We’re wrapping our series on Band of Brothers today as we look as the last three episodes of the HBO miniseries.
Episodes we’re covering today:
8. The Last Patrol
9. Why We Fight
Disclaimer: Dan LeFebvre and/or Based on a True Story may earn commissions from qualifying purchases through our links on this page.
Did you enjoy this episode? Help support the next one!
Photo Mentioned in the Episode
Marty mentioned there’s a photo of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment raising a flag at the Berghof. You can jump to where he’s talking about this photo here: https://youtu.be/bZff20bSlPM&t=5624s
Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
Dan LeFebvre 02:30
We’ll kick off today in episode number eight: The Last Patrol. Easy Company isn’t hanging out France in February 1945. And right away we find out that the 101st was made famous because of what happened in Bastogne. I wanted to ask you about this because a lot of times, stories and legends grow long after the fact. But in this case, it sounds like the stories of the 100 and first started almost immediately. Is that true?
Marty Morgan 02:53
It is true because there was a nationwide awareness of the ongoing situation in the Battle of the Bulge, particularly the ongoing situation in Bastogne, so that people back home, right in the middle of the Christmas season of 1944. Were aware of the fact as they celebrated Christmas, that there were about 11,000 Americans trapped in a perimeter in the city of Bastogne in Belgium, and that their fate was largely up in the air. And it was headline news that everyone followed. Everyone followed this as a developing story, which I don’t want to say that that’s unique to American history, or certainly wasn’t that but it took the harnessing of all of the informational distribution power of the American military to get that story out there and to keep people updated on a regular basis. Because after all, it wasn’t a matter of there being a ratline whereby photographs and information and personal accounts and bulletins could get out of Bastogne. It was surrounded by the enemy. And what it did, it created the headline story that everyone could follow, right at a time period when most people were at home during the holiday season anyway. And it was a cliffhanger because with each passing day, they didn’t know what was going to happen.
Dan LeFebvre 04:12
And almost as you’re saying that, in my mind, I’m hearing ties to the Alamo. And that kind of concept where you have these Americans that are surrounded and we don’t know what’s going to happen, of course, a little more media coverage in World War Two. But that same sort of you don’t know what’s going to happen situation.
Marty Morgan 04:29
That’s completely correct. And the situation was made all the worse by the fact that the outcome of the seizure at Bastogne, it could have gone either way. I think we’re guilty of the hindsight of, oh gosh, it’s 76 years now. We know how that whole story ended. The people who were following the story 76 years ago, they didn’t know how this was going to end. They didn’t know if Bastogne would hold on it. They didn’t know that patents Third Army would ultimately relieve them and people therefore There was a genuineness to their concern and their interest about what was happening. Because there were other cities that they didn’t manage to hang on. I think of the city, the city of St. Leith, where you had this German onslaught that was pushing toward the city, the word the city, the city was ultimately abandoned and then bombarded and there’s no reason why the outcome of the fighting around Bastogne could have come to some similar fate, although it would have been different because same faith was never cut off, that was never surrounded, it’s just the enemy pressed in. And we abandoned to the city and pulled back to more favorable defensive lines. So if that stone situation had continued at critical mass, and I’m indicating critical mass as being the time period December 22, through December 26, well, I can even back up a little farther from that it could back up to the 20th. This week long period during which Bastogne was functionally surrounded by the enemy. Nobody could get out with supplies dwindling, with each passing day with strength dwindling as a result of the attrition with each passing day. No reasonable person could have simply concluded that out this workout, it’ll be just fine. In fact, reasonable people probably had every reason to be concerned that best stone would end as a bad news story. Of course, it doesn’t thankfully, but there was no guarantee that we would fight our way through them and that we would do it in such a timely way that we could reach the force in Bastogne before all the supplies ran out, because Bastogne had basically only a few days left. And when you boil it down to a handful of days, it’s easy to see how the Germans could have turned that into a victory.
Dan LeFebvre 06:51
I can see now how people hearing that their legend would would be almost immediate at that point, because they did manage to pull it out when things could have easily gone the other way
Marty Morgan 07:03
they did. And that’s one element of the mistake that’s often supplied to it because I feel like there is a Mystique to the Bastogne incident, it had an arresting quality people paid attention to it was a developing story. It was a cliffhanger, it was a very, very compelling news story. Within this, it was a little story that big within was a small story within the framework of a very, very large story. And if there’s one thing that I think we can all recognize is that when you suddenly carry out a data dump on people where you just overwhelm them with statistics and numbers, that they often don’t mean a lot when you take people who aren’t studying the ebb and flow of the tactical situation in Europe in late 1944. People who weren’t studying it closely with each passing day, they suddenly wanted to know what was what was the situation with this big story about the city and Bastogne and it provided some manageable ideas that the nonspecialist general public could digest easily. Whereas the overall breadth of the Battle of the Bulge was another matter. For the average person, it’s so much bigger than things that came before it. battles that came before that can kind of pass in the night without much without much of a mention or without offering much of a distraction to people. Like I think of the battles shared Borg and Aachen, those are very battles that interest me very much. And they just didn’t resonate the way that this brief sees at best stone did with the people. So the story, develop this mistake, because it’s the one chapter within a broader book that you can really understand it had the cliffhanger qualities about it, it made people pay attention to it over other stories to the neglect of other stories. And with that being the case in the aftermath of war, it became the focal point of the process of memorialization, the way that we remember the Battle of the Bulge because the Battle of the Bulge was so very big, fascinating little details that the army makes a decision about commemoration and the army decides that it’s not going to commemorate anything below the division on the battlefield. The army decides that it’s that the emphasis will be on eventually, this the town of Bastogne, because eventually this memorial is built. They’re called the Morrison. And it was imagined at first I think, naively back in the 1950s, it was imagined that the Martin Memorial, which is this rather impressive star shaped structure, and you can climb to the top of it, it provides a narrative of the Battle of the Bulge, it lists all of the units on the division level that were involved. It lists all of the states 48 at the time, they went back and added Alaska in Hawaii. But the Madison memorial was that first imagined as being the place where all of the commemoration for the Battle of the Bulge would take place. And I say that that’s naive because Now, it’s a stop along the way and people are interested in it. And overwhelmingly the place that people go, the place that remains the most popular are places that are associated with a company of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment. Flexible Ashok, people become very interested in it. I always pick the wrong things to specialize. And that’s my that’s my gift. So when I got the most interested in the Battle of the Bulge, I started concentrating on the way that the Battle of the Bulge unfolded in Luxembourg. And as we discussed last time, Luxembourg is the preliminary chapter before faststone because all the German units that fight their way across Luxembourg, those are the German units that are fighting around Bastogne. And I find to this day, as somebody that’s been leading tours to Bastogne for 18 years now, I have find that people are far less interested in that part of the story. And I can’t give them enough information when it comes to the fighting around Bastogne. If I take them to the north, I have a hard time selling anything to them, and getting them super excited about anything but like the malmedy massacre site, if there’s one thing that it’s proven to me is that not everyone? Well, you heard it here first, not everyone’s a history major, not everyone is going to devote a lifetime to consuming historical content related about vault. And the result is that most people when they go there, what they tend to do is they tend to visit Bastogne and the side of the malmedy massacre. And that’s that, it’s a very peculiar thing to see where I can say that after 18 years, there are still places that I’m looking forward to whenever things get back to normal. And I can go back to Belgium and Luxembourg, there are places that that are associated with the battle that I have never visited. And that’s with me going there for 18 years. And so it’s feels very uncomfortable and very otherworldly. When I should say it like this, the standard commercial tour, the area really just visits Bastogne, the side of the malmedy massacre, and then people sort of, they’re ready to move on. There’s a lot more to that story. Obviously.
Dan LeFebvre 12:18
According to the show, the patrol in the title of the show being or the title of the episode being the last patrol, that patrol happens when Easy Company is tasked with crossing the river to capture some Germans and then bring them back for interrogation. 15 men go under the leadership of Sergeant Martin with Lieutenant Jones as the ranking officer going along for observation. And for the most part, the patrol seems to go as planned, with the exception of Jackson’s grenade going off, going off half of his face, and he ends up dying soon after they make it back across the river. How accurate was the depiction of this patrol in the show?
Marty Morgan 12:55
It’s very accurate. And I really love this depiction of this episode. That particularly the patrol On this episode, because the depiction here, it causes people to consider things that I think you don’t really find in many movies. So there’s an enormous amount of tension that’s built up before the patrol. And then the patrol itself. For me, we’ve already had all this drama and tension is a part of the build up where we’re showing other men are tired, the men are sort of beginning to feel month after month, the grinding experience of being in combat. And yet, they’re, they’re sent on this mission that they’re not, they’re definitely not happy about going on the process of getting them in the build up to the mission, the kickoff, carrying out the mission itself, it causes the viewer to follow them along and follow some aspects of the story that you just don’t see in other movies you don’t see depicted with the level of accuracy that I feel like is depicted here. And a couple of things that I just noted first of all is like you get a brief shot of I can’t remember which character it is, but he has a lighter out. And he is applying the flame from the lighter to the front sight of his in one rifle. Did you catch that? Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s the thing that target shooters do as a means of delivering soot to the trailing side of the of the front sight blade, and that reduces glare. So that if you get the front sight wet, if you get the whole front end of the rifle, the muzzle of the gas cylinder, if all of that gets wet, and you have some beaded water on there, it will interfere with your sight picture because you’ll get that glare and that glare doesn’t allow you to acquire a target as easily. What you want is a nice subdued, matte finish on your front sight blade. And you can achieve that by applying a little bit of it’s technically the smoke that’s setting up the front sight. So you hold your lighter right below the front sight blade. And that suit builds up on it and it has the effect of dampening down the reflectivity of the front sight. And I found it I found it to be a really A fascinating minor molecular level detail. You also see men just in the same camera shot, I think where he’s one man is putting suit on his front sight, you see another man that is using electrical tape or high speed tape. And he’s taping up his field here. So the straps associated with this field here. And that’s an effort to reduce the noise that you’re going to be making. So that there were certain things that men would do in anticipation of a night patrol, to subdue the sound that you could potentially make, obviously don’t want to attract the enemy’s attention. And I it fascinated me to see that it fascinated to, to follow it step by step so that when winters comes in and briefed them on what what they’re going to do, they have an idea of a functional plan, and that you follow them through every step of the process. So you follow them through the staff work, the planning conference that proceeds the mission, you follow them through the infiltration when they cross the river, and they work their way up to the German observation posts. You follow them through the execution, which is when they storm in, they use grenades, they use small arms, and they take the prisoners. And then you follow them critically through the exfiltration, meaning leaving the area going through x Phil down to the riverbank, get back on the boats get across the river. And then fascinatingly, there are even cutaway shots, where you see, I’m trying to it might, I can’t remember which soldier it was, but one of them is operating the MIT 1986 30 caliber like machine gun. And as a part of the plan, once they x filled down to the rivers bank, you remember that they distributed whistles plan was as soon as they started blowing on the whistles, all of this fire support would be brought to bear against this beaten zone around that observation post with the anticipation that justice there men are the most vulnerable, they’ve made a bunch of noise capturing prisoners, they’re retreating back down to the river’s edge as a part of their ex bill. When they’re really at their most vulnerable, then suddenly, a wall of fire would be distributed against the enemy producing a beaten zone that would prevent the enemy from threatening them directly as the gotten the boats to exhale across the river. And all of these steps of the mission are central in this episode. I for one, just thought it was fascinating. And I really enjoyed that level of detail. And I found myself in the year since then, considering this possibility that I remember when I went and saw it. Well, I shouldn’t shouldn’t say I went and saw it. I remember it when it premiered. And I remember sitting through this episode distinctly that by this point, we’re deep into this series. I know I mentioned to you when we had our first conversation about this that one of my bros had a big living room, and he had HBO. So you know, two positives right there. And so we went and we watched it at his place, and we all kind of crammed in this room and, and there were drinks and there was food, and everybody had their girlfriends there. So it’s you know, a lot of dudes, and girlfriends and wives. And this episode, gave everyone something. And I remember walking away from it going, that’s kind of cool. I have often said that this is not really a war movie. It’s kind of a war movie. But the slow, deliberate and careful character building, which pays off so wonderfully, and Band of Brothers, it brought everyone into the story. And although you would think that little details like Alright, we have, we’re putting together this team that’s going to go out and we’re going to go off and carry out this special mission, you would think that the people who were not terribly interested in military history, you would think it would bore them to tears. But I think they cared. And that’s what it looked like to me that the girlfriend I had at the time, wasn’t really interested in military history at all. And she still sat for the episode and liked it and enjoyed watching it. And it was compelling to her just as it was to me. It was compelling to me for all the same reasons. But also because of things like sit on the front sight, taping up your field gear, infiltration and exfiltration operations, some use of supporting fires, coordinated supporting fires to cover brecksville all those things interested me very much. In addition to the fact that it was a bunch of dudes that I think well acted this episode. Some of the finest acting in the series, I think comes out of this episode. And you get the sense of all of them being worn down and tired. And you can develop the sense of them liking their condition more because as is revealed in a moment of dialogue. They’re indoors they’re, they’re sleeping inside, they’re getting hot meals, they’re in a much better place than they had been when they were at Bastogne But still, they’re worn down. And things can change. The war can turn on them at any minute because the enemy He’s just across the river.
