Vet News: Now on the Silver Screen: Making ‘Band of Brothers’

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Band of Brothers

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2001 - Audiences around the country are hearing firsthand about the hell that sparked an everlasting bond between World War II soldiers from a Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg production.

"Band of Brothers" is a 10-part HBO miniseries based on the experiences of E Company (known as Easy Company), 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The series begins September 9.

But a special presentation is already being shown on HBO featuring an oral history from Easy Company veterans and behind-the-scenes footage called "The Making of Band of Brothers."

Highlights of the series are also being shown to veterans and soldiers on stages from Seattle to Philadelphia. Nineteen regional screenings are bringing the Easy Company soldiers to the forefront for recognition, said an Army official.

At a July 26 screening at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Capt. Victor Shane Olshansky, a logistics officer with today’s 506th Infantry (Air Assault), Camp Greaves, Korea, presented memorabilia to six veterans from Easy Company.

Olshansky’s father served in the unit in 1959 as a first lieutenant.

No Gratuitous Romance

The miniseries has no fictitious characters, said Stephen Ambrose, the author of the book, "Band of Brothers." There are also no Hollywood romances, Ambrose said. He added that it was the intent of executive producers Hanks and Spielberg to tell the story accurately.

Easy Company was one of four companies within the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. It consisted of men who volunteered to be trained as paratroopers for the honors and the extra $50 for enlisted and $100 for officers a month, according to historians. Out of 500 officers and 5,300 enlisted soldiers who volunteered for the training, only 148 and 1,800, respectively, graduated.

"This ’band of brothers’ represents what is best in our Army and this nation," said Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who plans to repeat those words in a promotional video for the series. "They trained hard, they prepared well and they became true comrades in arms. These soldiers restored peace to our world."

The movie will outline the unit’s battles in England, Normandy, Holland, Belgium, and at Hitler’s hideaway, the "Eagles Nest."

Midnight Ramble

World War II began just after midnight June 6, 1944 for Easy Company. On D-Day, paratroopers of Easy Company dropped into the dark Normandy countryside as part of Operation Overlord. The company suffered 65 casualties during its five weeks in Normandy.

In the fall of 1944 Easy Company parachuted into Holland to capture the city of Arnhem. However, they were unsuccessful and they spent the rest of the fall in battles along the road to Arnhem, nicknamed "Hell’s Highway."

On December 19, Easy Company was sent to Belgium to help defend the besieged city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The men had limited access to food, proper boots and long underwear to defend against the bitter cold, and were frequently shivering and hungry, veterans said.

In early April 1945 the company moved into Germany and spent two days assisting with the liberation of a concentration camp. In May the men arrived in the Bavarian city of Berchtesgaden, the site of Adolf Hitler’s mountain fortress, call the Aldershorst, or "Eagles Nest." When the war ended on May 8, the men of Easy Company toasted the victory with Hitler’s champagne.

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