Although HBO’s Band Of Brothers is one of the all-time most-watched TV series, many viewers are unaware of the true history behind the show. Band Of Brothers recounts the achievements of the elite 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Aired in ten parts, the series is based on a biography of the company written by Stephen Ambrose.
Also known as Easy Company, E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division became known for playing a part in many key events in the war. This team was assembled in July 1942 in Georgia at Camp Toccoa. Although the men who comprised this company came from many different walks of life, many came from poverty which was common during the Great Depression. After making it through the intense training and bonding together, they were dropped into the heart of the European conflict.
After making five successful jumps, the men earned their wings as elite paratroopers. They were now ready to be dropped into the heart of the European conflict. Preparations for Operation Overlord, also known as the D-Day invasion began in England. The paratroopers were essential to success in the invasion, flying over the battleships towards Cherbourg. Jumping was dangerous, as not only were they under attack instantly, but many men crashed into fences and trees, and it was common for men to lose their weapons during the jump. Easy Company was called on to take out a trench from which camouflaged Germans fired cannons upon the men arriving from the boats. Although the mission was successful, casualties were high. Having jumped in with 139 men, only 74 returned to England.
Easy Company’s next major success was taking part in the liberation of Holland in September 1944. The local Dutch referred to the paratroopers as “the angels of the skies.” This mission claimed the lives of 9 members of Easy Company.
Also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, the Battle of the Bulge was the German army’s last-ditch effort to fight back the invading Allied forces. With 600,000 soldiers, the Battle of the Bulge was the US army’s largest engagement. The Germans pushed through the Ardennes, a dense forest in Belgium, taking Allied forces by surprise. In addition to German attack, the Allies were also forced to contend with the bitter cold of winter, leaving many frostbitten. 15 members of East Company were lost in this battle.
The 101st Airborne Division officially became inactive on November 30, 1945. Of the 366 men who were part of Easy Company, 49 were killed in action. Although Easy Company no longer exists, their story lives on.