"'I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?' Grandpa said 'No... but I served in a company of heroes...'"
—Sergeant Mike Ranney
Band of Brothers is a 2001 mini-series, initially aired on HBO in ten, one-hour episodes. It follows the men of Easy Company, 506th regiment of the American 101st Airborne Division. Starting with their training in 1942 to the end of World War II, it follows the same unit through D-Day, the battle of Carentan, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, the discovery of the Concentration Camps, and finally the end of the war. Band of Brothers is almost universally acclaimed for its (often painfully) accurate recreation of war, and for examining the relationships between soldiers in an elite, all-volunteer unit. Just about every part of the series is spot on, and the actors look very much like the men they portray.Some of the primary characters of the series are Major Dick Winters (Damian Lewis), the unflappable leader, Carwood Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), who steps in to hold the unit together during the Battle of the Bulge, and Captain Lewis Nixon (Ron Livingston), the sardonic and alcoholic intelligence officer.Now has a character page for its Loads and Loads of Characters.Since Band of Brothers is mostly based on historical and personal recollections of these soldiers, almost all of the tropes below are automatically an example of Truth in Television.A Pacific Front version of this series, called The Pacific premiered in March 2010. The 2013 German miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter is similar, focusing on the Eastern Front, in addition to wartime civilian life in Berlin and the resistance in Poland.Note: This is about the miniseries. For the trope, see Band of Brothers.
Examples of tropes found in this miniseries:
Adaptation Dye-Job:The real Winters was blond. Damian Lewis is a redhead. Ditto for Malarkey.
Alas, Poor Villain: David Schwimmer really makes you feel Sobel's pain when he loses Easy Company.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: The series invests a lot of effort in being very very accurate. But there are a few unbelievable but true events omitted or toned down to preserve suspension of disbelief. One is in episode 2, when Buck Compton kills a German by hitting him with a well-timed grenade that explodes on impact. This actually happened - except Compton's grenade hit him in the head.
Prior to WWII, Compton was a star athlete at UCLA, in both baseball and football. As demonstrated in the above mentioned episode, his baseball training came in handy. His marksmanship in throwing grenades (including the one that killed the German) was a large feature in the successful assault on the German 4-gun battery, one of which he took out by himself. - the main battle featured in episode 2 - Compton earned a Silver Star for bravery as a result.
All Germans Are Nazis: Averted for the most part. Many of the Germans shown are portrayed as sympathetic characters, and the men of Easy Company gain lot of respect for the Germans and treat them nicely after the end of the war. However, the trope is subverted in that some characters believe that it's true. In "Why We Fight", Webster considers an entire German village to be just as guilty of the Holocaust as the Nazis, due to their willful ignorance of a nearby concentration camp. Other characters simply never get over their hatred for the Germans, especially after the discovery of the camp.
American Accents: A number of different ones are heard, but the Philly accents of Guarnere and Heffron are memorable. Doc Roe also has a soft and soothing Louisiana Cajun accent to go along with his highly-stressful job. Luz displays his talent for mimicking the officers, including their distinctive accents, along with his own Massachusstts whine. Glaswegian Ross McCall is also good with the rather obscure S.F. accent of Joe Liebgott.
Anyone Can Die: Hoo boy, this one gets used a lot. Granted, it's war, and in war anyone can (and does) die, but it's still rather jarring to spend hours getting to know characters only to have them disintegrated by a direct hit from an artillery shell, have a leg blown entirely off while trying to help a squad mate, or finally find the Luger they've spent the entire series hoping to find, only to have it go off shortly after finally getting it and having the bullet hit the femoral artery and have the man bleed to death while being held by his buddies. Highlighted especially in episodes 6 and 7.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: In Currahee, when asked to leave three "dead men" on the ground during an exercise, Cpt. Sobel picks them by aiming his pistol at each of them in turn, breaking one of the cardinal rules of gun safety - your weapon is always loaded, especially when it's not. Almost certainly intentional - it further highlights Sobel's unfitness for command and gun safety wasn't quite as developed back then anyway.
