Not Everyone Is A Leader - Band of Brothers Recap Episode 7 - The Breaking Point

As a reminder, these recaps are not meant to be a frame-by-frame retelling of the episode with my thoughts; rather, they are reactions to details or storylines as I view them through my lens in the Army. Enjoy!

Given the overall theme of this episode, I think it is the most heavy of the series. There are no two ways about it as they waste no time getting into the horrors of war


Part of what made the Greatest Generation drastically different was how they dealt with mental health. When I say "dealt with" I actually mean "ignored" because if you talked about anything of that nature, you were seen as scared or a coward. There is a well known story of General Patton visiting a hospital and chastising a Soldier who was reluctant to return to the front lines. Seemingly, he saw some hellish actions and didn't wish to experience them ever again. It is a perfectly normal thing to want to avoid trauma. 

Some men grow callous to it, especially in WW2, but others do not have the mental makeup to handle it and as a result, will act differently. Late in the episode, Lipton says "fear is poison in combat" and he is absolutely correct. If you get paralyzed with fear and unable to do your job, you can get other men hurt. I've told the story before on ZBT, but I had a Solider who was amazing. During training, he excelled and I thought he would be a valuable asset to us once we got to Iraq. The first time we were shot at though, he froze and I don't mean he hesitated for a second. No, he froze like a statue and I had to pull him down to the ground. Someone trying to kill you is extremely frightening and you cannot fully prepare yourself mentally to know how you might react because nothing compares to combat.

Returning to the point about this generation handling fear differently, we start at the top of the episode with the men talking about death. "Death was all over" and as I said, some men grow callous but some men eventually reach their breaking point. We saw it with Buck this episode where he was physically and mentally impacted by seeing two men he cared for get injured badly. 

The real life Malarkey wraps the interviews choking back tears when he says, "I withstood it well but had trouble in later life because those events would come back and you never forget them." Today we call that post traumatic stress. Back then, you just got told to toughen up and those men buried those feelings deep inside. Listen, it is not normal to see as much death as those men endured so it shouldn't be any sort of surprise that they were adversely affected. There is zero shame to that. If anything, I commend them even more for living with those awful feelings and never seeking any help. 

Buck Compton

Buck is one of my favorite men in the series. Nothing against Neal McDonough, but he was in his mid 30s when he was playing this role of a man who was in his mid 20s at the time of the events. I point that out because it's important to remember how young Buck was in combat, which I think explains why it hit him so hard to see Guarnere and Toye injured so badly. Buck was two years older than Guarnere and two years younger than Toye so essentially all the same age. Although you're supposed to maintain a professional working relationship between officers and enlisted, it's human nature to gravitate toward guys your own age, especially when there aren't many other officers you can befriend and talk to regularly. You even see it a couple other times when Buck was gambling with the guys or throwing darts. As much as those men were under his command, Buck saw those guys injured as his friends being hurt. We can all relate to not wanting to see your friends hurt. 

As a result, when Buck was in the aid station he was a shell of himself. He couldn't process what he'd seen so he crawled inside himself and who could blame him. 

I should also point out that Buck was an All American baseball player at UCLA, which explains why he was such a good combat leader. General MacArthur famously said, "Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory." It's why you're required to play a sport at West Point to this day, whether at the Varsity level, club, or intramural. You learn valuable lessons through sports that serve you well on the battlefield. Buck knew how to lead, knew how to act under pressure, and knew how to care for his men in many ways because he did it all before albeit on a baseball diamond. 


E Tool

You see the men digging their foxholes with a mini shovel aka entrenching tool aka E tool. Let me tell you something, this might be the worst piece of equipment you get issued in the Army. The thing is flimsy as hell so it's always collapsing on your mid-shovel. Plus, it's tiny as all get out so digging a proper foxhole takes forever. It is probably only about 6 inches across so you're digging with something that is barely the size of your hands together. Thank God we don't fight wars in trenches and foxholes any more. 

Negligent Discharge

Hoobler has a pistol go off in his belt buckle, which ultimately kills him. This is such a horrible way to die given what he'd endured to that point. Present day, a negligent discharge is a big no-no in combat. No one ever walks around inside the wire with any rounds in their weapon unless they are getting ready to go outside the wire. When you return, we have barrels you point your weapon into so you can "clear it" to ensure you don't have a round accidentally go off once you're back on base. 