Dan LeFebvre 20:01
Well, unfortunately for, for them, they do such a good job, that Colonel sink wants him to go back and do it again. Except this time because they blew up the house where they grabbed the two Germans from the night before, they’re going to have to go further into town. And then winters, he’s going to brief the men and he says, Okay, everybody, get a full night’s sleep, and then report to me in the morning that you made it across the river, but you were unable to secure any live prisoners. So basically, he’s asking them to ignore a direct order from Colonel sink. Did that really happen?
Marty Morgan 20:32
It did. This is a fascinating topic for us to contemplate here. And I think that’s because of the fact that this is presented to us as I’ve hammered this idea over and over again, I’m going to hit it one last time. And that is, we’re really being well exposed to character development for he’s still Captain at this point, Dick winters. And what we’re supposed to recognize as a part of that character development, is that he’s not like the average officer. He’s not one of these westpoint ticket punching types. He’s not one that’s a hothead. He’s not one that’s incompetent. And we’ve seen examples of all of those character stereotypes so far in the series. Happily, we’ve seen basically examples of like, here’s what winters wasn’t. And now we’re seeing, we’re seeing here. With this episode, we’re provided with this fantastic examples of what everyone typically recognizes as being the greatness of his leadership. This idea that he realizes it’s near the end of the war, he realizes that the mission, the second night in a row will probably produce another Casualty. And he makes this decision to ignore orders on purpose out of the best interests of his men. And as long as we’re recognizing that the incident is it’s based on something that did actually happen. I’m not denying that. But what I’m saying is, I have over the 20 years since this premiered, I have asked myself, is this a great example of his leadership? Or is it not? I understand that the series wants to make him look like the Soldier Soldier, and he wouldn’t send men on a mission that he thought was foolish. But at the same time, some of the ways that winters is magnified for the series. They’re a little bit packed full of cliche. I mean, how many how many other war movies or war books have you ever read where one person is complimented as being great, because he wouldn’t do anything that he wouldn’t order somebody else to do? He led from the front, he wouldn’t eat before them, and they come up with these. I don’t want to say that they’re superficial, but they’re approaching superficial realities, these things that conspicuously demonstrate traditional ideas of what good leadership is. And I would tend to argue that the hag in our example of the of the last patrol, it’s not the best example of winter’s being a great leader. Because let’s, let’s be honest, because one of the things that make us respect him that we respect the fact that he’s got a dedication to the mission, he’s got a dedication to the men, he’s got an optimism, we respect all of these things. At the same time, it’s a moment where we can see a little bit of like Deer Hunter type cynicism creep in.
Marty Morgan 23:27
Like, yeah, with get this fat cat higher up, not that I’m calling Bob sanka fat cat, but it’s almost presenting under those terms. We have this commander, and there’s even a little line, an exchange of dialogue between Nixon and winters, which I absolutely love. There’s art in this episode. And one of my favorite pieces of art is that it’s after they’ve gotten everyone back from the first patrol. The word leaks out to everyone that st wants another patrol, the enlisted men are buzzing about it. And then there’s a direct cut where the cameras in front of winners and Nixon is off behind him. And you can tell that when it cuts to them. They were in mid conversation, and it begins with a dialogue of lenders saying so he knows we lost a man. Nixon says, Yeah, he knows. He also knows you picked up two prisoners who talked winter says about what Nixon says op supply trouble Hitler’s favorite color? I don’t know. None of it gets us across the river. Winner said what’s the point? Nixon says honestly, sinks been on the phone all day long dragging it up. I think he’s just showing off now. I don’t know dick. I don’t know what to tell you. You gave him a successful patrol. Now he wants to and then winter says successful and it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful scene because you know what? We didn’t need that full conversation. We didn’t need Nixon walks up going. So what about that patrol last night, we didn’t need all this. foreplay. What we just needed to do was pick up right where winners does. So he knows we lost a man, right? So we don’t have to hear the point where Nixon walks up and says, Hey, the bosses send you again tonight. I know I’m full of this. I can’t quit complimenting the series, because I think it’s excellence in filmmaking. But I really feel like it’s a great moment. And at the same time, I have a problem with that moment, because of the line where he says, I What is it Nixon says, I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. You gave him a successful patrol. Now he wants to. And so it’s a little bit Vietnam ish. In a way, it’s a little bit of like, this mission. Our lives are just being sent out here unnecessarily, that leaders are wantonly sending us out into peril. Without a particularly good reason for something as simple as giving the regimental commanding officer a reason to break the idea of the second prisoner snatch, that doesn’t happen. It makes for great drama, which is why I can see that when the episode went to screenplay, I can see why they reached for this moment, because this moment provides something really, really great. And this once he was written by here we are once again with Bruce McKenna, and Eric Bork, to people that know how to write and know how to write drama very well. And they have written a great moment of drama. And I could see why that moment appeals to them. But at the same time, do we typically construe direct disobedience of the commands of a higher officer as being a positive thing? I think that in the post Vietnam era, yes, that there’s a recognition for that’s just the kind of like a populist idea that appeals to people that he may be our leader, but he’ll risk his career to protect us. It makes for a great piece of drama, it troubles me a little bit, because I guess I’m reluctant to go. That’s great leadership. Why then could not winters have turned to Nixon and said, Alright, here’s the deal. I want to talk to the old man about this, because I don’t want to send him and he could have done something else. But he I think, we could say that he realized that pushing back against that was fruitless and pointless. But then there could have also been, why not give sank the opportunity to just be reasonable. Because he could have been he could have responded to that he knew and trusted winters, to the extent that if winters came before him and said, Sir, the mission is just going to be too dangerous. We’re going to have to go a lot deeper into town, this time, we’re lucky to have only lost one man, but we lost a good man last night. I feel like this is a mission that we don’t need to send the men out on.
Marty Morgan 27:51
But winners didn’t do that. He just chose to, you know, roll with the punches, play it on the down low. And I think there are so many other things that indicate him as being an excellent leader than this. That’s my opinion. And it is completely irrelevant, because that’s what happened. And what did it do? It made an excellent episode, because it, it provides something that they need very desperately. I feel like the reason that reality television as a genre works the way that it has and has resonated with people. It hurts my soul to say that but reality TV has resonated with people. Because they so often involve a lot of tension and drama. I just used the word so often, I think I could probably use the word always instead, they always do, don’t they? I mean, every everything from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to Jersey Shore, you have people that are you’re deliberately cramming them together with the expectation that fireworks are going to fly. And it produces drama within a small a small cast of characters. And here you have it served up to you under circumstances of a true story that actually happens when it’s this drama and this push poll, will he make the bad decision of sending the men on the mission? That doesn’t make sense? Or will he surprised everybody and order them just to stay back and he’ll why and, and he’ll take the risk himself. I can see why. Bork and McKenna went with this because to be honest, this is screenplay 101 This is the exact type of drama and tension that you need in the middle of a story. And if you imagine Band of Brothers as a ghost story, or let’s make it even better a monster story, where there’s threat out there if you imagine it like you know the movie alien. Yeah, 1979 greatest movie ever made in human history, my favorite movie, and the movie alien. You have these different elements that are part of the storyline where you have the crew member, the crew members fighting for their lives, but then you also have drama and tension between them. And then there’s this alien out there that might show up at any moment. And hurt you. And so there’s this ever present quality that’s developing tension of the unknown and unseen force out there. And it’s moving the characters into tension and release, tension and release. And in this way, you could say that Haggar now is the Nostromo. Our company guys are the crew of the Nostromo. And the Germans are the alien. The circumstances of being used with a deliberateness as plot devices. And I can see why these master craftsmen who wrote this episode, looked at these incidents and what that’s the perfect plot. That’s precisely what we need. The way that the same way that like the TV show cheers had this finite and small cast of characters. And that cast everybody on that cast of characters introduced something into the story. And you know, some of them just got along great. And part of their story was like, buddy stuff. But then you had other elements that were, that was certainly the case with Woody and Sam. And then you had love interest character thrown in. And then you had also the Frasier crane character that’s thrown in, that produces a little bit of comic relief, and also a little bit of tension. I use cheers all the time as a way of illustrating that the reason that you have an identified cast like this is because you need those cast members to introduce these things, to introduce levity, or to introduce inspiration, or to introduce tension. And here with our cast, in this episode of manna, brothers, we have all of those things present. And out there across the river is the alien. Just mixed cheers, alien, and Banda brothers, and I need a drink.
Dan LeFebvre 31:52
Well, if that really happened, what sort of repercussions then would winters have been facing, like to make that sort of a decision of ignoring an order from sink.
Marty Morgan 32:01
And that’s why I push back on this as a great example of leadership because the consequences he could have faced, could have put those men into even greater peril, than if he had sent them all the mission. That’s because if Regimental commander and figured out that this happened, he would have relieved winters, although, you know, it could be said that under the duress of combat and the attrition that the division was experiencing at that point, that you wouldn’t necessarily sack a good officer for something like that, that you would reprimand him that you’d call him in, or you’d maybe move him somewhere else. But winters would have faced serious consequences. Because I consider even a reprimand from the regimental commander, I would consider that to be bad news. A strange thing that’s absent here is that you don’t have a battalion commander in place. But winters at this point is not running the battalion yet. But winters is still you know, working directly under the regimental commander. And with a battalion commander, if it had come out, winters would have faced some sort of important dire consequences. Maybe not immediately, but maybe later on maybe even after the war was over. But let’s just say that, let’s say sink, found out, sink, sacked him, pull them out of the battalion staff for the second time in five or six. Let’s say that happened, then who did they replace them with, they could have been replaced him with somebody who didn’t know them in and therefore looked at them more like anonymous numbers, you can send anonymous numbers across the river, and hacker now he can maybe do that with a little and a little more of a Cavalier spirit, then winters to kill a man would look at other tacoman to send them across the river on such a dangerous mission. So the consequences could have been serious. And it’s, I think, a fascinating thing for us to consider. Where I know that for one, the world I have grown up in and entertainment is a world where entertainment products have been offered to me over and over and over and over again, in the post Vietnam era, where this sort of thing comes up every possible military historical time period, I think of like, I’m just going to assume that you’re Stanley Kubrick fan, because everyone on earth should be and why shouldn’t you? Of course you are. If you’re familiar with Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film Paths of Glory. There’s an enormous amount of cynicism in that movie because it’s necessarily addressing the subject of the French mutinies in 1917. And I’m not here to say that in 1917, different were the French were not actually cynical about it because the mutinies were produced by cynicism by nonstop and endless slaughter. But I am saying that the Vietnam era likes to take examples of cynicism and push them to the front of the line.
