BOOK REVIEW & REPORT: Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends
Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story
By: William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron with Robyn Post.
New York, New York: Berkley Caliber. - 2007. - ISBN
Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters by Richard Winters with Cole C. Kingseed.
Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers by Larry Alexander
But, Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends is by far my favorite.
This book tells the story of two average guys from South Philadelphia (who didn’t know each other until the met in England in July 1944) who struggle from basic training, to jump school, to England, to France, Holland, Belgium, and then either rehab (Guarnere) or Germany and Austria (Heffron). These are simple guys, not Ivy League men of privilege, who had hard scrabble upbringings and just try to make it back to South Philly alive.
Heffron was a replacement after Normandy, and while the original veterans tried to ignore the replacements, their homes in South Philly and the experiences they shared in Holland and Belgium would bind these two men together forever.
Most books about World War II for the mass consumer are written from the top down. They are written from Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bernard L. Montgomery, etc. point-of-view and do not deal with the man-on-the-line because they are looking at the ‘big picture’ and don’t have time to get that deep.
There were some personal diary accounts written, like With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, by Eugene B. Sledge (which I have also read and highly recommend), but until the success of Band of Brothers the dwelled in side-street obscurity instead of main-street spotlight.
The first Ambose book that I read was The Victors, which lead me to Citizen Soldier. Amborse, like many historians started at the top with his books on Eisenhower and then his book D-Day, June 6, 1944 (he did squeeze Pegasus Bridge, June 6, 1944 in there, but it was more about a specific mission than the men.). In Citizen Soldier Ambrose tries to deal with the soldiers below the rank of Major, but the stories about the enlisted men and non-commissioned officers are often short, not very flushed out, and contain errors do to incomplete research and fact-checking.
A book with a bunch of short snippets does have the same feeling as the book by Sledge, or this book. If I had to tell anyone that hasn’t read any of the Band of Brothers material one book to read, it would be to read this one. Of all the books that I have read so far, it gives the best feeling of what it was like for a common foot soldier on the line during the Second World War in northern Europe.
Robyn Post didn’t real “write” this book, she was not really an author here, more of a transcriber and editor. It is very apparent that Guarnere and Heffron just talked away and then she transcribed and edited the material into a cohesive book. And I do thank her for that. I do thank her for getting it down in ink. But this story is basically just two WWII veterans telling their stories into a microphone.
This book is just two average joes just trying to get home from hell. You can tell the love that they have for each other, and I think having both of them telling the story back-and-fourth is what really works here. You don’t fall into a rut of one narrative, but bounce back of the pair playing off of each other.
So, I give this book five stars, and it should be required reading in both high school and college. Everyone should know what men like this went through, and this book gets you there as good as any. If you can only read one book about BofB this is the one. Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters by Winters with Kingseed would be second.I want to finish by saying thank you to William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron for serving and getting their story out in print, and thank you for those who severed and didn't get the chance.
RATING: 5 STARS *****
The other books in the Band of Brothers universe that I have read:
3-1/2 STARS - Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest