The story of the men of Easy Company in WWII is inspiring in many ways. I have spent a quiet hour here and there over the past month steeling away to listen and imagine what it must have been like for these men.
- I admire their culture of teamwork and endurance: most of the NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) of Easy Company had been together since their two year training in the beginning, through D-Day, Holland, Battle of the Bulge, etc.
- Dick Winter as CO and other roles provides leadership that is strategic, not overbearing, steadfast, reflective, and courageous: he sees the jobs that need to be done, treats his people well, and moves forward. You get a sense in reading this and hearing first hand testimony that his men thrive under his decisive and humble leadership.
- Reading with the 4 or 5 major maps makes the story come alive even more for me: for someone who loves to travel and explore place and move around geography, this is an action packed tragedy moving to triumph.
- Don’t underestimate what a group of 40 people can do: Eisenhower moved units around the “board” in strategic fashion, but when it came down to it, the men deployed at key places on the battlefield had to execute. The quote below unpacks more of what a unique company Easy was and the impact that a relatively small group can have.
One of my favorite quotes so far is a reflection after arguably the key turning point for the end of the war, the Battle of the Bulge:
“The 101st, hungry, cold, underarmed, fought the finest units Nazi Germany could produce at this stage of the war. Those Wehrmacht and SS troops were well fed, warm, and fully armed, and they heavily outnumbered the 101st. It was a test of arms, will, and national systems, matching the best the Nazis had against the best the Americans had, with all the advantages on the German side. The 101st not only endured, it prevailed. It is an epic tale as much for what it revealed as what happened. The defeat of the Germans in their biggest offensive in the West in World War II, and the turning of that defeat into a major opportunity ‘to kill Germans west of the Rhine,’ as Eisenhower put it, was a superb feat of arms.
The Americans established a moral superiority over the Germans. It was based not on equipment or quantity of arms, but on teamwork, coordination, leadership, and mutual trust in a line that ran straight from Ike’s HQ right on down to E Company. The Germans had little in the way of such qualities. The moral superiority was based on better training methods, better selection methods for command positions, ultimately on a more open army reflecting a more open society. Democracy proved better able to produce young men who could be made into superb soldiers than Nazi Germany” (Band of Brothers, Location 3,534).
Free market enterprise in democracy is by no means perfect, but it does provide a great place for people to thrive in their God-given abilities through which God “feeds all mankind.”
Thank you to these men who gave so much of themselves and in so doing have inspired countless people like me.