Dan LeFebvre 34:55
Well, I think it’s something else that in the beginning of this episode, they start to set that up so that when winters decides to not send them it pays off. In the beginning, they talk about how everybody kind of senses that the war is coming to an end. So there’s, there’s no need to risk your life at this point, right? Because everybody can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so it’s not really said specifically in the show, but it’s very heavily implied. Okay, since you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Why are we doing this pointless mission? Like because we’re just going to put ourselves at risk when we already know we’re going to win the war. It’s only a matter of time. Why should we risk our lives on this sort of mission? Is the impression that I got while I was watching it. From the way they set it up to then two winters deciding not to go on a second patrol.
Marty Morgan 35:44
Isn’t it funny that this is central, a central theme of this episode? And this is after wasn’t just the last episode, wasn’t it? Just in Episode Seven, where we had this magnificent soliloquy from Spears, where he’s talking about not caring. He’s talking about this nihilism, this idea that you’re not going to make it and you just have to accept that. And I was the last episode, wasn’t it? Or was it the episode before that? At any rate, you know, this is a little soliloquy of which I speak, I believe.
Dan LeFebvre 36:19
Yes. Which episode specifically it was in? Because he rose up in the past couple episodes have been the best stone? Yeah, yeah.
Marty Morgan 36:26
I think it was the last episode. At any rate, we have that magnificence a little soliloquy from him where he is, he’s reflecting on an idea of you still have hope. That’s isn’t that the central part of this? soliloquy, you know, your problem, you still have hope. And you just have to accept that you’re already dead. We have that, then we go to this episode. And you can see everybody still has hope. And they all think that they’re going to survive. And the only thing that would prevent them from surviving, if we get sent on this next stupid prisoner snatch. I’m not complaining about that. I actually love the fact that we have philosophical and psychological complexity going on there are I mean, I don’t know that I’m reading too much into it. Because it’s, on the one hand, the previous episodes ruminating about, you know, your problem is that you know, you, you still have hope. And then we cut to this episode that’s packed full of a bunch of guys who they’re now past the breaking point, because that was a previous episode. And they’re now still kind of clinging to this hope that they can make it through all of this. And this mission doesn’t make it look like they’re going to make it through. And in this way, this mission that did actually happen in hagadol. It’s tailor made it is as if the screenplay writers wrote it themselves. Before Steven Ambrose began writing the book Band of Brothers, it’s, it’s really set up perfectly for this human drama that we’re seeing playing out in this episode.
Dan LeFebvre 38:02
But as you’re saying that I was reminded that there’s another time when Nixon was talking to what remember, it was when right before black got shot. I think I in an earlier episode, Nixon was talking and one of the other guys had like his reserve chute, he was going to take it back for his fiance that you know, they were gonna get married
Marty Morgan 38:22
Harry wells, Harry Wells was taking it home for Kitty, taking it home to kitty. Yeah,
Dan LeFebvre 38:26
yes, Nixon said something to the effect of, I never took you for the type or something like that. He’s like what, you know, thou romantic, he’s like, know that you think we’re actually gonna make it back to England.
Marty Morgan 38:38
Right. And it’s, and I love how that line is, it’s delivered with a little bit of a sardonic sort of dark humor. And that’s, it pops up a couple of times in this series. And it just shows you that they had a sober understanding of what they were up against at every step. that fascinates me too, that as you evaluate that, from one episode to the next in this series, you can actually watch that pendulum swing where there’s maybe a little meal here, periodically, a little bit of a little bit of dark humor, gallows humor, you’ll see some some guys kind of reflecting on lost comrades. And it swings all the way through the best stone episodes, and it swings into this episode. And it’s now the Heart of Darkness. that fascinates me that this is a measurable change of tone that occurs over the course of this series, which once again, I think is all the result of good writing and great acting.
Dan LeFebvre 39:37
Very well said, what the beginning of episode nine, which is called Why We Fight we see the men looting Spears take some silver dishes Nixon is looking for is that 69 whiskey. There’s an obvious difference between the fighting that we saw in earlier episodes and what they’re doing now in March of 1945, according to the show. Now one point Janell Vic comes in and he wrote, he tells Nixon 300,000 Germans just reading So it really does seem like the war is starting to wind down Can you give some overall context around what was going on for Easy Company in early 1945?
Marty Morgan 40:09
Yeah because the one thing that the this episode doesn’t do all that great is it doesn’t follow like an antiquarian would the movements and basically just the facts ma’am type storytelling of where Easy Company was and how it ended up where it did. Easy Company has gone through some interesting things. So after Easy Company gets pulled off the line in the Battle of the Bulge after they rest up in Rational in January, they are then eventually they moved down to the area around half an hour. And it’s because on December 31 1945, Germans throw a massive counter attack into the tactical situation in northwest Europe called Operation nordwind. And Operation northwind was supposed to recapture, packing out and then keep pushing onward and recapture the city of Strasbourg and it was hoped that they would attack the weakened seventh army because seventh army had moved into and filled a little bit of a void that was left when Third Army moved north to join the fighting of in the breakthrough during the Battle of the Bulge. So you had that happen, Easy Company, therefore, in mid January is around Bastogne is a company that moves a little over 100 miles south to Haggar. Now, where it’s it fills in a place on the line, they basically fill in for the three for 314 different regiment at the 79th Infantry Division. At because they had moved that they were the first unit to liberate hacking out, Easy Company or not Easy Company, but the entire 506 moves in and replaces the 3/14 on the line. They then have their experiences, they’re documented and depicted in the last troll. And then in the aftermath of that Easy Company is moved north. And that’s where this episode is beginning. So imagine this, if you will the map of Europe. So you’re way down here in the vicinity of Carl’s Korea, and you’re hanging out, not far from Strasbourg. And then the next episode starts and where are you? You’re way up north, north of Cologne, and south of Dusseldorf. Because this episode is depicting Easy Company at a place called scriptural battulga. And that’s because when this episode opens, we’re in a present day, and we flashback and then flash forward. And the process of that flashback flash forward, some of the timeline gets some of the timeline gets blurred. I’m not criticizing that because I completely respect the decisions that they had to make over this because you’re not going to be able to go Okay, well, after hanging out, they went back to normal on briefly and then from there, they went all the way north of Cologne, they were there for a little while, and then they went back to the south again, you’re not going to carefully carve all of that out. But when the story opens, they’re in this area, close to the Rhine River, north of Cologne, South Dusseldorf. And they have been moved up there to fill in a place in the line, they’re going to be moved again shortly. So the episode opens with, it’s a surprising decision that the filmmakers made to fix a firm date. They fix it as April 11 1945. And, but guess we’ll get to it a little bit later on. But there are some problems associated with them, dropping a date pan on it, making it specifically let April 11. We’ll get to that in a minute. But they have moved to the north to fill in a place on the line briefly in the roar pocket area. And it’s during this time period, while they’re up there that they they’re in combat and they’re involved in operations. But you have unusual sequences that unfold like Lewis Nixon gets sent to jump into jump across the Rhine River with the 17th Airborne Division as a part of Operation varsity on March 29 24th 1945. You have that as a you know, a part of this overall moving back and forth with Nixon and his quest because this this episode is sort of side quests in a way where Nixon is looking for what he’s looking for that 69 he’s looking for his whiskey, that’s being teased over and over again, and then we get paid off later on with that, once again, another storytellers tool, another device being used by screenplay writers to make the story more emotionally rewarding fulfilling to people. But the tactical situation in Europe at this point was that the Battle of the bolts by now is over. The Germans have been pushed back they have been pushed back to the Rhine River and allied units are now across the Rhine River. Of course, they crossed the Rhine River first at a place called Remagen, which is where the ludendorff Bridge was captured intact. Then they get across further to the north of that with Operation varsity, which is something that’s it’s not depicted in this episode, but it’s definitely named dropped in This episode, you’re seeing an easy company at the beginning of April. That’s thinking back to things that happened the previous month because you know, you get an on screen slate, I think that says one month earlier, I believe that’s exactly what it says. And that’s when we when we flash back a month, that’s when we’re starting to see a little bit of a looting what is now sort of something that the 101st airborne is a little bit a little infamously known for was collecting more souvenirs. And we’re seeing a lot of silverware as a look what because it, because if you just go off a band of brothers, what are the big things? It’s lugares and silverware,
Dan LeFebvre 45:41
but it’s birsay Finders keepers
Marty Morgan 45:42
I just gave Yeah, that’s exactly yeah. And that’s kind of that’s kind of a fun moment. And what I like too, is that the episode provides you a little bit of a departure, because like one thing that I have learned in tour guiding over the years is that we would, as a part of the typical tour experience, we would do battle the bolts for a few days. And then we had to cover a lot of ground to get down to the area around the eagle’s nest, so we had to basically reposition from Luxembourg City, to back to Scotland, that’s basically a full day right there. You would have enough time during that repositioning to stop at Dachau, and you drive through cow basically, on the way into Munich. So we would stop and we would visit the concentration camp at Dachau. And I’m very interested in Holocaust studies. I’m very interested in the subject. And I’ve spent a lot of time researching, writing and visiting these sites. And I’ve recognized patterns about the way that people digest information about the Holocaust. Because when it comes to the Holocaust, we are overexposed and under educated. What I have found overwhelmingly is that if you give people a couple of solid hours of Holocaust stuff, you need to stop and let them have some ice cream. Because they’ve had it that bleakness and the fact that they’re confronted with these ideas, the challenge is an idea that I believe most people carry with them, I certainly carry it with me. And that is the idea that we are progressively working toward enlightenment as a species that we’re that people are together, working toward, actively working toward making the world a better place, and learning from the past. And observing the past and respecting it and understanding it as a means of guiding us toward that enlightened future that’s on the horizon. And we’re working our way toward it. Any discussion of the Holocaust just strips all of that away? It just Yanks it all out of your hands. What it tells you is like, no, we’re animals. That’s what we are. And all Nazi Germany was was the substitute teacher came in, took over and let the kids do whatever they wanted to, and people resorted to animalistic behaviors. I’m trying to encapsulate Nazi Germany into a couple of sentences. And that’s not easy. But if anything, the National Socialist time period shows you that humankind has these tribalistic animal instincts that it looks like we’re not reaching toward the enlightened beacon on the horizon, that what we are is that we’re engaged actively more in reductionism, that we might have moments of greatness and we might work toward ideals. We’re certainly informed by it through influences within our life, law and order the church these things tend to influence us toward these ideas of progression, progressivism. You can just with a simple look at history, realize that that’s not what humankind is doing. humankind is, is returning to its animalistic instincts over and over again. And so we would stop, take everybody on a quick walkthrough tour at Dachau, which would produce 100 questions about the Holocaust and the overall experience of the final solution. And I realized very early on when I was leading tours that when we walked out of the gates, those gates, there’s a gate at Dachau that says Arbeit Macht Frei, you know, work will set you free when we walked out of that gate. My lesson as a tour guide was stop talking about it. Just be done with Holocaust, you had your time, people had to confront their knowledge of Holocaust and at doc out you could, you can go and visit to crematoria. There’s an older temporary crematoria and then a larger permanent crematoria you can go and you see those and those thing that troubling, they upset people. And I learned long ago that when you walk back out through those gates, be done with it and get back on the bus. Talk about something fun. Maybe tell a couple of stupid dad jokes to white Lear, and stop somewhere in Munich and get some ice cream. But I learned very early on if I didn’t do that, that people would just really be brought into this this existential doldrums and I kind of liked the fact this series It negotiates that same obstacle course, in a way, because here with this beginning part, you have what I hadn’t even talked about it yet. I’m not going to talk about it now. But you have what I think is the greatest opening to a television program in television history.
Marty Morgan 50:20
The opening of this episode, episode nine, but I’ll come back to that in a minute. And you move from this, this very powerful emotional opening sequence, to what a month earlier and people are looting things. And it’s a little bit funny. And there’s also a scene where one soldier is having sex with a German woman. And so you’re, you’re you’ve it’s like the, like stopping to get ice cream after you leave cow in a way. And it’s like we had gone through so much heavy. And that last episode, I mean, in last patrol, my God, the death scene. It’s brutal. I mean, that’s, it’s hard to watch that. I mean, even I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it now. But when I watched it this time, Jackson’s death is it’s tough to sit through. And you go through that, and then you pop into the next episode. And there’s a little bit of there’s a little bit of Let’s face it, there’s a little bit of comedy with looting. And then you get Nixon who this episodes about him. And it’s his journey. And what do we get? We get what I think is one of the funniest lines in the whole series. It’s like, it’s my dog, when he’s talking about his wife and the divorce papers.