Artistic License - History: Rather glaringly in "Why We Fight." The episode opens on April 11, 1945, then cuts to "one month ago." During those scenes "one month ago," Nixon reveals that the President has just died. However, Franklin Roosevelt died April 12, 1945. Then, at the end of the episode, it's back to April 11, and Nixon reveals that Hitler shot himself in his bunker (which would not happen until April 30).
Easy Company are incorrectly portrayed as having reached the Eagle's Nest first, ahead of a French unit. In fact, they were third - the first unit to reach Berchtesgaden was the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division, followed by the 2nd French Armored. However, both units were given orders to rapidly move out before they could stay long - hence why Easy Company got the cream of the looting in a seemingly empty town.
TI Joseph Liebgott is portrayed as a practicing Jew. In fact, while ethnically Jewish, he was a Roman Catholic.
Albert Blithe is portrayed as a reluctant soldier and dies of his wounds in 1948. In real life, he remained in the US Army until his death in 1967, serving abroad in Korea and as a military adviser in Taiwan. This rather major error is present in Ambrose's original book too.
The book itself contains several major examples, a lot of which the TV series actually prunes; Ambrose refers to every German tank as a TigerIn fact Tigers were quite rare during the Normandy campaign (5.3% of all German armor committed) and Commonwealth forces faced most of the ones that were there., he says the 101st had 5000 men on D-DayIn fact Records show it had less than half that number., he frequently gets various technical details wrong, such as gun caliber, every German unit is described as "crack" or "elite"In fact German records show Easy Company fought mainly regular Wehrmacht forces., both he and Winters criticize Major-General Taylor (the 101st's commander) for being "on holiday" during the Ardennes assaultIn fact He was on Christmas leave - something he had in common with Eisenhower - and was also attending various Pentagon conferences on how to improve the US Airborne divisions., he claims Easy Company was dropped by inexperienced pilots who had never flown at night and who did not have experience dropping partroopers and who took evasive action to save themselvesIn fact The troop carriers were all proficient in dropping paratroopers and night flying. No pilot has less than 450 hours. Airborne complaints about the rough drop likely have more to do with the fact that the wind at the DZs was 20-30 knots (the present day safe limit is 13 knots). Incidentally, the complaints mostly came from the 101st; the 82nd, who had jumped before, actually commended the pilots. and he misidentifies the British colonel rescued by Easy as "O. Dobey"In fact His name was David Dobie.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Somewhat reasonable, in that the few men who manage to survive long enough to become experienced are often pushed into leadership roles. The trope stops after Major Winters though. That may simply be because it's impossible to get more badass than Major Dick Winters.
Used by Lt. Speirs, who is said to have shot his own man on D-Day for being drunk in combat. He never says whether he did or not, because it's a surefire way to get people's fear, if not respect, and for them to listen to him. Speirs DID shoot one of his own men for being drunk, but more for refusing to carry out a lawful order. The big thing they talked about was Speirs ostensibly passing out cigarettes to a number of German POW's (anywhere from 8-20, depending on who you ask), then shooting them. It's also believed that Speirs did actually shoot the German POW's, though no one knows exactly how many he did kill. The men were all told by their superior officers not to bother taking any prisoners on D-Day, an order Speirs probably would follow.
On top of the orders, atleast one of the POWs was actually an American Citizen, fighting FOR the German Army... which meant that he was effectively committing an act of treason, and there for, punished accordingly.
Badass: Pretty much everyone, with special mention to Major Winters and Captain Speirs. And it still applies to the 101st Airborne of today. It makes them a Badass Crew.
Badass Beard: Many of Easy Company grow facial hair in Bastogne. Mostly because it was frickin' cold.
