought him to New Orleans. And he was a great human being and a great American, and a guy that stayed in the US Army. And he volunteered for the army and stayed in it until the 1960s. And he became a lieutenant briefly during World War Two, the 92nd Infantry Division. And when he became an officer, it was only during the wars that when the war ended, he went back to being a sergeant, which I thought was a very interesting quality of his personal story. And then he was completely content in the years after World War Two, as a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, and he embodied something that I That to me is, it’s catnip when it comes to admiring people, and that is that he was very quiet about his service. He was not boastful, and he wasn’t overly proud of it. It was just, it was his life. And he was cool with it. And he didn’t seem to undergo much of a change from when he was just a Distinguished Service Cross recipient. And that was a, you know, that was obscure enough to where people didn’t, he didn’t stop traffic. But then he in 1996, became a Medal of Honor recipient. And he lived in northern Idaho or read a whole lot of white people. And it was funny, too, he lived near this town called St. Mary’s. And when I went to interview and we stayed in St. Mary’s, and he came in, and we went to this diner One morning, and when we did that, and he walked into this diner, and every person in that diner stood, because he was in the he was in the room. They would not be seated in his presence until he said, Everybody sit down, stop it sit down. And then it was just this procession of well wishers. And people wanted to come by just to shake his hand. These are the stories that I feel like need to be made more conspicuous. And that’s why I would wish that I wish HBO would spend the kind of money that they did on Vanna brothers to make something that would tell stories like Jeff Thomas and Varun Baker. And there are hundreds of other stories out there that would narrate the African American experience in World War Two to a significant, significant a great degree because I believe that they had the same sense of duty optimism and sacrifice that the men depicted and Bana brothers had. I think that their experience is no different. Aside from the fact that they dealt with, of course, overt racism and segregation. But I still think that they were American pair patriots the same way that all of the men that we’ve just talked about, in these two episodes where
Dan LeFebvre 2:48:20
maybe one day, maybe one day, we can hope we can hope.
Marty Morgan 2:48:25
Maybe one, maybe one day, I certainly hope so. That would be I I would renew my HBO subscription and, and I would pop popcorn to watch those episodes the way I did 20 years ago for better brothers.
Dan LeFebvre 2:48:39
But thank you again so much for your time. And well, we’ll have you back to chat about the final three episodes of banter brothers.
Marty Morgan 2:48:45
I’m already looking forward to that.