Disobeying Orders - Band Of Brothers Episode 8 Recap - The Last Patrol

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!

The crux of this episode is a mission that feels unnecessary and orders for a follow-on mission that are deliberately, albeit covertly, disobeyed. The unit survived D-Day, advancing through Europe, Bastogne, and they were asked to go across a river to secure prisoners...twice! Sometimes we do stuff in the Army that just doesn't make sense at the company level. That's exactly what we had here.

Length of time in combat

The last interview is MAJ Winters and he says, "You have a gut feeling, thinking you may live through the war so you walk carefully." They had no way of knowing exactly when the war would end, but through reports that come down and knowing how things are going in combat, you can get a sense of what is going on with the big picture. However, this is one of the differences with the military during WWII that always blew my mind. These men got on boats to go to Europe and they had no clue how long they would be there. Conversely, when I deployed I knew exactly how long I would be there before a new unit rotated in and took over for us. So I knew when I had two weeks left and knew not to do anything stupid to get hurt. All these men had in Easy Company was their gut. 

Thinking of it another way - before GPS got scary accurate in cars and you were going somewhere for the first time, it always felt longer on the way there than on the way home. Why? Because you knew where you were going and could gauge time. Mentally, you could prepare yourself for those two hours listening to your wife's horrible taste in music. These men woke up every day in Europe and up until recently, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. The mental fortitude it took to stay sharp and focused on the mission isn't something that is talked about enough. Not to mention, the toll it must've taken on the men to survive Bastogne. Sheesh.

Full Moon

When discussing the mission to go across the river it was mentioned that there was a full moon. I'm not breaking any scientific news to anyone that when there is a full moon you can actually see a little bit at night. This is a very real consideration when planning covert missions in the military. Sometimes you don't have the luxury of waiting until the illumination from the moon is diminished and it becomes one more obstacle you have to deal with when trying to stay undetected by your enemy.


What is the longest you've ever gone without a shower? A long weekend? Spring break? Now imagine weeks or even months of sleeping outside, sweating, combat, and life in general without a shower. It is a horrible feeling, so this must've been a welcomed sight for the men when they arrived in Hagenau to have a nice hot shower. I went 6 months in Iraq without running water and a shower. What we did have were stalls with a pulley system that we would attach a canvas bag full of cold water with a spout similar to a watering can. You'd fill up the bag, raise it up, turn the spout, and cold water would just trickle out. You'd get wet. Turn the spout off. Soap up. Then use the remaining water to wash off the soap. The water was cold and it was cold outside so this was a miserable experience overall. So much so that most days I would just use baby wipes to clean myself off head to toe and only use the "showers" once every three to four days when I truly needed it. 

Now imagine the men of Easy Company - no baby wipes, no canvas bags of water, no way to get clean other than a bar of soap, AND you're getting shot at every day. It is a miserable feeling to be dirty but I suspect you get to a point that it just becomes the norm.

Ripping darts

It seems like nearly everyone smoked cigs during WW2. This wasn't new to this episode but maybe because so much of the episode takes place indoors so the thought of a steady cloud of cig smoke present at all times is why it stood out. Smoking cigs in the military, especially while deployed, is something that endured over time. People who don't smoke at home will smoke while deployed for any number of reasons. Bored, coffee alone isn't working, stress, bonding. I never smoked cigs but I always had my cigars. I found out later that the elders of villages we would meet with would sometimes think I was special because I had access to cigars. I assure you, I was not special. 

The West Point of it all

This episode we meet Lieutenant Jones who is a West Point grad. The overall theme of him joining the men is that he is brand new and wants to get combat experience before the war ends, which is understandable. If you're on the front lines of combat in a combat role (artillery, infantry, armor), you want to see action or at least most guys do. A few random thoughts about LT Jones:

- Good, bad, or indifferent, when you show up to a unit as a West Point grad the Soldiers will have a strong opinion on you. You hear the men say, "Isn't that where Ike went" referring to General Eisenhower. There is an expectation that if you went to the same place as Ike, you must be squared away. 

- LT Jones is largely squared away from an appearance standpoint. He shows up, stands at attention, directs everyone by their rank properly, and in doing all this definitely stood out like a sore thumb. This is evident when Nix says, "Ohh right our West Pointer" chuckles and follows up with, "Ok don't get hurt." There was a stark difference between the freshly polished college grad and Nix who'd been on the front lines since D Day. This was also present when LT Jones told Malarkey they had dodged some mortars on the way in and Malarkey dismissed that in the most polite manner he could muster. 


- I will be the first to admit that some of the folks that come out of West Point are a touch uppity. They carry themselves as better than because of where they went to school and expect to be treated a certain way by the rest of the Soldiers. When LT Jones tells Malarkey, "You want to introduce me to the men" my skin always crawls a little bit. Relax, LT Jones. 

- Class ring. Before the mission we see LT Jones remove his ring and place it on his necklace for safe keeping. Fun fact: the tradition of school rings started at West Point in the 1830s. Go ahead and google that if you don't believe me. It is part of the reason we hold the tradition in such high regard to this day. We dedicate an entire weekend to receiving them. Most of you reading that will scoff because almost no one at any other school will get a class ring but it is a very big deal to us. It is special. However, most folks don't wear them in combat now; I know I didn't. I left mine at home. But it was prevalent for grads to wear them during WW2.

- Being a 2nd Lieutenant largely stinks. You're at the bottom of the totem pole for officer rank and because you have zero experience when you show up to your unit, it is a grind to earn respect. I'm not positive on the accuracy but if LT Jones got promoted after one mission he should've been very grateful. At least as a First Lieutenant, Soldiers don't think you're a newb. 

Second Patrol

One of the greatest displays of leadership is when Winters makes the command decision that the second patrol wasn't going to happen. This was so damn risky for Winters because if anyone had found out he would've been in a world of trouble. Disobeying a direct order and lying would easily get you relieved of command and possibly busted down in rank. He weighed all of that and still went ahead with his plan to cancel the mission for the men. He knew their safety was paramount to COL Sink bragging to his buddies and second rate intel they might receive from the prisoners. I cannot begin to describe the size of the stones on someone to take it upon oneself to deliberately go against your chain of command. Even times when guys don't agree with their leaders, they will still execute on missions because that's just the way it goes in the military. Not to mention, to carefully calculate the risk and likelihood that COL Sink would find out the mission never happened demonstrated his ability to read people. Yet another example of why Winters was a leader that anyone should want to emulate. 

Cool jeep

They were a dime a dozen in WW2 but it would've been so cool to have my own jeep to tool around in on base. The best I got was an old bus that I had to drive to transport my platoon to a training site where we worked with an Iraqi brigade. 


Episode 1 recap

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