Badass Preacher: Father John Maloney, the regimental chaplain, is shown administering last rites to dying soldiers in the middle of a firefight, walking about with no cover while bullets hit the ground around his feet and artillery exploding in the area.
Band of Brothers: Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 101st Infantry Division.
"I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, 'Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?' Grandpa said 'No, but I served in a company of heroes.'" — Sergeant Mike Ranney.
The actors could count as this as well. Seriously, go search up some interviews and they practically confirm it.
Beard of Sorrow: Don Malarkey has quite a scruffy beard, starting right after two of his best friends get killed, and another has a Heroic BSOD in episode 7. It's not until episode 10 that he's shown clean shaven and (seemingly) happier.
Bilingual Bonus: Almost all the German in the series is spoken by real German actors, and it's pronounced correctly. Also, in episode 8, Webster tells some German prisoners of war (in German, of course) "be good, and you will get a cookie!"
In one of the last episodes, a German with a wounded leg asks an American for some directions. And, while technically correct, the American told him where he had to walk. The German doesn't even respond to the flub, since it's pretty common.
That's because German doesn't have an equivalent of the word "go" (a word that can mean walking, driving and any other kind of movement). The word used most often to translate go is the equivalent of "walk", but depending on the situation the right word to translate go can be the equivalents of drive, move and so on.
Bilingual Dialogue: Webster and the German baker's argument over the latter's supposed knowledge of the Concentration Camp in "Why We Fight."
Bittersweet Ending: While the majority of Easy Company veterans went on to lead successful and happy lives, it's disheartening when you find out that a number of them have already died due to various causes. Plus, many of the survivors, especially those who experienced Bastogne, still carry the emotional scars in some form. Some of the survivors, like Liebgott, ended up breaking contact with the others, never speaking to them again.
Bloodless Carnage: Zig-Zagged. All that is ever seen when people are shot is a big puff of dust, as per this trope. However, the aftermath of people being shot always entails lots of close ups of very grisly wounds indeed.
Bowdlerise: Mostly averted, with an exception of the F-word and the two short scenes of nudity. Its language, violent combat scenes, and scenes featuring a extremely accurate and horrifying concentration camp and its victims are left completely unedited when it's aired on basic cable in the US, in respect to WWII veterans and those that lived through it.
Body Horror: The concentration camp. Also, the wounds that many of the soldiers suffer.
Bullet Dancing: Averted. Winters takes a bullet to the foot from a ricochet.
California Doubling: Most of the series was filmed in Hertfordshire, England, with production building a town used to portray Bastogne, Eindhoven, Landsburg and Carentan from scratch in an abandoned airfield. If you watch closely you can see some of the same buildings being used for multiple scenes in different towns. The scenes that took place in Austria and Berchtesgarten, Germany were filmed in Switzerland.
The Cameo: The real Babe Heffron appears as a Dutch citizen in the town the 101st liberates (he is sitting at a table, waving a flag).
Tom Hanks appears as one of the Red Devils (he is in the back, barely visible).
The Cavalry: The Shermans tanks in episode 3. Easy was under heavy attack and Dog and Fox companies had retreated, leaving Easy with no cover on its flanks. Nevertheless, they held their ground until the 1st Armored arrived.
Played with in episode 6 where the point is made that Easy Company and the 101st Airborne have never agreed with the story that they needed to be "rescued", as Patton said, by the Third Army.
Contemplate Our Navels: Far less than in most war movies. Only later on, when the war begins to cool down do the men start asking "Why are we here?" Then they find the concentration camp. In Episode 6, Doc Roe spends quite a bit of time doing this silently.
Cunning Linguist: Both David Webster and Joseph Liebgott are cast as the cunning linguist, in this case being translators for Easy Company.
Though strangely enough in the eighth episode Webster insists on shouting in English at a German baker. In the next episode he speaks it fluently again, perhaps flying off the handle at the townspeople for claiming no knowledge of the nearby concentration camp. Behind the scenes, Webster speaking in English was that the writers felt the scene would have been much less effective with subtitles. In the scene he seems to understand what the man is saying, he just replies to him in English. The shopkeep in question, also, seems to have no trouble understanding what Webster is saying to him.
