Reuniting 'Band of Brothers' for D-Day Commemoration

Friday, June 06, 2014

Actors Damian Lewis (as Richard Winters) and Ron Livingston (as Nixon) act in a scene from HBO''s war mini-series 'Band Of Brothers.' (HBO via/Getty)

As the world pauses today, first hand accounts of the events of D-Day continue to slip away from our national collective memory. Of the 16 million Americans who served their nation in the second World War, just over a million remain today.

Many of their stories have never been told. Young men returning home in the middle of the 20th century largely fell silent about the experience of war. But decades later, all that changed that for the men of the "Easy Company," the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division.

The landing at Normandy was just one battle of many that the company fought across Europe during World War II, and historian Stephen Ambrose documented their story in the 1992 book "Band of Brothers."

It was screenwriter Erik Jendresen, alongside Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who transformed the narrative into what became one of the most acclaimed HBO miniseries of all time.

“Standing in that door I could, the lights on the drop zone, and I had to assume that that was our drop zone way ahead of us," said Easy Company Paratrooper Major Richard Winter, recalling the moments before he jumped from his plane to the beaches of Normandy on this day 70 years ago. "And so we had the red light and I had everybody standing up ready to jump so when the plane started to get hit and the pilot gives me the green light I'm out the door immediately."

Erik Jendresen, lead writer and supervising producer for "Band of Brothers," began his mission to tell the story of Easy Company by sitting down with the then-living Winters in his Pennsylvania home. Today he joins The Takeaway to discuss how the "Band of Brothers" projects began, and what it was like to work with Normandy veterans.

Check out the poem "Omaha Beach" below about Normandy by Peter Thomas, a World War II U.S. Army veteran from the 1st Infantry Division MP Platoon.

When we went in, the beach had been taken

The living fought on, the dead forsaken

We were dropped into water up to our shoulders

We waded in---a group of green soldiers

Onto that thin strip of beach

So many had tried to reach.

They were the ones who went in first

Among the machine gun fire and shell burst

They went to watery graves

Sinking under the waves.

The water was red

Red from the dead

Red from the dying

In agony crying

Those who made the land

Were not able to stand

They fell on the sand

Writhing in pain

Screaming for help in vain.

Every advantage was on the hill

They murdered our men at will

The rain of death from the cliffs never stopped

But we just kept coming in from the sea.

Wave after wave, as far as you could see

Sheer courage and determination

Not believing they were done

Dictated the victory that day

Others in the future will say

When they stand on that mighty height

And look down on that thin strip of beach

They’ll say, “I don’t see how they ever did it.”

They fought for every inch of it

Up the sides of that fortified wall

Over the tops of those cliffs so tall.

I’ll never forget that beach

I’ll never forget the men

In the ships

In the air and on the land.

And those who died on the sand

And in the water.

They lie now beneath thousands of white crosses

And Stars of David

Above the beach

Those wonderful soldiers who died so young

They died so we

Could be free

How can we ever forget what they did

We honor them this day

We salute them

And we humbly beseech

Dear God, Bless the men who died on

Omaha Beach


Erik Jendresen

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [4]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The segment on Normandy got me thinking about WWll Vets I spent time with as a kid:

During the summers. as an 8 year old kid on my Grandparents retirement community, I would sit and play pinochle with WWll Vets. Salty of the tongue, occasionally they would tell a little snippet of a war story, usually about a tattoo or some gambling situation, and sometimes about some guy they met who I understood did not make it.
Their quiet and solitude made me realize that the war itself was not just a sleep a way camp or McCale's Navy. They had horrors they could not discuss, and I don't think it was because I was 8.

Jun. 06 2014 03:57 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I think listeners of "The Takeaway" get angry with the show because after listening to a segment, they may come away with a different point of view on a topic they might not had before.

The agenda for "The Takeaway" show as far as I can tell is to have an intellectual conversation about a topic. Often,based upon what I have read in "the comments page," people have different takeaways, so I don't see the manipulation as others do.

The show is based on conversation and how well the host can come up with appropriate compelling, prying questions. I know the host and its producers are doing its job because I end up debating with my friends the results of segments of the show.

The only criticism I have for the show is that it can give me a headache in evaluating and challenging myself about how I really feel about a topic. No other show does that for me

Jun. 06 2014 03:46 PM

My dad, Col. John M. (Mike) Connolly, (2/6/22- 5/31/12) started talking about his memories and experiences from D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge and Liberation of Paris when 'Saving Private Ryan' first came out in in 1998. He then watched (and read)'Band of Brothers' repeatedly and even wrote to Stephen Ambrose.

Hearing his personal accounts of the war were always fascinating and moving. He was a sensitive, Irish-Catholic, former journalist who wasn't afraid to describe difficult details or emotions and had great respect and understanding of the significance of this Great War and the soldiers and citizens he met on the ground. He was a sergeant in the Army's 999th Signal Corps Division, part of a 15-man radio team who landed on Utah Beach in June of 1944 in a jeep and 2 1/2-ton truck carrying a complete high-speed radio station and pulling a power unit.

I now have his war journals, photos and mementos, since he was such a great lover of history. These two great books and movies/series inspired him to write two of his own manuscripts that I'm now beginning to edit and hope to publish and submit to the Smithsonian and WWII Museum history projects and share with family and friends. I am forever thankful to him and so many of this Greatest Generation who made so many sacrifices for our freedom! And so sad to have lost so many to both WWII and now, time. But also very thankful for the movie, books and series you profiled today which helped to open up those floodgates for him and so many. Thank you.

Jun. 06 2014 02:01 PM
tom from NYC

To Todd Zwillich and Ellen Frankman: D-Day segment. I listened to this segment on the edge of turning to an other station. I stayed with the broadcast for two reasons: You gave a few seconds to President Obama without presenting it in a constrained or clipped, unflattering manner --as the takeaway usually does. The President's message came through fairly well. And it was not immediately followed by John Hockenberry's not so subtle ridicule and undercutting. (Example: today's topic would have been overshadowed the Putin's presence at Normandy and dominated by critics of the Obama foreign policy) Secondly, your piece on D-Day was well done. I'm writing to you because Todd and Ellen should pay attention to the many TAKEAWAY shows which are often making an effort to bend and guide the presentation of the news to give a slanted impression. It is true. I have heard it. That's why I was ready to change the station, because I have learned - as have many of my friends, that THETAKEAWAY is not to be trusted. Is it some of the producers? They choose the guests, so I suspect it does involve them. Is it Hockenberry? I think it does, the framing and remarks of the host can change the impression of a guest or topic. This kind of coverage doesn't belong on WNYC. Thank You. Tom Barlow

Jun. 06 2014 09:44 AM

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