Dan LeFebvre 51:32
She doesn’t even like that dog.
Marty Morgan 51:34
Yeah, he doesn’t even like that dog. And he throws his helmet into the jeep. And it is funny, because let’s face it, Ron Livingston is a comic actor. He has moments in this episode, where he’s very serious. And I took it seriously as an actor. He took me there. But he is also funny guy. Most of his movies are comedy. And he’s hilarious. And he lets that out here. And it’s kind of this great little relief. Everybody can identify with it. Everyone got a giggle out of it. I remember being in the room, when the it’s my dog line happened the night of the premiere back in 2001. And we all just doubled over because it was hilarious. And we were looking for a moment where we could laugh. And this episode gives you that and that’s one of the reasons that I feel like the writing in these episodes is so it’s complex, and it’s good. And I know I keep hammering that point. So I’ll just walk away from it at that. And on that subject, we have to talk about the elephant in the room, which is the best quote of the entire series. When perconti says a George kind of reminds you of Bastogne, and Lutz says yeah, now that you mentioned it, it kind of does remind me of Bastogne, except that there’s no snow, we get warmed up in our bellies, and the trees are fucking exploding from crowd artillery. But yeah, right. Other than that, it’s a lot like that. That line is a gift from heaven. That line was so funny. And we all loved it. And it was a way of just offering if you’re going to make everybody tense up, and look at the way that we all had to tense up when Easy Company got shelled in the war zone, and just the misery of the men that were so badly that were killed and so badly injured. And here, we can laugh about it. Now we can giggle a little bit. And the line is delivered with just excellent comic timing and style. Rick Gomez, the guy that played bloods, I think I think he’s great in this series, he, he’s often sort of off to the side in the series. And when he’s on camera, he’s doing something that’s usually kind of funny and a little bit of a release. And we’re even about to see him get a little dark. But as a as a recurring character in this series, I think he makes this great contribution to why we remember it, why the series is so popular even after 20 years.
Dan LeFebvre 53:54
But one thing that we see while they’re going through the woods, they’re canvassing the area to make sure there’s no Germans there. But they do stumble upon the concentration camp. And at first they don’t know what it is. The more they explore it, the more they don’t believe it. What camp did Easy Company discover? And was the show correct to imply that? At that point, it seems like nobody understand what these concentration camps are when they discovered the camp
Marty Morgan 54:20
that they liberate as calculating a theater or a calculating number for the capturing sub camp network was 11 separate camps that were directly associated with concentration camp at Dachau and Bavaria, near Munich. And these 11 camps were satellite camps of people that came from Dachau that were involved in production that Catherine the theater of number four, they were working on some bunkers that never even got finished in the end. This is an area that is basically on that route between Lorraine and Munich. So the area where this is they refer to it as Lansburgh in the series because they’re close to the town of Landsberg. Specifically the town of Landsberg, Lech meeting on the LEC River, which is just about I guess, 40 miles 30 miles south of Alex Barragan, Alex Borg, actually, the so this is an actual part of the larger and more complicated story of what concentration camps were and what the concentration camps system did. And if you can tolerate just a quick diversion into that subject, I would just mention that I have functioned effectively as a holocaust educator for almost 20 years in leading tours to Europe and tourists that didn’t involve visiting former concentration camps and killing centers. And this is an important point for people to to metabolize. And that’s because I find that the person who has not become a history major and hasn’t dedicated their life to studying the Holocaust. They’re aware of the most infamous camps associated with the final solution. That’s typically Auschwitz Birkenau, maybe Sobibor, maybe they’re familiar with the killing centers, there are only a handful of those. And they might be then familiar with detention camps and prison camps like Dachau was stuck out was not a killing center, I find that for the most part, the public education system, there’s I would, it seems to me that there’s less deliberate time being put into educating people about what the campus network look like in the camp network was this very short list of killing centers, and then this massively long list of camps and sub camps that were associated with labor, sometimes transportation, they had many functions. And what we’re seeing at Katherine for in the area around Lansburgh was a camp that was associated with a construction site. So it was in basically every way temporary. And that’s reflected by what you see in terms of the set piece that is ultimately built. Because imagine just being in the production side of Banda brothers, and that is that you have to have a concentration camp seen. And their dedication to making that look good really appealed to me, because you see how you have big timber walls, you have barbed wire, you don’t have big looming towers, because Catherine for wasn’t a permanent camp. It was a temporary camp. So I feel like they and they had some pretty good photography showing these underground or these half underground barracks, buildings that were constructed for the for the men to get them out of a wind during bad weather. There’s some photographic evidence that exists. And they built a set that looks quite real, I was quite impressed with that. And then what they had to do was in creating that set, they had to also bring in actors to function as, as the extras that were populating the background of the scenes. And they, what they did, I felt was a very, very impressive result. Because the scene there, I don’t know how you feel about it. But I find it to be very moving and powerful, especially in an episode that’s titled Why We Fight. What you have are a bunch of factors that that were obviously chosen specifically to look like they were starving to death. And look, they look weak, and they look sick. It’s only a couple of little quick shots that I noticed people that there, they make everybody look a little pale and sickly, and they do it with makeup. And it’s almost unnoticeable. There are a couple of moments where you can see people where they’ve obviously got some heavy makeup that’s trying to make them look worse. But they have produced something that to me looks like a holocaust at the time of its liberation. And there’s a stoic quietness, to the way that the actors navigate that scene that speaks to me, and I think is extremely good. And it’s depicting these awkward circumstances associated with what happened that day. And that is that you have men that find the sub camp, they bring in their hierarchy commanders, they then bring in medical staff, and a decision is made that listen, we can’t let these people out. They run into town, they get food, they bring it back to the camp, and then they’re told to stop feeding them and make them go back in the camp, we got to lock them up.
Dan LeFebvre 59:14
And they actually had to do that.
Marty Morgan 59:15
They had to do that. And that’s because once once you have been starved down to that level, the filmmakers are careful to show you that they like give them a big wheels, cheese and their slice of big chunks of cheese off. And then they’re giving them black bread. A big problem with doing that is particularly with cheese is that for people that have been been on caloric restriction that the second you dump cheese, which is extremely high in calories and high in fat, you dump that down their throat, they’re going to get sick, they’re going to end up either regurgitating or dedicating out everything that gets consumed and they’re not going to get a lot of, they’re not going to get a lot of value out of eating it. The breads not as bad but the problem is that starving people We’ll generally eat until there’s nothing left. And the uncomfortable reality is that you have to introduce, you have to return calories back into their daily experience carefully. You can’t bombard them with 3000 calories in 10 minutes. So you have to, you have to regulate and manage the way that they are returned to natural and normal nutrition. And that’s why that decision had to be made right there, stop feeding them. The other big decision, which was the decision to put them back into the enclosure that was made, because basically everybody at this stage had typhus. And typhus was the big killer in the concentration camps. And I’m sure you’re familiar with what causes it. But I’ll just break it down real quick. typhus originates from lice. And whenever you cram people into cramp environments, and you don’t let them bathe and wash it adequately on a daily basis. Or when you cram them into barracks buildings in the bleak midwinter, they’re going to develop lice. And the problem that ultimately leads to typhus is that as lice are crawling around on your body, you tend to itch at them. And you itch, the spot that’s being irritated by the Laos, and when you itch it, your fingernails are the action of scratching will basically break open and tear open the louses body. And it’s the excrement inside the Laos that then as you scratch it and drive it into your skin, it will create an infection that ultimately leads to your death under the most miserable possible circumstances. And so when people are infected by lice, it’s extremely difficult to manage them, because it’s contact transmission. So if you’re, everybody’s all crammed in together, everybody’s going to get it and then if you just let them out, and they are still infected by lice, or infested by lice, rather, if they are just allowed out, they can infect other people, they’ll, the lice will affect our infest the other people. And then you can have a broader typhus outbreak, nursing people back to health in the middle of a typhus outbreak is, is extremely difficult. And it requires a lot of medical intervention. And once an outbreak begins, it spreads quickly. And so examples like what we see here, and then examples, like when the 150/7 Regimental Combat Team was at the 45th Division reaches the the main camp calm, they have to make they have to confront this idea that we can’t just let these people out. Everybody’s got typhus, we have to de Laos, everybody, we’ve got to manage their return to nutrition. In other words, everyone in there, even if they’re standing up and walking around, they are a medical case that has to be dealt with appropriately. You can’t just leave them. And so you get this very dramatic moment in the series, which I think is well acted by a number of, of the actors that are involved in, in the cast, particularly the lead got character, I think acts very well through this. And I think Damian Lewis does this amazing job and Damien Lewis had a little bit of a difficult road to hoe and all of this, he has to be stoic, but at the same time, he has to be resolute. And if you were an actor, and someone went, alright, if if I was the director, I’m like, Alright, be stoic, and resolute and go, how do you do that? You watch Damian Lewis and Spain and Banda brothers, because he does that over and over again. And he’s convincing, and he’s believable. And he doesn’t overdo it. He doesn’t seem cartoonish and Broadway. And he presents that very nicely. I think, in this episode, particularly, and the Calvin for liberation sequence.
Dan LeFebvre 1:03:51
There’s a scene that I want to ask you about, because we see when they’re getting the food from town to take it back to the camp. I think it was Webster that he pulled the baker at gunpoint, and was like,
Marty Morgan 1:04:04
Did you not smell the stench?
Dan LeFebvre 1:04:06
Did you not know that this was there? And it seems like rest of the town didn’t really realize that they were there. Is it true that the Nazis hid the camps from the towns nearby?
Marty Morgan 1:04:15
Can I give you a typical bureaucratic answer? Because I have to qualify it. That’s for me. That’s not a simple yes or no. It’s a qualified, sort of, because what the German government by this point in the war had realized was that there were some ugly realities about things that they were doing that were better off out of the public eye. They didn’t want the civilian sing it because you might be familiar with a program that Germany instituted, basically simultaneous to the invasion of Poland in 1939. And that is the T four program named t four after tF gutten. Theater, which was the address. In Berlin where this office was administered. The program is better known as the euthanasia program. And it was a program by which dogs Doctors carried out. They supposedly provided merciful euthanization to terminally ill patients. You’re probably familiar with the program. And the program was ultimately like, almost everything under the National Socialists are great. It was perverted to the point where they weren’t just providing a mercy death to terminally ill people they rolled in people who suffered from seizure disorder, alcoholics, people who were criminals and and in some cases, they just simply went to nursing homes and cleared it out of old people that hadn’t been visited in a long time. And they euthanize them. I’m using air quotes around euthanasia, because that’s not a mercy killing, that is a murder is what that is. And so the German state began murdering terminally ill and old people and sick people way back in 39, starting at 39, really reaching its stride in 1940. And one thing that they found out very quickly, was that people spoke out about this, particularly from the pulpit. There were a number of religious leaders that began to speak out a little bit and in a in a way that might surprise you, we would tend to expect that. I mean, how do we expect Nazi Germany to react to everything, you know, with jackbooted authoritarianism, that’s what we expect, we always imagine National Socialist Germany as being the ultimate police state. It’s worse than that. It’s far more sinister than that. Because Germany didn’t do that it would eventually, you know, intimidate, round up and even murder members of the clergy who spoke out. But at this earlier stage of the war, what Germany did was they went Alright, fine, let’s take it all over the board, which is why the killing centers that are ultimately established for the industrial mass murder of civilians in Europe, those killing centers, none of them are in Germany, they’re all in Poland. That’s also why you see the einsatz troop and the mobile killing units that follow the invasion force into the Soviet Union. They’re killing them where they’re not sending them back. They’re not sending them back West. They’re killing them right there. They’re doing it in such a way that the German people could still entertain fantasies about what the right wanted them to think it was. People could still entertain this fantasy of the right it. It’s tough love. It’s out there to push people around. But it’s it’s at the bottom, it’s fair. And we can be proud of it because the right is protecting our people. I’m not here to say that the Reich hid every detail associated with the final solution from the German people. But it certainly did try. It is to the point where part of the reason why I wanted to qualify my response to your question is that it’s rather notoriously known that at Dachau, civilians were brought in that is something that’s also depicted here, as an emotional payoff moment in this episode, where we have that moment where Nixon goes into a house looking for vet 69. You know, the moment I’m talking about, he goes in there portrait with the little black ribbon indicating a debt officer, he throws it on the ground. woman comes out and gives him the cold German stare. Dog barks
Dan LeFebvre 1:08:05
got to be the dog. Yep.
