Sure, it's a highly-regarded prestige drama about one of the most impactful events in human history, but is Band of Brothers historically accurate? The HBO series was adapted from Stephen E. Ambrose's book of the same name, and both works attempt to show how this grand conflict affected the men who fought in it.
Decades after the series premiered, fans are still discussing its merits, from its thoughtful acting and writing, to its comparisons to other well-respected WWII dramas. Various Redditors also enjoy pointing out Band of Brothers' accuracy, as well as where the show misses the mark, and the following is a selection of their observations.
- 1944 VOTES
Speirs Did Shoot A Soldier For Being Drunk
During the series, the soldiers discuss the rumors that surround Lt. Colonel Ronald Speirs - one of which is that he "shot one of his own men for being drunk." Characters in Band of Brothers do occasionally point out that the stories around Speirs are exaggerations or untrue, but this one seems to be based in fact.
One of the parts in the series that stands out in my mind is the rumours of Lt. Speirs executing POWs. There is some controversy over whether this situation really occurred, but another one that is mentioned once is that he allegedly executed a Sergeant who was drunk on guard.
In reality, he didn't execute a Sergeant who was drunk on guard, he executed him for endangering his men. An artillery barrage was called in near the American lines and his men were ordered to take cover; the disoriented soldier failed to respond to the order and was shot in the head by Speirs.
Lt. Speirs reported to his CO explaining that he had given the order and then shot the man for disobeying it. The CO was killed the next day and the whole affair was never brought up again.
- 2687 VOTES
Lutz Really Did Impersonate Major Horton
From Redditor u/westonsmare:
In "Currahee" (Episode 1), when Sobel is lost again when on maneuvers, Lutz is encouraged to impersonate Major Horton and tell him to get a move on. Did that ever happen, or is it a pure fabrication?
From Redditor u/GoldenZettah:
Yes, he did. This is from Stephen E. Ambrose Band of Brothers, page 47:
The men continued to play tricks on Sobel. Pvt George Luz could imitate voices. One night E Company was leading the battalion on a cross-country march. The barbed-wire fences kept slowing the progress. Sobel was in front.
"Captain Sobel," a voice called out, "what's the holdup?"
"The barbed wire," Sobel replied, thinking he was addressing Maj. Oliver Horton, the battalion executive officer.
"Cut those fences," Luz called out, continuing to imitate Horton's voice. "Yes, sir!" Sobel replied, and he ordered wire cutters to the front.
The next morning a contingent of Wiltshire farmers confronted Colonel Strayer. They complained mightily about the cut fences. Their cows were wandering all over the landscape. Strayer called in Sobel.
"Why did you cut those fences?"
"I was ordered to cut them, sir!"
"Can't be. Horton's on leave in London." Sobel caught hell, but he was never able to learn who had fooled him and was therefore unable to retaliate.
- 3513 VOTES
Winters Claims Sobel Was A Great Drill Instructor But Not An Ideal Leader
In Band of Brothers, Captain Herbert Sobel (David Schwimmer) is portrayed as a difficult drill instructor and hard man to like. According to Dick Winters, this is an accurate portrayal of the man as he remembered him - though Winters also gave Sobel due credit for shaping Easy Company into a professional fighting force.
From Redditor u/bmchugh0042:
I'm reading Major Winters' book right now, Beyond Band of Brothers. He gives an incredible amount of respect to Sobel for getting them trained and pushing them to be the best platoon in the Army:
Despite his personal shortcomings, Sobel drove each member of the company to become an elite soldier capable of taking the war to Hitler’s Germany. In that sense, Herbert Maxwell Sobel “made” Easy Company by producing a combat company that acted with a single-minded purpose. Carwood Lipton, who would later receive a battlefield commission in Europe, noted that Easy Company was very similar to the groups of men in every company in Sink’s 506th save one. Yet there was a difference because Easy coalesced to protect itself against Sobel. In that way, Easy ended up a different way than Sobel intended. Sobel drove us hard and he continued driving us when other companies had already fallen out and gone to the showers. While the other commands within the 506th were getting the hot showers and the early food, we were still out there working, taking an additional lap around the track, and standing at attention to see if anybody was moving. Soon other companies knew of Captain Sobel, including the officers throughout the regiment. No one envied us, but Sobel was producing a magnificent company. Having said that, I would be remiss to disregard the contributions of Easy’s first batch of noncommissioned officers who emerged from the ranks: the Carwood Liptons, Joe Toyes, Bill Guarneres, Floyd Talberts, and others.