Custom Uniform: The New Meat are desperate to earn the right to wear jump wings. Later, replacement troopers are desperate to earn jump stars.
And everyone wants to blouse their trousers (that is, tuck their pants into their jump boots), as it clearly distinguishes the airborne infantry from the regular infantry, whose pants are kept straight. It's so distinctive that when the 101st deployed to England, they were forbidden from blousing for the duration of the trip so that German spies wouldn't know they were airborne if they were seen from a distance.
Becomes a minor plot point in "Replacements" when a veteran catches one of the New Meat wearing a Unit Citation ribbon, even though he wasn't yet part of the unit during the battle it was awarded for. The titular replacements all immediately remove the ribbon. Ironically, the soldier doing the complaining technically didn't fight in the battle either.note He was wounded while still in the airplane, and was flown back to England instead of jumping. A veteran who did take part in the battle quickly points this out.
A Day in the Limelight - Each of the 10 episodes focuses on a specific character to some degree. If the episode has narration, it's by the character in the limelight from their Point of View.
Although if the series can be said to have a main character, it's Winters, who gets four episodes from his point of view.
Averted during the Normandy invasion. The plane carrying the commander of Easy Company is shot down but despite the chaotic conditions of the airdrop the paratroopers quickly start assembling into makeshift units and soon after Lt. Winters assumes command of the company.
The situation is inverted during the battle of Foyles. Winters has been promoted and Lt. Dike, the new commander of Easy Company, is incompetent and paralyzed with indecision. This results in the attack bogging down and the soldiers are about to rout when Dike is dismissed from command. With a replacement commander the soldiers rally and take the town.
Delayed Explosion: In Haguenau, Webster and a group of men cross a river in the middle of the night to capture a group of German soldiers for intelligence, and Webster puts explosive charges in the outpost-house where the Germans were. The charges only explode the day later in the afternoon.
Deliberately Monochrome: Not totally, but many of the battles have everything but red heavily desaturated (with the desperate Battle of Bastogne being practically monochrome, due to all the snow), with the more peaceful scenes away from the fighting being in beautiful natural colors.
Disproportionate Retribution: The humiliation of Dutch women who slept with the occupying German soldiers. This was a common ate for women across formerly-occupied Europe; by shaving and stripping them their communities ritualistically reclaimed their bodies from the Germans. Male collaborators were shot - though on the other hand, they generally did something more harmful than merely sleep with the Germans.
Dissimile: In the episode "Why We Fight" featured this exchange while the soldiers were patrolling a forest in Bavaria:
Frank Perconte: Hey, George. George Luz: Yeah? Frank Perconte: This kind of remind you of Bastogne? [comedic pause, including bemused look] George Luz: Yeah... now that you mention it. Except, of course, there's no snow, we got warm grub in our bellies, and the trees aren't fucking exploding from Kraut artillery, but yeah... Frank... other than that, it's a lot like Bastogne. Frank Perconte: Right? George Luz: Bull, smack him for me please? [thump] George Luz: Thank you.
Double Don't Know: When E Co. advances into Foy and the overwhelmed Lieutenant Dike is being asked for his orders, he yells "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!"
Drill Sergeant Nasty: The nasty and petty Sobel drills his men into excellence... But they soon find out that drilling is all he's good at.
Drinking On Duty: Nixon and Welsh. In Welsh's case it's not that visible in the miniseries, but apparently in real life he became rather famous for a) his nearly constant state of cheerful drunkenness b) his incredible luck during his drunken escapades. Not sure whether that makes him The Fool or Drunken Master.
Speirs was notorious for executing a drunk NCO in his unit on D-Day.
