MARK BANDO'S WEBSITE
Regarding nurse Renee LeMaire and the Congolese nurse, both were based on real characters. According to Belgian history buff Roger Marquet, nurse Lemaire worked in the 10th Armored Division aid station, which was situated on the Neufchateau road, some distance from the seminary where Renee was depicted as being killed. The Congolese nurse, named Augusta Chiwi, also worked in an aid station several blocks away from the seminary, and she survived the bombings. Nurse Chiwi was seen as recently as 1999, a cheerful woman in her 70's, living in Brussels. The Seminary is at the east end of the main drag, across from the church. So, it's doubtful that Eugene Roe would even have met those nurses. The seminary began as the 501 regimental C.P. and aid station, although casualties from other units were also treated there. The camera shots from the road coming into town from the north showed the distinctive Bastogne church steeple, which was reproduced for the series (an excellent detail), which I hope was not lost on the viewing audience.
Behind the Seminary was a Belgian Army camp, a series of barracks buildings which are still in use for that purpose. One of them was a roofed rifle range, where casualties from the west perimeter were treated. They were lying on a cold, dirt floor and some have told me they raised up on their forearms during the nightly Luftwaffe bombing raids, to lessen the painful effects of bomb concussions on their wounded bodies. Indeed, being IN town was more dangerous than being out on the front lines, while the airraids were in progress. BTW, 101st Airborne Division HQ and C.P. was situated in this complex of Belgian Army barracks, and it was there that General Anthony McAuliffe made his immortal "Nuts" reply to the German surrender ultimatum.
Historically poor dialogue: When the General McAuliffe character arrived and talked with Strayer, Winters, Nixon and others, he made a statement before departing :"Your 1st battalion just pulled out of Foy." The line SHOULD have read "Your 1st battalion just pulled out of NOVILLE." There was NO MENTION of Noville, (where 1st battalion had it's finest hour), until a brief reference to 2nd Battalion passing through it in mid January. This is just another example of slighting any and all other units of the 101st besides Easy Company 506th in the series. A few minutes later, in dialogue from Eugene Roe, he also remarks about first battalion pulling out of FOY. Foy was not nearly as far into enemy territory as Noville, and in fact was merely the last stop for 1st Battalion on their way back to relative safety south of the Foy-Bizory Road. The series also made it look like Foy was attacked and taken only once during the Dec-Jan battles north of Bastogne. In fact, D, G, and H companies had taken and retaken Foy a half dozen times during those weeks, and Easy Co didn't go in until 13 January, which was the LAST time the village was taken. The previous spoiling attacks were launched by the 506th to prevent the Germans from staging powerful forces there. The town was always vacated soon after these attacks, because Foy was surrounded by high ground on 3 sides and the Germans held the high ground until mid January, 1945. The position was not tenable for defense.
Also during McAuliffe's depicted visit to 2nd Battalion, the Winters character tells him "We've been taking a lot of hits." He couldn't have been talking about Easy company, which had exactly two men wounded and another (Julian) SWA, later changed to DOW, up until the 22nd of December. Since this scene took place before the weather cleared on 23rd December, Company E had taken exactly three hits (Carson and Welling were WIA on 21 December). F company had lost 12 (including 3 dead) by the 22nd, and D Co. had lost 2 killed and one wounded by the 22nd of December. 2nd Bn HQ Co. had lost 6 WIA. Thus total casualties for the entire 2nd battalion, 506th PIR, from 18-23 December, 1944, were 23, of which 6 were killed and 17 wounded. During the same time period, HQ Co 1st Bn, A Co., and C Company, each lost more men than all of the 2nd Battalion companies, combined.
I stated at the outset of this critique that I would give you what really happened, as opposed to what was depicted in the miniseries. All the above facts can be verified and were not presented to diminish the sacrifices of Easy 506th at Bastogne, but to put their role in perspective. If the intent of the series was to pay tribute to the entire 506th regiment and 101st Airborne Division, then the facts cited above should help clarify the sacrifices of the entire division. This also helps explain why the 101st Airborne received a Presidential Unit Citation for Bastogne.
Episode 7-BREAKING POINT
This episode was by far, my favorite of the series and was aided considerably throughout by narrative from the 1st Sgt Lipton character. The events of the first half of January were shown through the perspective of Lipton. The result is not only a great tribute to Lip as a combat leader, but also proof that the narrative voice-overs would've greatly enhanced the episodes in which this device was not used. Both the Lipton and Compton characters are wonderful in this episode. Just as everything seemed to reach a climax at Bastogne for Company E, the characters of this series seem to come together in this episode.
Regarding Hoobler's shooting of the SS captain on the horse, it seems very odd that that could have happened. Carwood Lipton says its a true story. Malarkey doesn't have any personal knowledge of it. Also, Malarkey says the pistol Hoobler shot himself with was a "Browning .45", probably a reference to a 9mm Browning (P-35) Hi-Power, which looks similar to a U.S. government model .45. At any rate, Malarkey says Hoobler had the pistol for some time before the accident and that he had a habit of walking around with the gun in his pocket and of flipping the safety on and off, with his thumb. There was no Luger for Malarkey to become the recipient of. I also did not like the bright green (1980's vintage) ribbed wool glove shown in closeup as the men were giving aid to Hoobler.
The almost insane devotion to duty of S/Sgt Joe Toye, as he refused evacuation for his frozen feet, then returned from the hospital with wounds that would've put many men out of the fight, was a fitting tribute to the prevailing attitude of the times. Being carried off the battlefield was the only acceptable way out, in the minds of many of the paratroopers.
The many artillery barrages shown suggest that the fire was lobbed-in by 88's and that multiple guns were firing. A direct-fired (flat trajectory) 88 round comes-in so fast that the people on the receiving end hear the explosion, then the incoming hiss, then the report of the round being fired (Ka-BOOM, whissst-bam). Lobbed shells as shown coming-in to the woods make a brief whine before exploding, but the barrages shown in the series almost totally lacked any incoming sound effects. 'Battleground'(MGM, 1949) did much better in that respect, using actual artillery sounds recorded in the ETO during WW2. But the snow, woods and fog looked good, as well as the shattering trees. The only complaint about the snow is that by 13 January when Easy's attack on Foy was launched, it should have been two feet deep.
Ron Livingston's Nixon character was extremely likable throughout the series, and an interesting insight about the real Lewis Nixon was given to me by Malarkey. It seems Nixon did not like athletes, and there was considerable antipathy between Nixon and Buck Compton, the latter being very much a 'jock'. There may also have been an element of competition for Dick Winters'friendship between those two officers.
The depiction in the series of Lt Ronald Speirs as a relentless machine, has been aptly likened to 'Robocop' by a visitor to the Forum. After Speirs' miraculous run, depicted in the attack on Foy, it is clear that he WAS legendary within 2/506, not only for the controversies which surrounded him, but as a competent and fearless leader. The scene in which he turned and offered a smoke to Christenson, Perconte, and the replacement was really a hoot.
Now, for a factual listing of Easy 506th casualties for the month of January, 1945. This is posted as a tribute to the men of Easy 506th who were killed or wounded at Bastogne. As you can see, the casualties in this company multiplied after January 1st. Some dates given as with Skip Muck, vary by one day from the dates given elsewhere
Killed In Action:
Cpl Hoobler, Donald B. 20508303, 3 Jan. OH
Cpl Mellett, Francis J., 20229437 13 Jan. NY
Pvt Neill, Patrick H. 12139576 13 Jan. NY
Pfc Penkala, Alex H., 35549002 10 Jan, IN
Sgt Muck, Warren H. 121311`69 10 Jan. NY
Pfc Sawosko, Carl C., 16100548 13 Jan. IL
Pvt Shindell, Johnnie E., 38530711 10 Jan., OH
Died Of Wounds:
Pfc Herron, A.P. 33657700 13 Jan. VA
Seriously Wounded In Action:
Pvt Garrard, William 6888886, 13 Jan. PA
Pvt Guarnere, William J. 13113070 3 Jan. PA
Pvt Harrell, Thomas F 34787564 3 Jan. FL
Pvt Melo, Joachim, 32820984 3 Jan. NY
Pvt Perconte, Frank 16100572 13 Jan. IL
Pvt Sheeley, John P. 39314111 13 Jan. OR
Pfc Smith, George H. 32749717 13 Jan. NJ
Pfc Smith, Garland 35698915 9 Jan. KY
Pvt Smith, John D. 39421540 13 Jan. CA
Sgt Toye, Joseph J. 13026128 3 Jan. PA
Lightly Wounded In Action:
T-5 Rod Bain, Pvt Alex Carillo, Pfc Brad Freeman, Pfc Lloyd Guy, Sgt Earl Hale, Pvt Les Hashey, Pfc Walter Hendrix, Cpl Edward Joint, Pfc Leo Matz, Pfc Edward Mauser, Pvt Arthur Mauzerall, Pvt Elmer Minne, T-5 Campbell T. Smith, Pvt Robert B. Smith, Pvt Herb Suerth, S/Sgt Amos J. Taylor, Sgt Clarence Tridle, Pvt James W. Welling, Pvt Ovid J. Whitton, Sgt Art Youman. Of the 39 casualties named above, 22 are Draftees.