Names and Rank

Everyone uses names and rank pretty interchangeably. I think that was just a sign of the times. Now, special operations units blur the lines between officers, NCOs, and enlisted just by the nature of their work so first names without rank is more common. In the present day conventional force, it is rare you will hear an officer or NCO called by anything other than their rank and name. Junior enlisted usually get called by their last names if you drop the rank. 

I had a first sergeant that I served with in Iraq (shout out Top Byrd if he somehow is reading this) who I truly liked and respected. We call first sergeants, "Top" as they are the top ranking enlisted NCO in the unit. Anyway, he referred to all the lieutenants as "LT" and whatever your last name initial was so I would hear "ell tee cee" (LT C) all the time and reflecting back on that now, I truly enjoyed that moniker.  He was a great leader who was friendly with all of the lieutenants but he still respected our rank despite serving more years than all of us combined. It was a term of endearment mixed with respect and professionalism. 

I have too many great stories involving him that I can't possibly tell them all here. 

Boom Boom

We have a running cadence in the artillery world that goes, "What's the sound of artillery?" and everyone responds, "BOOM BOOM." I fired a ton of artillery in my day and from hundreds of meters away, it is loud as hell. I cannot imagine what it would sound and feel like if it was coming down on top of me nor would I wish to experience that. 

To endure barrage after barrage like these men did is unfathomable. If you are within 600 meters (just shy of 0.4 miles or 4 city blocks) of artillery impact you are said to be "danger close." You've undoubtedly seen this depicted in other movies like We Were Soldiers or the Vietnam scene in Forrest Gump. We try to avoid doing this at all costs given how destructive artillery can be to humans but sometimes it is necessary. 


Lieutenant Dike

Just like Sobel, I cannot imagine being a member of Dike's family seeing him portrayed in this series. There is no two ways about it - he was a horrible leader in every facet. This is on display throughout the episode:

  • CPT Winters asks, "Where's Dike?" to First Sergeant Lipton. I think it goes without saying but you never want your commander wondering where you are when you should be leading your men. 
  • Conversely, Dike displaying his aloofness and ineptitude only further highlights the strong leadership of 1SG Lipton. Lip protects Dike if only to protect the men. He tells them to not worry about Dike and to just do their jobs. He also instructs Luz to stop doing the impression because it only further weakens Dike's authority and as much as the men don't respect him, he is still the commander of the company. 
  • Dike's inability to relate to any of the men. Leadership comes in many forms. You don't need to be super close to the men and friendly like Buck (although it helps in my opinion if you can balance it well with professionalism) but you should be able to hold a conversation with your men. When Dike rolls up to Lip's foxhole to talk only to disappear mid convo, you're left scratching your head. 
  • Not everyone is meant to lead and certainly not everyone is meant to lead in combat. I've long maintained that there are aspects to leadership that are innate. Sure, you can read about good leadership techniques and be molded into a leader, but the truly great leaders were born to do just that. I do not believe Dike was cut out to be a leader but as Lip said, someone up the chain of command wanted him to get combat experience. That still happens to this day where officers are assigned to certain roles to beef up their experience. It happened to me - I got transferred mid deployment to a new unit because my Battalion Commander wanted me to get combat experience in another role. I don't think there is anything wrong with it but if you recognize that someone isn't cut out for the position, they should get yanked. We hear Winters talking through who he could replace Dike with and ultimately coming to the conclusion he simply didn't have anyone available. 
  • "First Sergeant Lipton, you get things organized here. I'm going to go for help" and "I will likely be called away regularly" and "I gotta go make a call" are all things Dike said that were completely transparent. The men knew he was full of bologna with that stuff and lost respect for him each time he said something else. 
  • Finally, in the assault on Foy, we see Dike hesitate. He has no idea how to lead the assault, he gets flustered, and ultimately he freezes in his tracks. As a result, some men were killed and others were injured. Hesitation is worse than doing nothing many times.  

The opposite of Dike is LT Speirs. There is absolutely zero hesitation when you see Winters call on him to relieve Dike during the assault. He reaches Lip and wastes no time doling out orders for the attack. As a result, they take their objective. Speirs displays exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned leadership being innate. You cannot teach running straight into the teeth of the enemy, making it safely to your objective, and then running back to your men. As a result, you see how Lip reacts to seeing leadership in action once again. 

The final display of leadership comes at the end when Speirs gasses up Lip. He tells him how Easy Company has always had a leader from the beginning. Speirs didn't say that in jest - he meant it but letting your men know you think they are doing a good job goes a long way.


Episode 1 recap

Episode 2 recap

Episode 3 recap

Episode 4 recap

Episode 5 recap

Episode 6 recap