Inverted with Sergeant Grant, who was severely wounded by a drunken soldier while Grant was on guard duty.
The book notes that Easy Company did their best to avert this trope (the "on duty" part, anyway) and prided themselves on manning guard posts with sober and alert troopers.
Drink Order: Obviously, the soldiers couldn't be picky, but when he could get it, Nixon liked Vat 69 blended Scotch.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Overall, at least compared to the very often extremely dark and heartbreaking tone of the rest of the series, the series ends on a happy note with the (surviving) men of Easy Company happily playing baseball before being called over by Major Winters and being told of the surrender of the Japanese, meaning they will all be able to finally go home.
Ensign Newbie: Lieutenant Jones arrives fresh to the war out of West Point. Many of the soldiers in Easy company treat him with disdain and he is quickly Kicked Upstairs. He does get a few moments showing that he has what it takes to be a good officer, however.
Said to be the case with most of the replacement officers that join Easy after Normandy: Shames (yells all the time, no matter the situation), Peacock (nice enough as a person, but hopelessly lost on any tactical job), and the one in Holland who wandered ahead of the formation and got shot in the throat by a sniper.
False Flag Operation: Subverted in the ambush of the German camp in "Crossroads". One soldier tells one of the Americans that they're Polish. Another tries to quickly debunk his story by revealing the SS pin on his uniform, saying "There ain't no Poles in the SS!" He is ludicrously wrong, the SS had whole non-German divisions. note "The Waffen SS had a lot of "foreign legion" type units, no Poles though. (The SS wouldn't take Slavs, the Wehrmacht wasn't so picky)."
A Father to His Men: Richard Winters. Due to his leadership and exceptional concern for them, the men of Easy Company universally consider him the best commanding officer they ever had. Averted in the case of Herbert Sobel. While the men of Easy Company attribute his harsh training methods to their survival during the war, he had no redeeming qualities and was therefore universally hated.
Field Promotion: First Sergeant Lipton, to Second Lieutenant. It's pointed out that it was fortunate he didn't die on his mission the previous night, as he was discharged from the enlisted ranks that day and only commissioned as an officer the following day: had he died, he would have died as a civilian (not reallynote He would have died as a First Sergeant, but it was hilarious anyway).
Five-Man Band - More like a fifty man band with numerous replacements, but many members of the company will fit into one or several of the traditional roles, usually with several guys at the same time. But, since they're all guys and this is The Forties, The Chick is rather predictably missing.
Foregone Conclusion: Invoked, obviously, for the war as a whole and the advance of the Western Allies from D-day onwards. But very much inverted when it comes to the fates of the individual soldiers. Although several of the surviving real life members of Easy Company are interviewed at the opening of each episode, the makers ensure that the survival of any given interviewee won't be a foregone conclusion by not showing their names until the end of the series.
Go Out with a Smile: An incredibly dark version. When Easy Company manages to ambush a German battalion, the last thing Winters sees before they open fire is a young German soldier staring at them, then smiling mockingly and shrugging before he's gunned down. It haunts Winters for the rest of the episode as he's put on leave. However, it's subverted when it's shown in Winters' flashbacks that the boy's expression changed to one of terror in the split second before he was shot.
The German soldier that Blithe kills and steals the edelweiss from is smiling when Blithe finds his body.
Gory Discretion Shot: Nastily subverted during the Battle of Carentan, when Tipper is on the wrong side of a mortar round and a plate glass window. Initially, the show shows us his uninjured back, with Liebgott staring at him in horror, making the viewer think this is going to happen...until the camera cuts back to Tipper from the front, cut to hell and with ruined legs. He recovered, and is still alive.
Groin Attack: Lipton comes hair-raisingly close to getting his groin mangled by shrapnel.