Marty Morgan 1:08:06
The dog bar. I think it’s a beautiful, yeah, it’s a beautiful scene. It’s the barking dog, and even seen as dumb a set piece as a dog sitting on the stairs, barking at him as he leaves. What does it do? It all has purpose. It’s funny because of that scene. There are moments where when I watched it again, before this conversation, I watched it. And I had a conversation with myself about that moment in the series where I went, is that scene too much? Or is it too little? Because there’s no, there’s no dialogue? You don’t need it. The same, I think clearly says dialogue was unnecessary. Everything that needed to be communicated in that scene was done by actors silently. Well, that is except for the dog. And then I thought, Okay, so what’s what’s this melodrama? Was this cheesy melodrama? Or was this just what we needed. And I am concluding that it is just what we needed. Because what we needed was the moment where we’re understanding the impact of the war on a standard on a German household.
Marty Morgan 1:09:14
The barking dog does what it provides us the continuing character development of Lewis Nixon, who is the star of this episode. I mean, I don’t wanna say he’s the star, but he’s certainly the center, the central cast member of this episode. And even a little something as quick as one quick cutaway shot to a dog barking, provides character development, and my God, that’s what makes this series so great. That’s why we love this series, even to the point where I’m complimenting a dog for contributing to the character development, but that’s what I’m doing. And so we get that moment, because then it cuts to later on, that moments paid off where Nixon sees the same woman having to help bury the bodies at kufrin for which is something that actually happened and the reason I mentioned it, and I got what down this road is that I found myself over the years in taking people to Dachau. I have found people bringing this subject up, they bring up the subject of how do the Germans not know. And I always tell them, Listen, I can tell you how they didn’t know if you want me to, you might not like it. But I’m going to tell you how they did not know. With the Dachau example, specifically, when Eisenhower got there, when there was a big inspection and the order went out to make the civilians come in, trucks went into the town of knockout. And if you’re familiar with where doc L is, it sits to the north western outskirts of the city of Munich, it’s almost 10 miles outside of town. And Dachau did not, it’s Well, I mean, in 1934, it was established basically, as a prison for the government. It goes through basically three distinct periods where at first, it’s a prison where you could get convicted, go to Krakow, serve your sentence, and then be released back into German society, after having paid your, your debt to society. It then goes through a central period where it became basically a Transportation Center, just as the final solution begins. Moving, the engine begins moving in it’s, and it’s designed in an intentional way in 1942. And then toward the end of the war, it reaches its third and final period, which is the cow functions as a prisoner of war camp. And in fact, by the time that it gets to the third period, Dachau is basically all of the above. It’s all of those things. And in addition to that cow was nested next to and as a part of an army base, an army facility, a post. And in fact, one of the finest military hospitals in Germany was right there next to the camp. That’s why you see recovering soldiers, you see soldiers that get killed at the time of the cows liberation, and they were soldiers who were patients in that hospital. So Dachau is a separate community, 10 miles to the northwest of the city of Munich. And the call goes out round up civilians, to bring them in here and help bury the dead, because there was a train that had a very, very large quantity of dead concentration camp and mates who had been transported from camps to the north. And they had to be buried immediately. It was a crisis that had to be dealt with, immediately. So when the call went out, trucks went into downtown Dachau. And so from the camp to basically the high street and downtown Dachau, it’s not even a quarter of a mile, because it’s it’s not a big town, and the trucks go in there, and you can bet your bottom dollar, everybody knew it’s time to disappear. It’s time to not be seen on the street. They knew that the Americans are all here, let’s not be out in public. So all the civilians had basically crawled inside and they weren’t coming out. They rounded up a few, but they didn’t round up nearly enough people. And when they failed to come up with a sufficient number of people, the trucks were then sent into downtown Munich. And those people could definitely testify to I had no idea what was going on up there. Those people if somebody challenged them, what how could you not smell it? They could say, I didn’t smell anything. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Those people definitely, they would never have had an opportunity to go inside that camp. And if anything, what they knew is like, oh, there’s doc cow, that little community up there. And there’s a military base up there. So this idea of this plausible deniability when it’s brought up and it’s brought up here, and it’s presented in a way that I find is a little bit typical, and that it’s brought up with this very, you know, sort of snarling and cynical quality of they knew these people they knew and I don’t think that they necessarily did
Dan LeFebvre 1:13:35
sounds like there’s a lot of people that were further away than the way the show portrays it. It’s like, okay, these people are right here in town. So of course, they’re going to be close enough to be able to, to know that something’s going on.
Marty Morgan 1:13:46
Yeah, critical detail would be how far away? Did they go to collect these people up? Did they just collect them up from from right there? Or did they go into downtown Lansburgh? Where do they go? And? Yeah, because if they’re in Landsberg is a couple of miles from the camp. It’s from this camp site. And just for the record, this camp site was established, gosh, it was established in I think it was established in June 44. So we’re here now at the time of the liberation, which is the end of April 1945. And so the camps been there for 10 months. If somebody builds something new on the other side of town, are you necessarily going to rush out there within 10 months ago, snooping around? I don’t believe so. And so that’s why I find it to be believable that many of these people testified as to not knowing what was going on at the camp.
Dan LeFebvre 1:14:41
That makes sense. That explanation makes sense for sure. Yeah, what the very end of episode nine, the men received the news that Hitler shot himself. Then the beginning of Episode 10. The men are sent to take Virtus cotton. Now, the show simply says that that’s the symbolic home of the Nazi party doesn’t really get into a lot. Have what that actually was? Or why, why it was the symbolic home of the Nazi Party. But can you give us a little more context around berchtesgaden and what it was and why it was such a symbolic home for the Nazis.
Marty Morgan 1:15:13
I sit around this house, dreaming of people asking me to provide context of why practice garden was symbolic to the National Socialists. So thank you. This is the best question I’ve received all week that this garden becomes Central and in many ways toxic soil, in the relationship that Germany has with the National Socialist Party. Starting immediately after Adolf Hitler was released from prison, as you may know, it’ll fit there was arrested after an attempted coup d’etat against the Bavarian government. And he served a brief period of time in prison. And in the aftermath of his prison sentence. He completed his personal political testament that we know as the book mind, comfort, my struggle, Adolf Hitler began writing the book when he was still in prison. But then when he got out of prison, he had so many followers and supporters that they wanted him to complete this political testament. And one of those supporters was a man named Dietrich Eckert, who was a landowner and he owned property in this little town in southern Bavaria called victus. Goddard. And Eckert encouraged Nate off to come down and provided him a little bit of a stipend and encouraged him to move up to a little hunting lodge that was basically a cabin on a hill above the town of Baptists garden. And they wanted him to go there and to live in isolation and complete his book, which is what he ultimately does. As it turns out, Adolf Hitler had been there before, he had not spent significant amounts of time there before but the time period that he would eventually spend after he gets out of prison, in the Bavarian Alps near Baptist garden, he falls in love with the place which is what happens to everyone. Everyone who goes there walks away from Alright, it’s called the victus got Milan. That’s the name of the valley meaning it’s the land of the Baptist gardeners, the people that live in the area, everyone that goes there goes, I get it, I get it now.
Dan LeFebvre 1:17:20
I mean, the scenery in the episode was just beautiful.
Marty Morgan 1:17:23
It’s devastating. It devastates you, because then you’ll go back to your mundane reality. And you’ll sit there going this damn place doesn’t look nearly like the backtest gotten the land Valley. without me being too ridiculous. It is a stunning place. The mountains are extremely dramatic. You have in fact, the highest mountain in Bavaria, the Foxman that towers over you, you have the Hiller Gall. And then you also have mount Kel, Stein, and it towers over you so that when you’re in downtown pictus Garden, you’re looking at these magnificent mountains all around you. And then off to the, to the north, is that unterberg, which is running along the top of the mountain is the border between Germany and Austria. And that’s the mountains feature province prominently in the sound of music, and it’s beautiful to me, you’re just surrounded by this incredible, astonishing beauty. And also even today, it is a place that strikes a much different appearance than the cities do. And I think that that’s the the key to why it spoke to Adolf Hitler. And that is that Adolf Hitler, you know, he spent a lot of time and after World War One in Vienna, and Vienna was a multilingual, multiracial place. And Adolf Hitler didn’t care for that. Adolf Hitler didn’t care. He didn’t like the world that was complicated. He preferred the world that was simple. He preferred a world where everyone was basically the same where you weren’t confronted with another culture that spoke a different language and practice a different religion. These were things that belonged to the cities, if you went to Berlin, you got a lot of that. If you were in Vienna, you got a lot of that. And Adolf Hitler didn’t like those things. And so when he had his sojourn, finishing the book, from in this little mountain hut called house vacuum filled, that was the name of the cabin, on the mountain above that dust garden where he went and finished the book. He went there and I think took a deep breath of the idyllic qualities of the valley. being confronted with nature and its beauty and a lot of people that look just like you and they have the same values as you. They treat you kindly and everybody’s respectful and everyone’s a good Catholic. Everybody presents this, this homogeneity that you just do not find in modern metropolitan areas, because what is it that defines the modern metropolitan area heterogeneity, you’re finding a heterogenous reality of people speaking different languages, practicing different religions, people that are rich people that are poor, a bunch of people that are right in the middle, you get all of these wildly differing things that are crammed into a city and Adolf Hitler rejected that he didn’t care for that reality, he preferred the reality of homogeneity, where everyone was basically the same. And so what he found in that valley was the Germany that he wanted to create. And more and more, because the valley appealed to him so much it for that matter. I mean, you can just listen to the way I talk about it, you can tell that I love it there. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. And I miss it because of COVID-19. And I’m not a national socialist, and, and I’m not a crazy dictator. And I can still love the valley. And he loved it too. And if anything, it helps me understand the way that his gears returning a little bit and the way that he looked to the simplified, idyllic country life in southern Bavaria. And he imagined that he could create that for all of Germany. But in order to create that, you got to shove out all Jews and all the foreigners and get to get the gypsies out of here. And if you can’t have Slavs in there, you have to basically create a world just for the group of people that you think, represent the greatest value. The overall conceit of that, that, well, I think these people should be allowed this lamp because I like them. It’s so conceited at its core. But that’s how he began to look at the place. And he began spending more and more time there, eventually house voc and felt which was the, the cabin of the mountain where he finished the book, where he purchased it. And then in 1936, the place went into this big it went into this big renovation where they expanded it, they made it bigger, and they made it better. And it became effectively his presidential palace and it was named the bear cough. And it’s at this point that I should I quickly identify the three critical parts of this puzzle because everything that’s about to happen and Vanda brothers, happens in the middle of this puzzle and the puzzle can be a little confusing. The puzzle consists of three distinct pieces, number one city of Baptists gotten, it’s down in the valley right along the salzach River. And then number two, the village called Obara sells bag, which is halfway up the mountain. And that’s where how Spock and Phil that ultimately comes becomes the bear call of Adolf Hitler’s personal residence. That’s where that was. So his personal house was not Invictus garden. It was just outside effect. It’s gotten halfway up the mountain. Then eventually, for his 50th birthday, in April of 1938, the Nazi Party gave him a birthday present in the form of what’s called the Cal steinhaus week know it as the eagle’s nest. And the eagle’s nest is not a house, he didn’t live in it, it had no bedrooms. The Eagle’s Nest was like an event facility Think of it like that. The Eagle’s Nest, also known as Cal steinhaus, sits on top of Mount Cal Stein. And therefore you’ve got your three distinct pieces, Cal steinhaus, on top of the mountain, Hitler’s personal residence, the bear golf halfway down the mountain. And then the city of Baptists gotten itself all the way down to the bottom of the mountain in the valley. Those are your three distinct pieces. The it’s important to really carve them out separately, and so conspicuously and deliberately because it figures into the story that we’re about to have to deal with. So, Adolf Hitler, as time goes by, he likes living in house rockenfeller, which is expanded 1936 into the bear cough, his personal residence. He likes spending time there more than he likes spending time in Berlin. And in fact, during the course of the Second World War, Adolf Hitler spends the majority of his time at the bear cough in the village called obersalzberg, halfway up the mountain of a gun. In fact, he’s there on Tuesday, June 6 1944. And this famous incident where he is eventually awakened and he talks on the phone about D day anyway, Adolf Hitler and going there to his mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps to finish his political Manifesto. He in so doing basically turned the soil of the obersalzberg where his house was, he basically turned that into the most toxic soil in all of Europe. Because if you think about it, that’s the soil upon which the fundamentalist ideas, the absolutism of National Socialism was most clearly articulated in his political manifesto might come, then that’s why it became something
Marty Morgan 1:24:56
symbolically representative of national socialism and that’s why meant something to the soldiers, the soldiers depicted in the banner brothers because this was his home. This was in many ways the home of National Socialism of the ideology itself. So it was the home of the, of this cursive abyss of an indie ology. And it was where he made his home during the course of the Second World War. And that’s why it was the last prize that everybody wanted to get to just as the war was ending.
