Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review - Easy Company Soldier

So I was out of town on business for the past few days, and I typically use plane trips to catch up on my reading. This time around I brought Easy Company Soldier by Sgt. Don Malarkey and Bob Welch. Those of you familiar with Band of Brothers will immediately recognize Malarkey's name, and you'll all remember I'm a fairly big fan of the series. Given the mini-series itself has more than a few inaccuracies, I've found it very insightful to read the memoirs of the actual combat veterans. I'd previously read Beyond Band of Brothers by Dick Winters, and I heartily recommend that work. 

As with Winters' book, Malarkey's autobiography is a reasonably quick read, but it also really seems to capture the author's voice. You feel as if Malarkey is in the room with you talking about his experiences growing up in Oregon, going through basic, and then the several months of hell on the front lines during World War II. In fact, Malarkey holds the distinction of serving more consecutive days in combat than any other member of Easy Company. 

Malarkey's commentary on the war and his fellow E Company veterans is straightforward and sometimes even brutal in its honesty and candor. You very quickly get a picture of a man with a strong sense of right and wrong, a strong sense of honor, and a man who believed he had something to prove - to himself most of all. 

As a student of history, I find it interesting to compare and contrast the same events through the lens of the various veterans of the unit. One particular episode that stood out had to do with David Webster's return to the unit. In the miniseries, Webster is greeted coolly and with resentment for having missed the Bulge. Mark Bando's website takes issue with that characterization quoting Webster's autobiography:

"It was good to be back with fellows I knew and could trust. Listening to the chatter in the truck, I felt warm and relaxed inside, like a lost child who has returned to a bright home full of love after wandering in a cold black forest."

However, reading Malarkey's autobiography, there may be something to the characterization in mini-series after all.  Malarkey states:

"... we had a few guys rejoin us who'd been wounded in Normandy or Holland... Among them was Webster, the Harvard man so busy polishing his Bobcat badge that he didn't realize that damn near everybody else was now an Eagle Scout."

He continues:

"Webster, who'd taken a single bullet cleanly through the leg in Holland, showed up in Haguenau with the pep of a kid being dropped off at a birthday party - and not smart enough to figure out the rest of us weren't much in a partying mood. He kept asking where so-and-so was. And guys kept telling him: 'dead... lost a leg... took a shot in the nexk... froze his friggin' feet off...'"

Clearly Malarkey's account and impression is conveyed by the mini-series, whereas Bando's (based on Webster's source material) is not. Bando's own book and website did, however, come out in 2002, six years before Malarkey's autobiography was released. Bando may need to update his site and source material a bit at this point given the number of primary accounts now available from the other veterans.

Needless to say, I found Malarkey's book engaging.  In fact I think I managed to read through the entire book in just under three hours, it was simply that good. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in military history, as it is a work of exceptional honesty and candor.

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