Heroic BSOD: Several cases of shell-shock, ranging from the horrible to the downright gut-wrenching. A good (or bad depending on how you look at it) example is when Blithe, after getting over his shell-shock and deciding to take the lead on a scouting mission, is shot in the neck. He is shown in a hospital, to create hope that he might pull through, only for the Where Are They Now to reveal he died... but the veterans in Band of Brothers had somehow made an error about Blithe. In reality he was shot in the shoulder and lived until 1967. His family informed them of this after the series had been made.
Doc Roe has one momentarily, but snaps out of it, after having to be dragged out of his foxhole, that is.
What eventually sends Buck Compton home, but he gets better. PTSD or as they called it back then "Combat Exhaustion" will do that to a man.
Liebgott gets a pretty epic one when he's ordered to tell the Jewish prisoners to get back into the concentration camp. He handles it pretty well until they start to object, and ends up sitting down and staring off into space, crying. Notably, the real Liebgott has broken off all contact with the other Easy Company men ever since the war.
Just prior to the one Liebgott's BSOD, the previously chipper O'Keefe was shown to heavily affected by the concentration camp.
Geoge Luz has a minor one after watching an artillery shell land on Muck and Penkala but he snaps out of it pretty quick, as he needs to get to cover.
Winters has one as he's placed on leave, trying to adjust to civilian life after the harshness of war's scarred him, while having flashbacks to a young German soldier he killed. In the same episode, a shellshocked soldier, also on leave, tries to watch a film with his friends, but spends most of it staring off into space.
Hero of Another Story: Second Lieutenant George C. Rice of the 10th Armored Division, played by Jimmy Fallon in a cameo at the end of the episode "Crossroads." Knowing that Carentan was going to be surrounded, and knowing that the 101st was going to be really short on ammunition, Rice made nine separate trips in a jeep that was towing a trailer back and forth from a nearby supply depot to Bastogne in order to bring what ammo he could to the troops digging in against the German advance. He did this on his own volition. His last trip was technically made after the Germans had surrounded the town, and the only reason he didn't make a tenth trip was because he was specifically ordered by his CO to stand down. Rice was nominated for a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.
Among the Allied units that fought alongside Easy Company were the following. In Normandy, they linked up with the 4th Infantry Division and the 2nd Armored Division, the latter of which provided tank support for many of their engagements. Additionally, many Easy Company paratroopers fought side-by-side with men from the 82nd Airborne Division in the early hours of D-Day, before they had located their own units. In Holland, Easy fought alongside the British XXX Corps, which provided tank support, and assisted in the rescue of men from the British 1st Airborne Division. In Bastogne, elements of the 10th Armored Division were surrounded with Easy, and the units were relievednote not rescued by units of the Third Army, including the 4th Armored Division. Through it all, Easy Company was one of nine within the 506th PIR, which itself was one of five regiments within the 101st Airborne Division.note the 501st, 502nd, and 506th PI Rs, and the 327th and 401st GI Rs Arguably, the men of all of these units are heroes of their own stories.
The old German soldier Janovec meets in the final episode, who has just survived his second world war, wearing his old WWI uniform, is most definitely this.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Sobel is given one. Whilst he was certainly a harsh taskmaster, he was probably no worse than many other US officers of the time, and, indeed, veterans of Easy Company acknowledge that his training was crucial to the company's later success.
I Am Not Left-Handed: This trope appears in such perfect form it almost looks like it was the Trope Namer. In the 4th episode ("Replacements"), Buck Compton plays darts against one of the new guys, Heffron, and loses saying, "It's a good thing we weren't gambling." Heffron suggests they bet on the next game and Buck "reluctantly" agrees. Before Buck takes his shot, he switches to his right hand and wins easily. Heffron has just enough time to realize he's been conned.
George Luz: Lieutenant, are you going to shoot lefty all night?
Joe Toye: Hey, c'mon.
George Luz: I'm just curious cause he's right-handed.
'Buck' Compton: [switches hands] George, what would I do without George Luz?
