Some of my favorite type of television shows are those that provide historical information through a fictional drama. Many of them are available from streaming subscriptions and for purchase on DVD too. We all know how Downtown Abbey has become a hit show and although it is the sensational drama that brings many of us to the screen, underlying it all is the history. I am going to attempt to highlight one of these programs each Saturday in place of my “What Happened on” post (Sometimes in addition).
Do you have any favorite programs that fit this category? I’d love to hear your ideas and I would be glad to include the program in an up coming post. I also would welcome a guest blogger.
Band of Brothers is a ten-part, 11-hour television World War II HBO miniseries, originally produced and broadcast in 2001, based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 book of the same title. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan.
The series dramatizes the history of “Easy” Company (part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) from jump training in the U.S. through its participation in major actions in Europe, and up until Japan’s capitulation and war’s end. The events portrayed are based on Ambrose’s research and recorded interviews with Easy Company veterans. The TV series took literary license, adapting the recorded history for the purposes of dramatic effect and series structure. All of the characters portrayed are based on members of Easy Company. Some of the men were recorded in contemporary interviews, which viewers see as preludes to each episode. The men’s identities are not revealed until the finale.
The title for the book and the series comes from the famous St. Crispin’s Day Speech as written by William Shakespeare in his play Henry V, for delivery by Henry V of England before the Battle of Agincourt. Ambrose quotes a passage from the speech on his book’s first page; this passage is spoken by Carwood Lipton in the TV series’ final episode.
From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remember’d; We few, we happy few, we BAND OF BROTHERS; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile; This day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin day.
Over the course of ten episodes, the series details the company’s exploits during the war. Starting with jump training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, Band of Brothers follows the unit through the American airborne landings in Normandy, the Siege of Bastogne, Operation Market Garden, and on to the war’s end. It includes the US taking of the Eagle’s Nest in Germany and refers to the surrender of Japan. Major Richard Winters (1918–2011) is the central character featured, shown working to accomplish the missions and keep his men together and safe. While the series features a large ensemble cast, each episode generally focuses on a single character, following his actions during certain events (for example, the Siege of Bastogne or Operation Market Garden).
As the series is based on historic events, the fates of the characters conform to the persons they are drawn from. Numerous characters die or sustain serious wounds, some of which lead to survivors’ being sent home; in other cases, soldiers recover under treatment in hospital and can rejoin their comrades on the front lines. Their experiences and the moral, mental, and physical hurdles they must overcome are central to the story.
The group shot above was made in the states in late 1942, during the 120 mile march of 2nd Bn from Toccoa to Atlanta, GA. and shows an assortment of Easy 506th paratroopers on a rest break. Identifications where known, follow: 1&2)Unknown cooks, 3)Hank Hanson, 4) Unknown, 5) Cecil Pace, 6) Schuyler, 7) Unknown, 8) Ken Baldwin, 9) Booy, 10) Mike Ranney, 11) Unknown, 12) Ramirez, 13) Shifty Powers, 14) Unknown, 15) Paul Rogers, 16)Buck Taylor, 17) Ed Tipper, 18) C.T. Smith, 19)Red Wright, 20)Clarence Tridle, 21) Rod Strohl, 22) Captain Clarence Hester, 23) Terrance Harris, 24) Carwood Lipton, 25) Forest Guth, 26) Frank Perconte, 27) Dan West, 28) Carl Fenstermaker, 29)Popeye Wynn, 30)Lt Walter Moore, 31) Unknown, 32) Floyd Talbert, 33) Fieguth, 34) Walter Gordon, 35) Unknown, 36) Skinny Sisk, 37) Lavon Reese, 38-39)-Unknown. According to Jake Powers, the group shown is the 3rd platoon-thanks Jake. photo and names courtesy Tracy Gordon Goff.