Dan LeFebvre 1:25:29
That’s why as they’re driving through it, like it’s completely there’s nobody there. And I think was it Nixon saw, as one of the one of the guys says, This is the only place where you can’t say that you’re not a Nazi, because nobody’s gonna believe you because everybody, you have to be one to be here, basically.
Marty Morgan 1:25:47
Right, which is hilarious, because the town itself was, was not completely full. But there were several people in that town that were just not Nazis. And in fact, there’s a really funny thing. I mean, if Nazi stuff can be funny at any point, but the big problem was that as Adolf Hitler began doing business more and more from his house, the bear cough at the obersalzberg, halfway up the mountain. As he began doing that more and more, it was necessary to sort of serve the fact that the boss wants to be at a summer house down in the mountains. And so they ultimately built an annex to the Rex Chancellery. It’s a nearby, it’s a place that’s called through but not far away, like maybe a mile outside of town. But you had to go down the mountain through Becker’s garden to the other side of town to get to this, this annex. And so there were these rings of Defense’s around Hitler, keep in mind Hitler’s not living in Baptist garden. He’s living halfway up the mountain outside of practice garden. And so more and more people were having to come there in connection with their official business with the Third Reich and what it was doing. So they built this Rex Chancellor, they ultimately then build a barracks building for a regiment of mountain troops that can function as a guard force in the valley. They eventually build this train station Invictus garden that is way bigger than it needs to be. They build this train station for like a city the size of Dusseldorf practically. And they build it in a town that was 1800 people. And as more and more these people were showing up, they’re bringing, they’d get troops that get guards that are there, they’re more and more people are in uniform are in this little idyllic town and the local scattered and care for it that much. And the Global’s grumbled about it a little bit. It was ultimately to such a point that when you have troops guarding the area, you have to give them a pass to take some time off. And they were going into town more and more, and doing things like getting drunk hitting on the good Catholic girls. And eventually, there was some recognition that that was not the ideal circumstance for the city of back to Scott, which is this tiny little sleepy town in the mountains. And the result was that the government then built a beer Hall in 1937. And that Beer Hall is it’s not massive, like what you find in Munich, but it’s big. And it’s still there today. And it is with great irony whenever I have tourists there that will go to that Beer Hall and then I’ll stand there and I’m a non drinker, but I’ll watch everybody enjoy a beer and and I’ll think yeah, here we are enjoying a beer in the same place that the people that guarded that mountain and guarded the man who was living on that mountain, this is where they came to burn off a little steam and, and sing some beer songs. This is where they went in October to celebrate the yearly Beer Festival. This is it’s it’s other weird, otherworldly, and it’s creepy. And so in this way, there were people in the valley, and vectus Garden itself and other and other places in the valley that resented all of these Northerners all these people from North Germany that came down there with their course manners that weren’t proper Catholics, and they, you know, stomped around in their uniforms. I’m not saying everybody in town was like that. But there were people in town that were like that. That’s why I find that line in the miniseries to be something that I know I quote when I lead tours because it provokes this because this discussion of the way that nationalist socialism as an ideology was absorbed among all of the people. I am not an apologist, I’m here to say that Nazi Germany was full of absolute ists who are heavily politicized, and they made the freight train of National Socialism run. And it wasn’t just one man that took a normal peace loving country down a negative path, that it’s a vastly more complicated constellation of facts. That combined to make Germany a country full of people who willingly went along with the plan. But to be honest, there were some people that push back a little bit and there were a few in berchtesgaden itself.
Dan LeFebvre 1:29:50
While you were talking earlier about people wanting to be the first to get there and in the show, we see that the Nazis causes massive landslide to block the road. And then Colonel saint comes in, he tells the men that he got off the phone with the French general cleric. And he bragged to sync that he was the first into Paris, and now he’s going to be the first one to berchtesgaden. And the Spirit says, Easy Company can find another way in. And then just like that the show is setting up this idea that there’s a race to get there first. Later on, it looks like the Americans get to purchase cotton first, and then Easy Company takes the eagle’s nest. Was there actually this race among the allies to be the first to get there?
Marty Morgan 1:30:31
There was a race indeed. And Easy Company did not win it. In fact, Easy Company came in third place.
Dan LeFebvre 1:30:39
Marty Morgan 1:30:40
Okay. Okay, replace baby. Shall I walk you quickly through that timeline?
Dan LeFebvre 1:30:45
Yeah, yeah. No, I’m curious now, then. If that’s not what happened, then what did happen?
Marty Morgan 1:30:50
Yeah, the fascinating thing is that I had to present at a conference once about this and, and there was there was a strange hostility to anybody that challenge the dick winters personal account, because Dr. Winters told Ambrose that he was the first to reach there, did that when he got there, there was nobody else there. So they were the first and although he may have seen no other troops there when he reached back this gun, other troops have been there, just to put it into an easily digestible timeline. On May 4 19 919 45, Easy Company was north of Baptists gotten between the towns of Rosenheim and praying on kimsey. On that same day, the Third Battalion of the seventh Infantry Regiment of the third Infantry Division of battalion that was under command of Lieutenant Colonel john a hike is reached the city of back to Scotland. So in other words, on May 4, the Third Battalion, seventh Infantry Regiment, Third Division, was already in back to Scotland. In fact, that afternoon, the afternoon of may 4 1945, the Third Battalion of the seventh Infantry Regiment accepted the formal surrender of of the city, and schlossplatz, which is the the big central square around the castle, there’s an old castle on the index garden. Simultaneous to that surrender at schlossplatz. elements of the French second Armored Division reached the area using another road network and drove up to the opa Salzburg and once again obersalzberg is the village where Adolf Hitler maintained a private residence halfway up the hill outside of back to Scotland. So, on May 4, you have Easy Company about 50 miles away, maybe not 50, a little bit less than that. You have Easy Company between Rosenheim and premium Kinsey, Third Battalion, seventh Infantry Regiment accepts the surrender of the city of back to Scotland. And then the French halfway up the mountain, they reach the Oba Salzburg, which is where Adolf Hitler’s house was. And then they continue up the mountain all the way to the kill Stein house, which we call the eagle’s nest. So there was a race, the French one, the French were the first to reach the eagle’s nest. But an important the reason that I carved all of this out and I hope it’s making sense now is that the French get to Eagle’s Nest first, while the US Army seventh Infantry Regiment third Infantry Division was in the town of back to Scotland. So there everyone’s getting there. It’s not one thing. It’s three separate things. The French got to one of those three separate things. First, the third division got to one of the other three separate things before Easy Company did then on May 5 1945, following day the Third Battalion at the seventh Infantry Regiment has an official flag raising ceremony at the Oba salsburg which is the village halfway up the mountain where Adolf Hitler’s personal house was located. And that house is known as the bear cough. And they’re there I should send you the photos. There’s actually a rather well known photograph showing men of the Third Battalion, seventh Infantry Regiment Third Division, raising this flag. They’re raising it on a flagpole. That was basically right where Herman Gorings house was, and Herman Gorings house was basically across the street from Adolf Hitler’s house. Real quick, I
Dan LeFebvre 1:34:21
will mention if you want to see that photo, you can see it at based on a true story podcast comm slash 184 that’s based on a true story podcast comm slash 184.
Marty Morgan 1:34:35
Well, simultaneous to this flag raising ceremony, halfway up the mountain at the obersalzberg Easy Company in the afternoon of may 5 1945. enters the town Baptist garden and it enters the town on the road that leads from bad reichenhall as you come into that town, one of the one of the things that you encounter on the outskirts of town as you come in, is an old hotel that Most of it is gone now. But there the garage is from this old hotel still standing today. And that hotel was called the backtest. Gardner Hoff hotel. And it is significant. And I mentioned it because you get this big plate out set piece scene of a company men going into first of all the lobby of the victus gotten a hall hotel, and then they go into the dining room, and that’s when the silverware is collected. You remember that scene?
Dan LeFebvre 1:35:26
Oh, yeah, yeah, they’re picking it up in their helmets and saying something to the effect of well, might as well take it before the next people come along, and they’re gonna take it
Marty Morgan 1:35:34
exactly. And it’s famously mentioned in the book Band of Brothers, that that silverware was used on thanksgiving for years to come. That’s where that scene plays out. And an interesting little footnote is that Adolf Hitler had a sister named Paula, and Paula lived under the assumed name Paulo Wolf, rather than Paula Hitler. She lived in the Baptist gotten a whole hotel. And so when they were doing that, and taking silverware from the dining room, Adolf Hitler sister was upstairs in her room, interestingly, so that occurs may 519 45, the following day, may 6 1945. It’s only then that men of Easy Company are going up the mountain to the obersalzberg, which again, is the village halfway up the mountain where Adolf Hitler’s house was. And so they go up there, and that’s where you get the scenes that you start seeing them on May sixth, like going into gatherings? Why wine collection, you know, that’s
Dan LeFebvre 1:36:34
Oh, yeah, like 10,000 bottles of the finest liquor. Yeah,
Marty Morgan 1:36:37
right. That’s all discovered. The next day winters, you know, takes Nixon on May 7, winters takes Nixon in there. And like, tons of loose kid in a candy store kind of thing anyway, but on May 6, Easy Company has gone all the way up to the obersalzberg, the village where Adolf Hitler’s houses, they explore the area. And then they take the further step of going all the way up to the to the top of the mountain, which is where the Kel Stein house is located. And that’s what we call the eagle’s nest. And so that’s why in the series, you have this nice series, you have this nice group of scenes group of shots rather, that show men walking around and exploring the eagle’s nest. But there’s, there’s a reality that we have to acknowledge about the eagle’s nest and that is in the big picture of all these things. The city of back this garden, the village of Oba Salzburg, where Adolf Hitler’s house was located, and then kill Stein house on top of the mountain. Out of this, this constellation of things, the eagle’s nest is the least important and the least meaningful. However, it is the most famous, it’s the thing that everybody thinks of everyone thinks of the eagle’s nest, and I find that it’s it’s not wrong of me to make this generalization, I find that basically everybody thinks that was Adolf Hitler’s house. And it wasn’t it of Hitler’s house was the bear cough. It’s not far away. It’s a couple 1000 feet below the eagle’s nest, but it’s on the same mountain, but they’re two separate entirely separate things. So it’s not until May 6, it’s not until May 5, that Easy Company enters that this garden. And it’s not until May 6 that they make their way up there. And it’s entirely believable. I think that when winters rolled into town on the road for better I can haul and he rolled up to the Baptists got in a hotel and he went inside, I could see how he looked around. And basically all the civilians have disappeared off the streets. And there’s not a soul around and I could see why he would think we’re the first ones here, we’ve won, when in reality, they were kind of the third, but not entirely that because keep in mind also that when the French got there, the French really, there’s some evidence to suggest that the French went into town. But there’s also some evidence that suggest the French went straight up to the Salzburg and then straight up to the kill Stein house, that could be said that the French were the first up there on the mountain, and that the Third Battalion of the seventh Infantry Regiment, third Infantry Division, they were the first and back to Scotland itself. So do you see how it becomes a bit of a complicated confusing situation? Yeah. And
Dan LeFebvre 1:39:12
I’m curious if maybe you can help clarify. Because in the in the show, when we see the rocks that the Nazis have blasted part of the mountain to block the road, when they’re talking in front of that they’re talking about going into berchtesgaden. And so, but would that actually not have been going into because they’re standing in front of that when
Marty Morgan 1:39:31
sink comes up? And he’s saying, oh, we’re going to have this race to be the first to get into berchtesgaden. But it sounds like that would actually have been down below, correct. Like in the valley, sort of, once again, another academic answer. And the reason the reason I’m using sort of is that there’s several roads that you can use to approach back this gotten one road that comes from the north heading south, which is the road from Salzburg, and then there’s a road that sort of to the north and west from bad reichenhall, which is the route that EZ company used, and then there is another mountain pass that can be used to work your way into the end of the valley. And that mountain pass, I’m aware that some French units used it and a point that I like to make about what was happening at this point. And that is a mountain pass, it goes through a little town that’s called Enzo, where what we know is keep in mind, you had multiple units, he had elements of the third Infantry Division elements of 100, and first Airborne Division and elements of the French Armored Division. And all of them are moving over limited and confined road networks through a mountainous area, trying to reach the same town. So they’re using multiple avenues of advance. And so that’s a part of the mini series that I’ve often thought like, I kind of wonder where they got that because I drive the route, that Easy Company used all the time, and you don’t encounter anything that looks like what’s depicted in the series. You heard it here first, the entertainment version distorts the truth. And so they what they did was something that they’ve done elsewhere in the series, and that is that they’ve sprinkled some sugar on the story, they’ve taken a story that was kind of cool to begin with. And they’ve made it a little bit more dramatic and a little bit more compelling. By making it this massive landslide collapsed over the road and blocking the access, that has the effect of amplifying this race to the final prize, you know, in like in the first Star Wars movie, you know, as the Death Star is, was they’re approaching the Death Star to attack it. And the Death Star, they keep cutting to these, what’s supposed to be a computer image, but it’s really just analog stuff that’s showing the Death Star coming into position from behind the planet. And it’s sort of a race against time that scene is doing that. That scene is amplifying this, we got to get there first race against time thing, that Easy Company lost.
