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Cold With Low Morale - Band of Brothers Episode 6 Recap - Bastogne

For as much as I truly love BoB as a series, this is easily my least favorite episode. I will probably rank them all when I recap the last episode, but this is easily the episode I enjoy the least. As I sit here typing this trying to think why this is the case, I think what I've concluded is this - this is the episode I relate the least with due to the fact that I was never a medic in the Army. I didn't watch BoB when it was airing for the first time so I never watched it as a civilian. Not that I don't respect the heck out of Doc Roe and have fond memories of medics I served with, but the episode seen through his vantage just didn't click for me. The worst BoB episode is still amazing so it doesn't bring the series down by any stretch. 

I will shout out my medic I had on the back half of my deployment though. He was awesome and we often found ourselves in the gym together. The guy was single handedly keeping the creatine business alive and he looked like he might burst at any moment but push came to shove, he knew his stuff backwards and forwards. One heck of a Soldier. 

Ok that was a long way of saying I don't love this episode. Let's get it. 

Bastogne

The one part of the opening interviews that always stuck out to me is when the gentleman says, "Sometimes...on real cold nights...when I get into bed I will lean over to my wife and say, 'I'm glad I'm not in Bastogne.'" Imagine being nearly 60 years removed from an experience and having the memory still fresh in your mind?! You don't have to be in the Army to have distinct memories but of all the things you can remember from the war and that is top of the list. 

Outside of my time at West Point (btw, I think this is the first West Point reference in this recap series. Someone please fact check that but if I made it to the 6th episode without a single mention of West Point I'd say that is impressive), I only saw snow while in the Army one time. We were in the field for a training exercise in central Texas and unexpectedly got slammed with snow. It sucked, no two ways about it but no one was lobbing artillery at me nor was anyone shooting at me so I'm going to say the fellas in Bastogne had it worse.

The set

Real quickly - it took me a few watches to realize this entire episode was filmed on a sound stage which makes it all the more impressive that those guys looked miserable. 

Shaving

It's frigid outside and Winters is making sure he stays within regulations by shaving in the morning. I'm sure part of it was to give him something to do to stay warm but Winters was very much a guy that was by the book (almost always...stay tuned). We see Nix and some of the Soldiers let their beards grow out and no one seemed to care probably due to the frigid temperatures and constant barrage of artillery. So did Winters *have* to shave every day? Probably not. I doubt anyone would've given him a hard time, especially because he was a great Soldier. Nevertheless, he did the right thing always. 

Even today, we are expected to shave every day while deployed with few exceptions. You will often see special forces units (SEALs, Delta) in pictures with full beards. This initially was partly for operational purposes to ingratiate themselves with locals we were fighting alongside as their culture views beards as a sign of manhood so it is a way to gain respect. From there, it evolved to mainly the special forces guys just being special, for lack of a better word. When you're special, sometimes you play by different rules. Also let's be real for a second - having a great beard absolutely makes you look tougher. No, I was not in special forces. Yes, I do still have a great beard. 

Speaking the local language

Winters speaks German to the nazi who wandered into their camp. My guess is Winters didn't take a German course but rather picked up the language over time. I would say most guys who interact with locals outside the wire or work with interpreters will pick things up and you develop a functioning understanding of the language. Certainly helps. In addition, I have a couple buddies who went to language school for their jobs as FAOs (Foreign Area Officer) - from the official website:

U.S. Army FAOs are specially selected and trained to be regionally-focused political-military specialists that possess a unique combination of regional expertise and strategic focus. FAOs develop political, cultural, sociological, economic, and geographic awareness, and foreign language proficiency in at least one of the dominant languages in their specified region over the course of their extensive three-four year training program. A FAO will typically serve overseas tours as a military attaché, security assistance officer, or strategic-level political-military planner on the Geographic Combatant Commander’s or Army Service Component Commander’s staff.

POWs

You noticed that the nazi looked confused as hell and definitely scared. In the Army, you learn the Rules of Engagement, some of us learn the Law of War in depth, and overall you're given some basics on how to treat enemy combatants according to the Geneva Conventions so you don't end up in Levinworth but nothing can prepare you for how you might feel when you deal with one for the first time. 

One time on a patrol, we caught a dude digging a hole for an IED and we stopped him. We followed all the proper procedures and brought him back to the base to get processed and sent to Baghdad. We get back and we put this kid on the steps of our HQ building. He couldn't have been more than 19 or 20. He is sitting there blindfolded with his hands zip tied. We cut his hands lose and gave him food and water but the image of him sitting there blindfolded and scared is seared into my memory. 

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Here is a guy who was doing something to kill Soldiers and yet, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. It makes me sad to even think that this kid likely had no other option but to do as he was told and now he was petrified not knowing what was next for him. I wonder if anyone fighting in WW2 had any of these same feelings but I'm not ashamed to admit it was a challenge for me once you strip someone down and realize they are human. 

Not helping the stereotype

We are going to get into LT Dike a lot more in the next episode but him wandering around lost only to say, "First Sergeant, where is my foxhole" to 1SG Lipton doesn't help the cause of officers. I don't wish to disparage the man but the way he was portrayed was a tough look for officers who have to fight against the belief that we don't know anything and are always lost. 

Flares

If you find yourself wondering how powerful a flare is - it is the strength of 1 million candles. Sorry, just some more artillery nerd stuff.

Nurse

Although it was not much time spent, relationships form fast on deployments. You find a common bond and connect to someone else more so than one might back home. It was no surprise that Doc Roe was hurt when he realized the nurse was killed during one of the barrages because he lost someone who was fighting the same fight as him. They attempted to save a man's life together and instances of that nature ingrain themselves with you. Whether it's the trauma of war or only having your unit to rely on, you yearn for connections to others when away from family and friends. 

Christmas

Spending any holiday on a deployment isn't an ideal way to spend any holiday, let alone Christmas. When COL Sink comes by with the General's message of "NUTS!" to the Germans, it lifts everyone's spirits. Before I ever saw this series I knew this story because Armed Forces Network (AFN) for some reason would run commercials with history lessons and the only one I remember is the NUTS story. 

Dear John

Buck's girl sending him a letter that she is breaking up with him is devastating. This is a common occurrence in the military, unfortunately. Everyone has a story of someone they knew, or themselves, getting broken up with while they are away. Less common is marrying an exotic dancer two weeks before a deployment after knowing her a month and having her empty your bank account one month into your deployment. Yes, that happened to one of my Soldiers. 

Remembering History

It's interesting that two people can be in the same place at the same time but remember things completely differently. GEN Patton will tell you that he rescued the 101st but as we see in the last frame, no member of the 101st has ever agreed they needed to be rescued. I am a big fan of Patton but I have a lot of respect for the pride those men felt knowing they held the line. Speaking of, how about when the General comes to assess the situation - the officers give him the no-nonsense assessment and what they are dealing with. He ignores all of that and just tells them to do their job. All I can do with that part is chuckle. 

Like I said, not the best episode but we rebound well with the next one. 

ICYMI

Episode 1 recap

Episode 2 recap

Episode 3 recap

Episode 4 recap

Episode 5 recap