Important Shave: Winters makes a point of shaving everyday, even in Bastogne when everyone around him is growing a Badass Beard, to emphasize the importance he places on showing his men that he is professional and dependable.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Shifty Powers. The band made sure he got sent home as early as possible because he saved their asses a few times.
Lampshaded in the book, when Guarnere is told to demonstrate his mortar team's skill. Without adjusting the aim on their mortar, they quickly dropped three shells directly on the target, and he immediately bragged "My boys never missed." Unbeknownst to the observers, they had just tried to show off their skills from afar... and had missed three times in a row.
Irony: In Bastogne, Easy Company gets hit by heavy artillery fire and Muck and Penkala frantically yell for Luz to get into their foxhole while Luz slowly crawls over to them... their foxhole is then directly hit by a shell.
It Never Gets Any Easier: The Medic Doc Roe actually finds that it does begin to get easier, as he begins to connect with the other soldiers, despite his reluctance to get emotionally attached to them.
It's Quiet... Too Quiet: O'Keefe mutters that it's "awfully quiet" while a handful of soldiers are on patrol in the German woods. Moments later, they stumble across a Nazi concentration camp. This is Truth in Television; the fires and smell and other outputs of a concentration camp really did drive away the normal birds, insects, and local wildlife, thus making the area suspiciously quiet.
"Join the Army," They Said: All the soldiers in Easy were initially infantry recruits, who were offered a raise and a nicer uniform if they simply jumped out of perfectly good airplanes. They also knew that if they didn't enlist, they might be forced into a foxhole with someone who might not be as good at fighting. They joined the elite because they wanted to live. The ironic part is that, as elite soldiers they were sent to do more difficult and dangerous missions than an average GI Joe would.
Karma Houdini: Despite getting a bunch of Easy men killed due to his cowardice, Norman Dike is never officially punished. Instead he was ultimately Kicked Upstairs to a general's aide.
Kicked Upstairs: Sobel in episode 1, Dike in episode 7 and Jones in episode 8.
Though Jones's case wasn't due to incompetence, but rather the need for a "post-War" officer corps (most of the combat leadership would be discharged upon completion of the war.) The top leadership didn't want him killed before he could fill the upcoming void.
Kleptomaniac Hero: This isn't a video game, but Captain Speirs certainly showed qualities of one in episode 9. Looting was actually very common among all soldiers in WWII. Even the straight-laced Winters gives in to the temptation once in a while. In "Points", pretty much all of Easy Company play this trope straight. Granted, they're "plundering" the abandoned Nazi Eagle's Nest, so it's quite more alluring.
One of them gets Hitler's photo album. I mean, as souvenirs go, that's got to win the 1945 Gold.
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
And you better believe that Easy Company knew exactly what Hal was talking about. (They're even in the right general area; Agincourt is in the north of France.) Of course, their view of war would be rather different...
Loads and Loads of Characters: It's about an entire company of soldiers (150-200 men), so you better believe there's a lot of characters. Keeping them straight can be made even harder by the fact that there's no one "true" focus character (Winters comes closest but is often out of focus for the middle of the series) and combat grime and helmets make it hard to identify individual characters.
Machiavelli Was Wrong: "Whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved?" is presented by two different leaders. Winters clearly loves his Easy Company, treats his men well, and as such the soldiers respect him and would do anything for him. Speirs develops a reputation for being such a Badass that the soldiers in Easy fear him, but respect him because he gets the job done. Played with in that Speirs knows all about the chatter going on behind his back:
Speirs: You want to know if they're true or not... the stories about me. Did you ever notice with stories like that, everyone says they heard it from someone who was there. But then when you ask *that* person, they say *they* heard it from someone who was there. It's nothing new, really. I bet if you went back two thousand years, you'd hear a couple of centurions standing around, yakking about how Tertius lopped off the heads of some Carthaginian prisoners.
Lipton: Well, maybe they kept talking about it because they never heard Tertius deny it.