Dan LeFebvre 1:41:56
Well as the series comes to an end, Easy Company is Eagle’s Nest when they hear the news that the German army has surrendered its v day victory in Europe, then they must decide what to do next. Some men have enough points to be discharged, some don’t, which means that they’re expecting to go to the Pacific to fight Japanese winters. And Nixon, they even try to transfer to the 13th airborne because they’re shipping out faster. But ultimately, it seems like most of the men in Easy Company stay in Europe until the end of the war. How accurate was the way the show portrayed the end of the war for easy company?
Marty Morgan 1:42:29
In a word very, it was very accurate because what the series is presenting is this complex and a little delicate situation associated with the adjusted service rating score system, what we call the point system. And this was the system that was established within the European Theater of Operations, it was established actually in late 1944. And then adjusted again in March of 45. And it was a system by which certain ranks and certain military occupational specialties, were given a numerical point rating. And the higher you got the closer that you can get to qualifying with a sufficient number of points to go home early, so that you can receive your discharge, and you can process out of the service. And so if you think about that, that sounds like a, in fact, the way that I just described it probably put people to sleep, because it’s very bureaucratic. It’s very boring. And your points were based on your rank, the amount of time you were in the service, the amount of time that you were overseas, the job that you did in the service. And also also affecting it were things like whether or not you had the Purple Heart. Whether or not you had additional awards, like the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Service Cross or the Medal of Honor, all of these things exerted influence on your overall point rating, qualifying you to go home early. And it fascinates me that this becomes a storytelling vehicle within the final episode of the of the series. That’s it’s not just miserably boring. I think it’s kind of dynamic and interesting, the way that it’s presented, where what it does is they use the point system, the adjusted service rating score system, they use it as a means of flashing back to what everybody had been doing, or else whatever or what else everybody had not been doing, for example, so that you have O’Keefe who clearly does not have enough points to go home. Don’t even think about it. Okay, if you’re not going home anytime soon. You have it added to that this dynamic of winters and Nixon attempting to laterally transfer into 13th Airborne Division so that they can go and continue fighting. And they also have people that are already beginning to imagine a civilian life transitioning out of wartime service and into a civilian existence back home. What I really like about this is that what are the war movie does this well.
Marty Morgan 1:44:53
There really aren’t many are there. movies that address what these people are going to end up doing how they get out of uniform And what they’re going to end up doing in the post war time period with their lives as civilians. It also tackles another issue that is definitely worth mentioning. And that is the very large number of people who die after the war has ended. And it tackles it powerfully with a couple of characters we have as a result of accidental shootings. I say that only because that’s what the military refers to them. There is no such thing as an accidental shooting. shootings are either intentional or negligent. And so we have in the episode, the drunk soldier, and that I would argue is I mean, it’s, it ends up being an act of negligence because he’s drunk, he’s intoxicated is impaired, he can’t possibly think reasonably, and he shoots, Staff Sergeant Charles grant and the head, right shoots grant the guy, he’s a replacement for my company 506. And then we have this very dynamic set piece that depicts the incident itself, he shoot for it. First of all, he shoots a French officer shoots a British officer, then he shoots grant, and then they track him down. And there’s this, I think, a very powerful scene where the company men have pulled them in and they’re feeding him and spirit spirits comes in. And isn’t it interesting how they’re, here we are at the end, and we can declare something that these filmmakers and writers have done. And that is that they are even now we’re within the last 20 minutes of the final episode. And what do we get? I think we get the greatest Spears moment of the series. And it’s the moment where Spears points the 45 at the guy, and he’s holding it there. And in fact, there are a couple of spheres things. You know, when Spears walks in there, two men up at the front and spears goes, where is he? And the both of them hesitate. And you hear spirits shout, where is it? And it’s the only time he raises his voice during the series. I think it’s really interesting. And then he hears the noise of the beating going on to the next room. He goes in there throws the door open the crowd parts. There’s the guy he’s all bloody Spears walks up and says where’s the piece and the guy says what piece and he’s pistol whips him. You say, sir, when you speak to an officer, and then he shoves the pistol in the guy’s face. And the camera angle is the pistol muzzle is right in your face. And you see it just quiver a little bit. And I was just like, oh my god, that was such a powerful moment, just to see him where you could. So this is a man that doesn’t care. This man killed the prisoners in Normandy, and he might just kill this guy. And then what does he do? He holsters he takes, he looks on his hand and he sees some of the guys blood on his hand. And he wipes the guy’s blood on his shirt, holsters, the pistol and says, from this piece of kit over to the MPs. It’s a powerful scene that speaks to something that actually was an epidemic in the European Theater When the war ended. And it’s an epidemic that’s well presented when then we get private john genomic, who gets killed in this pointless car accident, who’s by the way played by Tom Hardy. Jana back just dies in this haphazard automobile accident. One thing that happens in the European theater at the conclusion of the conflict is that we lose a lot of people like that people who have survived the war itself, only to get to the end of the wars all over. They breathe a sigh of relief that they’re going to survive and they’re killed by negligent shootings, they’re killed in plane crashes. They’re killed in an automobile accidents, actually, kind of a lot of automobile accidents. And technically, it’s an automobile accident post war in Europe that ultimately claims the life of General George Patton. It’s a big problem. And it fascinates me that this series addresses it because he company men were disappearing as a result of this phenomenon that makes everything seem all the more tragic.
Dan LeFebvre 1:48:44
Yeah, I think that there’s the line that says you know that the war was over. And yet, somehow people are still dying. Like they have weapons, alcohol and too much time on their hands.
Marty Morgan 1:48:54
There it is. There’s the quote from the series that says it all doesn’t matter where we’re at. We’re at the end of our story now, so it’s might as well mention it and we’re also beginning to see this process of engaging with and interacting with the enemy, the Fortwo the former enemy. Because you see, the German Colonel comes and surrenders to winters in this famous moment where the German pulls his pistol out to turn it over to winters and winters, has him keep the pistol. The interesting thing is, once again, greatest cliche of all in this series is depicted as a Luger. In reality, it was not a Luger and winters ultimately did end up with that pistol and took it home. And if you look at one thing that makes Vanda brothers really stand out and personalizes the series are these introductory interstitials that we get with every episode, the episodes always you get the opening credits and then black screen and it fades up to these veterans that are telling the story. And then it goes to the series and decisions that they made that I think was brilliant was that we get this all 10 episodes we’re hearing from these men, and we don’t know who they are, because they haven’t, haven’t given them a name slate. And we get to the end of this episode. And what do we get, we get to finally learn who they actually are. And I feel like that’s, I think that that was a way of blending the living memory of Band of Brothers into this retelling that I found it to be riveting, because I remember when we got to the end the baseball game at the end, then also the surrender, you know, where winters is there. And the German Colonel is saying goodbye to his men. And he’s basically quoting the st. Crispin’s day speech, and lead God is translating for him. And it’s a beautiful moment, and everyone acts it perfectly. And it’s a perfect closure to what this journey has been.
Dan LeFebvre 1:50:53
And then I remember getting there, the first time I watched it, and it went to black screen, and I was like, Damn, that was awesome. And then it came back up to the veterans, and they were identified by name. And I remember thinking, this is the best thing I’ve ever watched in my life. While we were talking. Before doing these interviews, you recommended something, taking some time to reflect on the entire series overall. And I think that’s a great idea. So as we wrap up our look at the Bandon brothers series. If you had to pick a favorite episode, which one would it be and why?
Marty Morgan 1:51:28
There’s so there’s so much good as so much good. And so many of these episodes. And I would be I would be lying to myself if I didn’t say episode six passed down final answer. Episode Six is just art. I love it. I absolutely love. I feel like Shane Taylor played doc row. I don’t know anybody alive that could have made that character come alive quite like he did. And in fact, the actress that that portraying Rene lamere I thought she was fantastic. And I enjoyed this thing. You can’t say that it was romantic. sidequest. What was it? It wasn’t that because it’s never brought to fruition. But we cared, didn’t we care and all of it. I mean, it’s these massive events the world is watching. You have our group of battle hardened veterans that go there and they begin this ordeal of suffering there. And the fact that we’re focusing on the medic to tell this part of the story means that we’re telling a different story than the story that we would be telling if we were focusing on a rifleman, or machine gunner. And I really feel like Shane Taylor, portrayed someone from Louisiana very well, and that his accent wasn’t terrible. His accent was pretty good. Anybody that can do a Louisiana accent on film and not be awful, automatically gets my respect. So Good work. Good work there, Shane. I do love the episode. But with that being said, I know that I mentioned that. The closing sequences of Episode One, I think are just art. There’s a lot of interstitial music. But then we have basically two main pieces of music in the series to include the piece that plays at the end of every episode, which is sort of that slower piece. But the music that plays at the end of its not every episode, but almost every episode. But that music playing at the end of Episode One, as all the ground crewmen and the anti aircraft gunners are watching the paratroopers get on the sea, 40 sevens, and they take off. I feel like that’s the strongest ending of the series because that ending I remember going through that ending and thinking next week can’t come fast enough. They left me hanging, like I have never been left hanging in TV in my entire life.