The 13 January attack on Foy has been discussed previously. An error in dialogue states that "Third battalion will come-in
from the east." After Action reports for that day state that Easy attacked Foy from the West and that Company 'I' of Third
battalion came North, up the main highway. After the battle, Lipton states "we took over 100 Germans prisoner". The 506th
regimental narrative says "69 PWs were taken in this operation." If anyone doubts that Lt Dike was well-connected with some
one at divisional level, the Narrative also states that on 14 January, the day after his leadership failure at Foy, Lt Dike
was re-assigned as 'Assistant Regimental S-3".
In losses from enemy action (killed/wounded/missing casualties),
Easy 506th suffered a total of 45 in the entire month at Bastogne. At the end of episode 7, it is stated that total losses
for the company were 82 (63 men remained from the starting total of 145). We can surmise that about 37 of those losses were
for pneumonia, frozen feet, battle fatigue and miscellaneous other causes.
Regarding total losses at Bastogne through
out the 506th regiment, Company I had the most at 99, while RHQ Co. lost 6 men, which was the lowest company loss. Company
E was near the middle with 45. As to total KIA's, Company 'C' was at the top of the list with 19. Company E lost half as
many with 10 KIA, counting John Julian.
MARK BANDO'S WEBSITE
Episode 8-The Last Patrol
This episode was narrated throughout by the David Webster character. I
suspect the real David Webster is rolling in his watery grave. The worst thing you can do to a writer, is present his writing with a sentiment other than what he intended, by giving it out of context or
misrepresenting the original spirit in which it was written. This episode starts right off with a scene wherein Webster rejoins Company E after a long absence from his wounding in Holland. He has missed the Bastogne fighting, and is barely recognized by his former comrades and universally resented for his absence during the Bulge.
Webster's writings, including those quoted in Ambrose's book give quite a different picture. As Webster rode in the back of a truck with his long-lost comrades, he wrote :
"It was good to be back with fellows I knew and could trust. Listening to the chatter in the truck, I felt warm and relaxed inside, like a lost child who has returned to a bright home full of love after wandering in a cold black forest."
Isn't this 'slightly' different from the impression given in the film? Because of their agenda to depict things other than as they really were, the screen- writers were also precluded from using Webster's related quotes,
describing his thoughts while riding in that truck:
"McCreary and Marsh lit cigarettes. Martin made a wisecrack about a passing officer. I asked what happened to Hoobler. Killed at Bastogne. Poor Hoobler who got such a kick out of war, dead in the snow. And the others? Muck and his buddy Penkala, who had the deepest hole in one position, had been killed by a direct hit. Sawosko was shot through the head attacking Foy. And so on. Some replacements who had come in after Holland had also died. A lot of men had been evacuated for trenchfoot, too many, McCreary thought. The platoon wasn't what it used to be."
Some visitors to the Forum have already commented on details of the patrol, the main one being that Webster himself did not actually participate in crossing the river.
One detail I found really surprising is that Captain Winters and Lt Speirs actually DID stand in front of the house in broad daylight when discussing plans for the patrol. Not only was this telegraphing plans to the enemy, it is amazing that a sniper didn't take them out. I had thought this was a Hollywood gaff in the film, but in reviewing Webster's writings, I discovered that he wrote:
"Captain Winters, operating out of battalion, visited our outpost with Lieutenant Speirs one sunny day and stood in our front yard near the creek, gesturing with his hands and waving a map, while we inside cursed heartily, fearing an observer would spot him and call down artillery fire on our cozy home."
