To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day on this humble little blog, we wanted to share some of our favorite books about WWII. We first forayed into this historical genre by picking up Band of Brothers. So I first encountered Band of Brothers through the mini-series. A friend brought it over for us to watch together. His brother was at that time serving in Iraq, I believe as a member of the 101st Airborne Division (the division that Easy Company 506th PIR was a part of during WWII). He and the guys there had watched BoB and he recommended it to his brother.
I’ll be honest when he first brought it over I was less than thrilled; I’ve never been into war movies. There was just something about the storytelling of BoB though that I got hooked, so much so that my husband bought me the DVD collection for my birthday not long after we first watched it. I watch it at least twice a year once in June around D-Day and again in December around Pearl Harbor Day. I have even used small sections of episode 9: Why We Fight in my classroom after reading Diary of Anne Frank (the dramatization of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank) to show students what concentration camps were like. Without fail every year I used those scenes I cried and it did have an impact on my students, the movie not me crying 🙂
Anyway, after watching the movie the first time I wanted to read the original book by Stephen Ambrose. I enjoyed the book. There was more information than in the movie naturally, many more men of Easy Company were mentioned in the book. After reading the book I was excited to learn that there was a book on Major Winters – Biggest Brother: the Life of Major D. Winters the man who led the band of brothers by Larry Alexander. Again I enjoyed this book but I wonder if Winters wasn’t quite happy with it or really just felt he had more to tell because a year later he published a book Beyond Band of Brothers The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. This book felt much more personal probably because he himself wrote it or hand a big hand in writing it.
Several of the other men of Easy Company have books as well:
Don Malarky: Easy Company Soldier: the legendary battles of a sergeant from WWII’s Band of Brothers
Shifty Powers – Shifty’s War: the authorized biography of Sergeant Darrell “Shifty” Powers, the legendary sharpshooter from the Band of Brothers (written by the same author that co-wrote Buck Compton’s book). This book is a bit different as it was written solely by the author based on interviews with Shifty, his family, and other men of Easy Company. As it is written in first person the author took a few liberties which he then explains at the end of the book.
We Who Are Alive and Remain: untold stories from the Band of Brothers which has stories from many of the other men
In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers: a return to Easy Company’s battlefields with Sergeant Forrest Guth (written by the author of Biggest Brother). This book has comments from several of the men, it combines information for interviews, their other books, as well as from guides of Band of Brothers battlefield tours. The most interesting thing about this book is that there are discrepancies between the other books probably due to memories made long ago and different perspectives of the men, so this book tries to resolve those discrepancies and explain why some of them may have happened.
And finally, I saved my favorite for last though I have enjoyed all of these books and read most of them more than once. Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron – Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: two WWII paratroopers from the original Band of Brothers tell their story. The reason I liked this one so much is it was very much written like you’re sitting with them listening to them tell their stories. As a matter of fact I’ve watched the documentary that goes along with the mini-series enough that I could actually hear their voices in my head as I read.
One of the best things about these books are the things you learn about them men and their lives since WWII for example Buck Compton was the man who prosecuted Sirhan Sirhan for the murder of Robert F Kennedy, and Babe Heffron the real Babe Heffron appears in an episode of the mini-series.
Also many of the actors who portrayed these men wrote forwards or epilogues to their books. It’s just really sweet how they connected with these men and how they look up to them, how much they wanted to do a good job portraying these heroes.
So whether or not you’ve ever been into historical books, WWII books, or biographies these are books worth checking out!