Saturday, January 28, 2017
One of my favorite memories from the 1-70th Armor barracks in Wiesbaden, West Germany, was the night we watched "The Green Beret" starring John Wayne on the dayroom TV. We hooted, hollered, and threw rolled up socks and popcorn at the TV for most of the two hours. The "Green Berets" may be the worst war movie ever made. As a rule, soldiers make fun of war movies or angrily say, "That shit is wrong...." then explain why.
But not the HBO series "Band of Brothers." Soldiers I knew who thought "Saving Private Ryan" was bullshit after the first 15 minutes or who were shushed making smart-ass comments during the "Hurt Locker" had not one bad thing to say about "Band of Brothers." In the nine years I served in the Army National Guard between 2007 and 2016, I never heard anyone disparage the 10-part series about Easy Company 2-506th Airborne.
I saw the video several times. I finally read the book. I finished it today. The book is well-written and tells the story accurately, filling in details that could not be easily included in the fast-moving video--like Dick Winters decades-long anger about a trip to America General Taylor (101st Airborne Commander) took during the Battle of the Bulge. Although the book is very good, the video series is better.
The video follows the book faithfully, but the actors add a dimension the book cannot. They can give life to the relationships among the men that author Stephen Ambrose can only report. There is a terrible beauty in the video that only the finest fiction can portray in print.
Usually if there is a book and a movie/video, my recommendation would be read the book first. But in this case, I would recommend seeing the video series first, then read the book to fill in details.
Then watch the video again, which is what I am going to do.