The fact that no sniper fire was directed at these officers was a symptom that the German Army at this time was spent. As Lt Russo of the 501 stated "That Army was shot. They wanted no more-I know they didn't." Regarding the 2nd patrol, which was planned by Col. Sink and scrubbed by Winters, it was divisional policy in Alsace never to send two patrols across the Moder River in the same place, as that was a sure recipe for enemy ambush.
Did Sink really expect the 2nd patrol to cross 25 hours later, in the same place? I don't know the answer, but if he did, Winters' decision almost certainly saved the men slated for the 2nd crossing from certain death.
The West Point replacement officer Lt Hank Jones, was portrayed by the son of Tom Hanks, a fact I didn't know until informed by Bob Talbert. This actor did a good job in portraying the officer, as he has been described by those who remember him.
I suppose the shooting aspects of the patrol episode were o.k.
although the movements of the raiding party were simplified in presentation. As usual, the special effects were superior, especially the visuals of tracers flying past and the sound effects of bullets passing close. One of my most vivid memories of reading Webster's story was the way the wounded man kept calling for his buddy :"I want Mercier! Where's Mercier?" This dialogue was left out of the death scene, probably because Kenneth D. Mercier was another character who wasn't used in the series. The soldier who received the fatal grenade wounds to the head was Pvt Eugene E. Jackson ASN: 13011296, whom Ambrose mistakenly described as "a replacement who joined up in Holland", in his book. Both Eugene Jackson and Mercier appear on the Combat Infantry Badge roster for Normandy.
The most gutless thing of all in this episode, was the way the film alluded to the dying German on the enemy bank of the river, then totally failed to explain what happened to him. Perhaps because it showed the less glamorous/heroic aspect of the war, the issue was brought-up then completely abandoned, without explanation.
In reality, because that wounded German was lying in a place where he could get a good view of the American-occupied house on the west bank of the Moder, Webster and friends did not want him to be rescued and tell his comrades about all the U.S. activity in that building. They feared retaliatory fire from a 75mm German S.P. gun, which Ambrose mentioned in his book, but which was ommitted from the film. Webster wanted to swim the river and knife the German but decided not to for 2 reasons.
1)A mortar barrage, which landed on the enemy shore, and
2) the possibility that other Germans were using the man for bait to invite American troops into an ambush.
After numerous grenades were tossed near the German and failed to take him out, Cobb finally placed one close enough to kill the German. Webster's writing about that incident was not only eloquent, it is better than the quote which was used at the end of the episode about the standard of living rising back in the states:
"Marsh and I tiptoed to a point opposite the German. We could hear him gasping and slobbering; he could hear us walking. He was so terrified, weak as he was, he held his breath and stifled his groans, thinking perhaps that by so doing, he would be unnoticed. But he couldn't suppress his breathing very long, and the ghastly wheezes commenced, as strong as ever. I pitied him, dying all alone in a country far from home, dying slowly without hope or love on the bank of a dirty little creek, helpless against the killers he heard walking towards him. But if he got back alive, I might be dead. Marsh and I pulled the pins on our grenades, threw them beside him, and flopped down behind an earthen mound. One of the grenades exploded, the other was a dud. There was no change in the sound of the breathing. We returned to the house, got two more grenades and tried again. No luck; he continued moaning. We gave up and went to bed. Just before sunrise, Cobb, who had also considered swimming-until he heard the mortars, threw one grenade and killed the helpless, dying German. Dawn came. The cold yellow sun shone through the grey mist on the dead German, a monument to war and to the achievements of man."
This is powerful stuff, and REAL. I was highly disappointed at the gutless way the film makers danced around this issue and didn't even explain what happened to the wounded German after mentioning him in the dialogue.
David Webster's patrol in Alsace story was probably the masterpiece of all his WW2 writings and I'm sure he was proud of it. It was first published in the March, 1948 issue of the Screaming Eagle magazine for the 101st Airborne Division Association's readers. Wherever he is now, I'm reasonably certain that Webster would be greatly disturbed by the mis representation and ill-use of his writing in this series. His widow is probably too polite to display an ungrateful attitude in bringing this up, but I, as a fellow writer want to speak out for Dave Webster, who is no longer here to make his voice heard. As a big fan of Webster's writing for over 30 years, I can tell when it is presented in an impure fashion.