But it was clear he wasn't fit to lead the company into war:
The men’s concern about their commander’s ability to make rational decisions under pressure was certainly understandable. While at Mackall one night, the company conducted a field exercise in which Easy Company established a defensive perimeter in the woods. Our plan was to remain in position, stay very quiet, and let the enemy walk into our area so that we could ambush them. As we waited for the enemy, suddenly a breeze sprang up and the leaves on the trees started to rustle. Sobel sprang to his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “Here they come! Here they come!” We all thought, “Ye Gods! I am going into combat with this man. He’ll get us all killed.”
- 4415 VOTES
The Uniforms And Equipment Are Spot On
When a former Redditor asked how accurate HBO's Band of Brothers is, several respondents commended the accuracy of the uniforms.
From Redditor u/borge12:
The show closely follows Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. Ambrose wrote the book off of oral histories from the men of Easy company. It's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of the show.
In general, Band of Brothers did a very good job with getting the uniforms and equipment correct.
The 506th PIR would have landed in Normandy with the M42 Jumpsuit, brown Corcoran jump boots, and the M2 Helmet. For Market Garden, the 101st was re-equipped with the M43 field uniform with trousers modified to have large pockets. Replacements would be issued "double buckle boots," so it's common to see soldiers wearing a mix of jump boots and the double buckles from September 1944 to the end of the war.
Riflemen would have been equipped with the M1 Garand (this is mine restored to a 1943 time frame), cartridge belt, and possibly bandoleers that would hold 6 enblocs for the rifle.
I know that Band of Brothers gets those major details right. I would have to give the show a re-watch to give any more specifics than that.
- 5560 VOTES
Many Allied Troops Were Unaware Of Concentration Camps
A former Redditor asked how accurate Band of Brothers is, and the responses ranged across several topics. When the subject turned to the concentration camp that Easy Company discovers in "Why We Fight," one respondent explained that, yes, many allies happened upon these camps - and often as a matter of happenstance, not as part of a liberating agenda.
From Redditor u/Swedeniscold:
It was in an article in a Swedish newspaper here, written by a Jewish intellectual. Roughly translated:
In her review of Julie Otsukas novel, When The Emperor Was Divine, Amanda Svensson [the critic] repeats the myth that americans liberated Jews from the Nazi concentration camps in Europe.
So, just for the record, no one liberated the jews from the Nazi concentraton camps in Europe, not the Americans, not the Russians, not anyone else. Auschwitz was "liberated" when the eastern front happened to pass by. Achau, Buchenwald, Bergen Belsen, Neuengamme - etcetera - when the western front happened to pass by. The Allied could have "liberated" Auschwitz-Birkenau (the death camp) during the summer of 1944 (when 400,000 hungarian Jews were transported there and [slain]) by bombing the railway tracks, but they didn't.
In a number of cases, the "liberating" troops didn't even know about the camps. The death factories in Treblinka, Sobibór, Chelmno, and Belzec were never interrupted by any liberation, even less so the ghettos which were "liquidated." The sad truth is that no specific operation was performed in order to liberate the Jews from the Nazi concentration camps, possibly with the exception of the Bernadotte action in April of 1945.
To talk about the liberation of the people of Europe from Hitler is reasonable. To talk about the liberation of the Jews from the concentration camps is misleading."
- 6399 VOTES
It Is Possible That German POWs Were Executed
From Redditor u/Communist_Ninja
Rewatching Band of Brothers for the millionth time. There is a scene in Episode 2 ["Day of Days"] I wanted to ask some questions about... Spiers gives German prisoners cigarettes, and then you hear a machine gun fire. If he executed them, was that a common practice during World War II?
The Airbourne, possibly other units, were under orders not to take prisoners on D-Day. It made a confusing and complex logistical situation even more complicated.
If he did it, Speirs may have been following some unspoken wishes of his command. Speirs committed a similar unpleasant deed when he shot one of his SGTs who was disobeying orders in a firefight. He was held in high regard by the Army since D-Day: he was an officer with guts, and they needed that badly.
But executing prisoners was not common on the Western European front. There are stories of this happening, but those caused outrage because they were in fact out of the norm. In fact, many Germans hurried to surrender to the Americans and Brits as the war drew to an end. The Russians were out for revenge.