Stephen E. Ambrose · 432 pages
Rating: (76.8K votes)
“In one of his last newsletters, Mike Ranney wrote: "In thinking back on the days of Easy Company, I'm treasuring my remark to a grandson who asked, 'Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?'
No,'" I answered, 'but I served in a company of heroes.”
“Within Easy Company they had made the best friends they had ever had, or would ever have. They were prepared to die for each other; more important, they were prepared to kill for each other.”
“We know how to win wars. We must learn now to win peace...”
“Chickenshit is so called - instead of horse- or bull- or elephant shit - because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously.”
“We can't make you do anything, but we can make you wish you had. - Army saying”
“It all happened," Lipton summed up, "because Shifty saw a tree almost a mile away that hadn't been there the day before.”
“Older British observers complained, "The trouble with you Yanks is that you are overpaid, oversexed, and over here." (To which the Yanks would reply, "The trouble with you Limeys is that you are underpaid, undersexed, and under Eisenhower.")”
“(In Austria after VE Day)
Sergeant Mercier...dressed in a full German officer's uniform, topped off with a monocle for his right eye. Someone got the bright idea to march him over to the company orderly room and turn him in at rifle point to Captain Speirs.
Someone got word to Speirs before Mercier showed up. When troopers brought Mercier up to Speirs's desk, prodding him with bayonets, Speirs did not look up. One of the troopers snapped a salute and declared, "Sir, we have captured this German officer. What should we do with him?"
"Take him out and shoot him," Speirs replied, not looking up.
"Sir," Mercier called out, "sir, please, sir, it's me, Sergeant Mercier."
"Mercier, get out of that silly uniform," Speirs ordered.”
“Ronald Spiers: The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.”
“At the hangars, each jumpmaster was given two packs of papers, containing an order of the day from Eisenhower and a message from Colonel Sink, to pass around to the men. “Tonight is the night of nights,” said Sink’s. “May God be with”
“Hitler made only one big mistake when he built his Atlantic Wall,” the paratroopers liked to say. “He forgot to put a roof on it.”
“The first man stepped up to the open door. All the men had been ordered to look out at the horizon, not straight down, for obvious psychological reasons.”
“Speirs was an officer with a reputation. Slim, fairly tall, dark hair, stern, ruggedly handsome, he cultivated the look of a leader, and acted it.”
“The medics were the most popular, respected, and appreciated men in the company. Their weapons were first-aid kits, their place on the line was wherever a man called out that he was wounded.”
“They knew they were going into great danger. They knew they would be doing more than their part. They resented having to sacrifice years of their youth to a war they never made. They wanted to throw baseballs, not grenades, shoot a .22 rifle, not an M-1. But having been caught up in the war, they decided to be as positive as possible in their Army careers.”
“you liked him so much you just hated to let him down.” He was, and is, all but worshiped by the men of E Company.”
“When a man was hit hard enough for evacuation, he was usually very happy, and we were happy for him—he had a ticket out to the hospital, or even a ticket home—alive. “When a man was killed—he looked ‘so peaceful.’ His suffering was over.”
“In thinking back on the days of Easy Company, I’m treasuring my remark to a grandson who asked, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ “ ‘No,’ I answered, ‘but I served in a company of heroes.’ ”
“Despite himself, Webster was drawn to the people. “The Germans I have seen so far have impressed me as clean, efficient, law-abiding people,” he wrote his parents on April 14. They were churchgoers. “In Germany everybody goes out and works and, unlike the French, who do not seem inclined to lift a finger to help themselves, the Germans fill up the trenches soldiers have dug in their fields. They are cleaner, more progressive, and more ambitious than either the English or the French.”1”
“The men of Easy Company lined the rails to see the Statue of Liberty slip astern. For nearly every one of them, it was his first trip outside the United States. A certain homesickness set in, coupled with a realization, as the regimental scrapbook Currahee put it, of “how wonderful the last year had been.”
“The looting was profitable, fun, low-risk, and completely in accord with the practice of every conquering army since Alexander the Great’s time.”
“Winters and Welsh simply walked toward the man, who took off. The Americans split the silverware between them. Forty-five years later, both men were still using the Berchtesgaden Hof’s silverware in their homes. After getting what he most wanted out of the place, Winters then”
“They were white, because the U.S. Army in World War II was segregated. With three exceptions, they were unmarried. Most had been hunters and athletes in high school.”
“Adding to the problems of frustration and anger caused by the point system was the combination of too much liquor, too many pistols, and too many captured vehicles. Road accidents were almost as dangerous to the 101st in Austria as the German Army had been in Belgium. In the first three weeks in Austria, there were seventy wrecks, more in the six weeks of June and July. Twenty men were killed, nearly 100 injured.”
“Each man in his own way had gone through what Richard Winters experienced: a realization that doing his best was a better way of getting through the Army than hanging around with the sad excuses for soldiers they met in the recruiting depots or basic training. They wanted to make their Army time positive, a learning and maturing and challenging experience.”
“Army was boring, unfeeling, and chicken, and hated it. They found combat to be ugliness, destruction, and death, and hated it. Anything was better than the blood and carnage, the grime and filth, the impossible demands made on the body—anything, that is, except letting down their buddies. They also found in combat the closest brotherhood they ever knew. They found selflessness. They found they could love the other guy in their foxhole more than themselves. They found that in war, men who loved life would give their lives for them.”
“The Easy Company men began throwing grenades at the retreating enemy. Compton had been an All-American catcher on the UCLA baseball team. The distance to the fleeing enemy was about the same as from home plate to second base. Compton threw his grenade on a straight line—no arch—and it hit a German in the head as it exploded. He,”
“The result of these shared experiences was a closeness unknown to all outsiders. Comrades are closer than friends, closer than brothers. Their relationship is different from that of lovers. Their trust in, and knowledge of, each other is total. They got to know each other's life stories, what they did before they came into the Army, where and why they volunteered, what they liked to eat and drink, what their capabilities were. On a night march they would hear a cough and know who it was; on a night maneuver they would see someone sneaking through the woods and know who it was from his silhouette.”
“Loss is the hardest thing, I said. But it's also the teacher that's the most difficult to ignore.”
“Poetry glories in excess. When it's not extolling the virtues of austerity.”
“At the sight of him, I was clutched by a feeling like that precarious moment just past the top of a roller coaster's highest hill when gravity takes hold and the car barrels downward.”
“A due apprehension of God’s sovereignty promotes the spirit of worship, provides an incentive to practical godliness, and inspires zeal in service.”
“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear. That's why it's so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”
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