Marty Morgan 1:53:52
But with that being said, I would be wrong if I didn’t go on and on about the opening and the closing of episode nine Why We Fight which I think is such a superlative achievement of artistic expression that I can I’m still in awe of it. Particularly with the fact that our episode opens with the violin. And it begins with it would be the it’s the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s quartet number 14 C sharp minor the movement specifically being on Dante ma non troppo emoto contact. It’s excruciating how beautiful that music is. And for them to have merged that music into this story the way that they did. I can’t compliment that enough because especially for it to begin the episode. And then the same violin is what ends the episode. And that what has happened during the course of of that that moment and because it’s basically the Quartet begins playing in the rubble. And then what do we get? We get The flashback to the discovery of the concentration camp, we get the flashback to a few things and we get what presidents dead. And then we get what Hitler’s dead. Although I’m not going to mention the fact that this is all supposedly happening on April 11. Nevermind that, because neither Adolf Hitler nor Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 11 1945. But you know what, by the way, but when that open I was it literally suck the air out of me that they chose that piece of music, that piece of music is so it might represent perfection. And it’s not just my opinion. But Franz Schubert himself believed that that piece of music, specifically that movement, represented perfection. In fact, after Schubert heard the first performance of the immortal Constabulary, the fourth movement of the quartet, C sharp minor, he said after this, what is left for us to write. And that was Schubert that said that and that that Beethoven wrote this, I couldn’t help but as I’m listening to it, and I’m thinking of the system, the stories that we’ve just heard, and I’m thinking about the experience of American soldiers in combat, and liberating a concentration camp and World War Two, and I’m listening to that luscious music. And I’m thinking about Beethoven, who at that point was probably 90%, deaf, and in 1826, crafted this, and that these writers went and went, let’s build it around this piece of music, because what else what you get that and that the music becomes metaphoric of the Germany, the greatness of Germany that we’re seeing, we’re experiencing this thing that the Germans created, that the Germans gave us, one of the many gifts that they have given us, and that it’s right there juxtaposed against the destruction of the war, that was fought over the political ideology that they also gave us. It’s just so beautiful, I can barely Think about all of it. And I will go back over and over again, and just watch that scene. So as much as I love the bastone episode, and as much as I love to just kind of pump it up. I cannot get enough of episode nine.
Dan LeFebvre 1:57:10
Every single episode is my favorite. Yes.
Marty Morgan 1:57:12
I’m gonna just start going down why each episode is great. And why I love them all. Because I mean, for God’s sake, Episode Two of even what can we do with the day of days is such an it’s an excellent episode. But I had to choose a favorite and I have so far gotten an F minus in choosing a favorite. Because I’ve offered up three episodes now of my favorite. I’m a big fan of this series, and I really do admire it even after 20 years. That says something.
Dan LeFebvre 1:57:43
How about the best actor in the series? Man,
Marty Morgan 1:57:46
that’s so hard. I really do think that Damian Lewis was excellent. Who else could have brought Nick winters to life the way he did at this point? It’s, it’s unthinkable. I don’t know that there was any living actor that could have captured that. And I know I was riffing on it earlier and joking about it. But like the idea of be stoic, but be resolute, be brave, but also be humble. And go, who could do that today? I don’t know that there are a lot of actors that can and that’s another thing that makes me love this series. Because let’s be honest, not all of these actors were really well known or really well established in their career when it happened. And look at the acting talent in this. And I this is also sort of a bittersweet thing for me, because I had worked on the HBO miniseries The Pacific, I wasn’t in a major role, but I was in a very, very minor role involved in writing and research for the series. And the series came out and it just went, it just flopped. It was nowhere near as popular as this series has become. It didn’t speak to people, I found that it didn’t reach. This sounds arrogant, it didn’t reach the diverse audience, the way that band of brothers did. And it just wasn’t nearly the accomplishment The Band of Brothers was. And I guess that’s why we’re still here 20 years later talking about it. And who’s out there talking about the Pacific man, not many, I don’t think many people are, which is tragic, because I was I became ultimately friendly with so many of the people featured in featuring prominently in the Pacific. And it disappointed me, it crushed me in a way when the Pacific came out, and was just not received the way that Band of Brothers was received. And I have now had over a decade to think about it and figure out why did that happen in that matter? Why? What I what I think does matter is that rather than trying to figure out what went wrong with specific is I’m left with what went right with Banda brothers. And I think it’s a perfect storm. Everything that came together and this came together perfectly. It’s a great story. It’s concise it’s manageable. When you devote to long form like that, you have enough time to make people care. And a combination of great writers and excellent actors, made people care. It was to the point that I felt like when it came out, I was already already had a master’s degree. I hadn’t started my doctoral program yet. But still, I was a snotty, you know, grad student type is too smart to be manipulated by a stupid movie. And I’m going to sit here and pick out all the stuff that was wrong. And I found myself laughing when I was supposed to, and I found myself crying when I was supposed to. I was completely disarmed by this series. I’m going to shut up about it eventually. But when the Quartet in C minor started at the beginning of episode nine, I was like, You had me at hello, what are you doing to me? Now, you’ve already got me in this and you throw this on me. I can’t take it. I can’t deal with this. And for them to have woven that music, I’m going to stop about the Beethoven. But for them to have woven that into a metaphor within the story. It’s just a level of sophistication, and storytelling that might be perfections. And that’s one of the reasons why I have a hard time selecting which episode I like best. But I think it’s useful for us to bring up not just so that people can listen to my opinions about Band of Brothers, but because I think there is something to us attempting to decode why it succeeded like it did.
Dan LeFebvre 2:01:29
This is gonna be tough again, it it’s hard. It’s hard to pick a reason why. But there’s been two brothers, obviously. I mean, we’re recording this in 2021. So it has literally been 20 years since this was released. But then there’s also Saving Private Ryan that also had a huge impact. Do you think one of them has had a bigger impact on people’s interest in World War Two history more than the other? Would it be band brothers or, or Saving Private Ryan?
Marty Morgan 2:01:55
I think it’s a double dose.
Both of them.
Marty Morgan 2:01:59
They both did, because that’s what I hear. You know, I’ve been leading tours, basically, Private Ryan. And this miniseries created the life that I have led for the last 20 years, they created the museum museum where I used to work, they created the tour industry that I used to be a part of until 2020 that I hope to get back to next year. They created all of this. And I remember what it was like, because when Ben brothers comes out of band brothers 2001, Private Ryan is about 97. I think it was July 97, maybe June 97. And so they’re just a couple of years apart four years apart. I remember what that did was that gave me a misleading sense of optimism. Because I remember thinking we are entering a golden age of cinema. We have just begun with these two, we are now going down this path because also just in the middle of the Private Ryan stuff, a movie came out that I absolutely adore called The Thin Red Line. I think you’ve seen it. It was Private Ryan Thin Red Line. A lot of people don’t like Thin Red Line. I think there are reasons for that. But I could explain that. But Private Ryan Thin Red Line banner brothers all came out and I was thinking man, we are set we are going to these the subject is going to get treated within the motion picture industry and the long form subscription cable industry. It’s going to get treated as everything’s going to be good. And I was I think a little mistaken to be so optimistic because in the year since then, what have we gotten? without being too catty about it, I just have to point to a series of disappointments. Because I like to keep in mind that a few months before the premiere saving of Bana brothers in the movie Pearl Harbor came out and it hurt instinct classic
Dan LeFebvre 2:03:44
Marty Morgan 2:03:48
I it sounds like sounds like you might we might share an opinion here. But it came out and I remember going okay. And then Vanna brothers came out and I was like, oh, okay, that’s more like it. I remember thinking that. Okay, we had one that was a little weird. And I wasn’t with it all the way. But whatever. And in the years that have followed, we just there just hasn’t been anything that resonated like band of brothers did until Game of Thrones. I mean, maybe you could say that Walking Dead did to an extent, but blah, blah, blah, blah, Walking Dead go away. I think what they did in making Private Ryan and Banda brothers is that they set the bar too high. I mean, it’s a high bar. It’s such a high bar now. And the combination of Bana brothers and Saving Private Ryan did something that I cannot help but acknowledge and that is that they created a phenomenon. And the phenomenon was an across the board, meaningful interest in the history of not just DNA and the Battle of the Bulge, but the history of the Second World War. And in that way for all their imperfections. And believe me, Saving Private Ryan lots of imperfections Lots of imperfections. But for their imperfections, what they did was something that I could never have, I could never do. Because I’ve written books, I’ve written articles. Very, very few people have read them, I have not changed a thing on this planet, Steven Ambrose wrote books, and created this phenomenon. And that phenomenon became the center of gravity that attracted more people into a more informed understanding of the history of the Second World War. And I think that that history is far too important for us to just let it begin. The long slow fade into oblivion, the way that I have seen happen with other historical moments, like when I was really excited and amped up about the 100th anniversary of the Spanish American War, way back in 1998. And it came and went without people even noticing that it had happened. I expected that big things would happen when we reached the 100th anniversary of American entry into the First World War, and basically nothing happened. I thought that surely the world will stop on the 100th anniversary of the armistice of 1918. And the world seems to go Oh, yeah, and then get right back on with itself. So these, these major moments of historical recognition just kind of came and went with a faintness that caught me off guard. But still, I was at the cemetery on Omaha Beach for the 75th anniversary, and there’s no lack of enthusiasm there. There were We were completely the cemetery was completely full 12,000 people in that cemetery. And why is that? What would that ceremony have been as big? If there had been no Saving Private Ryan? And no Band of Brothers? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say no, I don’t think it would have been as big. Because what better brothers and Saving Private Ryan did? gave a new generation that interest? Yeah, you had old dudes like me, that I’ve been interested in, in my entire life? Yeah, we’re gonna be there. You don’t have to attract us. But young people born in the age of video games. That’s, that’s another. That’s another subject like I now interact with on a regular basis. People from four or five different countries that were born, they were born after I got out of graduate school.
Marty Morgan 2:07:25
And they can’t get enough Band of Brothers, and they are learning and living this fascination with the history of the conflict. And it’s not for the weird, cynical reasons that I think sometimes some sometimes people imagine. I think it’s because there’s a genuine recognition that that is a war that stood for something. And I think that’s why we wrap our heads around, fan two brothers so easily. And we see it. So well illustrated with Episode 10. Because we were brought into caring about these characters. And then we’re brought into caring about what ultimately happens to them. And we’re brought into it why because in the previous episode, they liberated a concentration camp. And if that doesn’t situate your thinking on the subject, nothing will. Because these were the men who, within one rifles and Thompson submachine guns in their hands, they opened the gates to concentration camps. And I realize that in this day and age, that is an expression of belief that a lot of postmodernists would reject and criticize. But I look at the history of the Second World War. And I see the things that were brought to life by Nazi Germany. We’ll just pick on them for the moment. Since this is Banda brothers, I see things that Nazi Germany did that I definitely don’t want any government doing ever again. And when I think about the way that the men of the company went to this place, in southern Bavaria, in April of 1945, and liberated a forced labor camp, it reminds me of why this subject is important. I think everybody would agree. Yeah, it’s important to remember the Holocaust. And when we remember the Holocaust, we also have to remember the people who fought their way across Europe’s, you’re across Europe to get to the gates of those camps. And that’s why episode nine is so great. And Episode 10 is great, then, because what do we do? We say goodbye to those guys. And we wrap it all up.
Dan LeFebvre 2:09:26
Thank you so much for coming on a chat about band brothers over the past few episodes. It’s been a blast. If you’re listening to this, and you haven’t heard, Marty also talked about Saving Private Ryan. So some of those some of those things. We had a chance to talk about that. about someone listening that wants to learn more about your work, can you share a little bit more about what you do and where they can learn more?
Marty Morgan 2:09:45
Sure. I’m an author and historian and I write and think about the American experience in the Second World War and overall in military history. If you want to learn more about what I do, you can look at my website, Martin cay Morgan Comm. You can also tune in and watch me on TV. I have actually Two series that premiered last night on the Science Channel one called what on earth and the other one called strange evidence. So I continue to do research writing and publishing about the Second World War. And I also do a little broadcasting with my time. These are the things that you can still do during COVID.
Dan LeFebvre 2:10:18
Very good, and hopefully be getting back out there and doing more tours. Yeah, I’m
Marty Morgan 2:10:22
anxious to get back. Actually, I can’t wait to get back to Europe. It’s not looking like 2021 is going to let it happen. But maybe 2022
Dan LeFebvre 2:10:29
Thanks again, so much for your time, Marty.
Marty Morgan 2:10:30
It’s my pleasure, Dan. Thanks for having me on.