Revisiting Band Of Brothers: Why We Fight

Easy make a shocking discovery in Band Of Brothers' penultimate episode...

Read the previous part in this series, here.

By episode nine of the series, the end of the conflict is truly in sight and the men of Easy are finally entering Germany itself. The real Easy veterans at the beginning of the episode make the point that as the war drew on, they came to realise that many of the German soldiers were just young men like them, trying to do a job. This theme is then continued in the episode itself as we see German civilians going to great pains to explain that they were not Nazis. This reminder of German suffering is also juxtaposed however with the horrific evidence of the Nazi Party’s crimes, shown here in shocking detail.

The episode begins with the seasoned veterans of Easy enjoying relative peace and quiet following the hardships they’d faced since first jumping into Normandy. This is counterbalanced by the eager young recruits keen to see some action before the war comes to an end. Toccoa men like Perconte have grown increasingly frustrated with the likes of O’Keefe, a fresh-faced replacement whose desperation to ‘fight some krauts’ falls at odds with his desire to see the war out with as little further bloodshed as possible.

The episode’s main focus is on Intelligence officer Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingstone). Nix returns at the beginning of the episode having undertaken a jump with another company. He started out the series as a relatively upbeat and witty character, however by this stage of the war; he’s weary and incredibly apathetic towards the conflict in general. In this latest jump, the plane he was in was shot down after he had jumped, killing the majority of the young men inside. This shock, coupled with news from back home that his wife is divorcing him and taking the dog with her, exacerbates his alcohol addiction and sees him grow increasingly distant from Winters and the Company in general.

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One of my favourite moments of the episode comes when an angry and downcast Nix sits glumly in his transport vehicle and the paratroopers around him break into ‘Blood On The Risers’, their own version of ‘The Battle Hymn Of The Republic’, an old Civil War song re-worded to tell the tale of a paratrooper whose parachute fails to open. After several moments, Nix finally joins in and nonchalantly sings the song’s refrain “gory, gory, what a helluva way to die.” These supposedly jovial lyrics take on a far deeper meaning thanks to Nix’s obvious disillusionment.

The most memorable moment of the episode comes when an Easy patrol makes the shocking discovery of the Landsberg concentration camp. At a time when many of the men had begun to question why they were fighting the war in the first place, this discovery provided a powerful reminder of ‘why we fight’. The scenes at the camp are obviously difficult to watch, the emaciated prisoners and the piles of dead bodies a sickening reminder of Nazi crimes. The men of Easy were understandably shocked by what they found, they would not have known the true extent of the Nazi regime at this stage, and the men are all visibly shaken.

The difficult issue of how much the local Germans knew of the camp is not shied away from. Director David Frankel, who himself lost family members in such camps during the war, handles these scenes well, never emphatically pointing the finger or demonising the German people, simply presenting the facts of such a terrible situation.  

Come back tomorrow for Rob’s look-back at the series finale, Points.

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