Speirs: Well, maybe that's because Tertius knew there was some value to the men thinking he was the meanest, toughest son of a bitch in the whole Roman Legion.
Proved by Captain Sobel who is clearly not loved, but made himself more hated than feared, which Machiavelli warned against.
Also note that Winters and Speirs were respected, which Machiavelli notes is the best possible state.
Major Injury Underreaction: After Tipper is lacerated by flying glass after a mortar shell goes off right in front of him in a shop in Carentan, he manages to walk out of the explosion despite horrific cuts and smashed legs. Then he notices the extent of his injuries.
Meaningful Name: An amusingly appropriate occurrence with Ramirez, who gets ordered to clear a way in the episode Carentan... by charging into a wood and wire fence.
Sobel invokes this in the first episode, pointing out that "Malarkey" is slang for "bullshit". It's never mentioned again after Sobel invents an infraction on Malarkey's weapon to justify revoking his pass.
The Medic: Ralph Spina and Eugene "Doc" Roe of course. Doc Roe is nearly broken by the constant exposure to death and suffering, before finding meaning in his role. Episode 6 is for the most part completely dedicated to him and was quite a Tear Jerker. He was also noted by Bill Guarnere as "the best medic we ever had. He was born to be a medic. He took care of us physically, mentally, every way. He was compassionate." Gene was even nominated for a Silver Star for bravery under fire (and received it after the war was over).
According to the book, he also had an almost supernatural quality to him. Despite the miniseries showing him being reluctant or suffering from Combat Exhaustion, in the book, the men of Easy Company consistently explain that when someone was wounded, Doc Roe was there seemingly instantly, working despite miserable conditions and a lack of supplies to save the men who had been injured. Some of the survivors even credit him with why they didn't break, despite the horrors Bastogne inflicted.
It's even more impressive when you learn he had no medical training, and was given the job simply because a company medic was desperately needed.
More Dakka: The patrol episode features a towed quad-50 antiaircraft gun being used against enemy infantry. Very much Truth in Television; the US Army had a lot more German infantrymen to shoot at than it did German planes, and the quad-50 made an outstanding antipersonnel weapon.
The quad-50 is an outstanding anti-everything weapon. It will tear anything short of a heavy tank to pieces in short order. A favorite method of engaging tree-born snipers, for instance, was to simply open up the quad-50 at a flat trajectory, obliterating the trees themselves rather than bothering to trade shots with the enemy.
The Neidermeyer: What Herbert Sobel turns out to be; under all his posturing and boasting, he is downright inept and prone to panic during field training exercises, and he can't read a map to save his life.
Also, Norman Dike, who has gotten his rank mostly through nepotism. When Easy falls under attack from German artillery in the Bastogne woods, he hastily retreats from the field, claiming he is "getting help." When he later finds himself unable to retreat out of an attack, he shuts completely down from fear and stress.
None of the higher-ups want to let the newly-arrived Lieutenant Jones lead the prisoner-snatching raid for fear he might be one of these. History says that Jones turned out to be anything but a Neidermeyer.
New Meat: Multiple shipments of New Meat arrive throughout the war. A few of them stay around. Most of them die quickly. Replacements would usually suffer 100% casualty rates. Undertrained and poorly equipped at times, it is no wonder that no veteran wanted to know a replacement until they survived a battle.
There is a variation where Webster, an airborne veteran who has been there since Toccoa, was treated somewhat like New Meat after he had missed Bastogne.
Played with O'Keefe who gets assigned during the "Why We Fight" episode. He gets chewed out by Perconte for being a Replacement, but during the discovery of the concentration camp Perconte consoles the overwhelmed rookie.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When a drunk and probably insane New Meat from Item company shoots one of The Squad, which is made up of nothing but battle-hardened stone-cold killers. After being captured he's beaten bloody and very nearly executed by Captain Speirs, who lowers his weapon at the last minute. Probably could also be considered a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Speirs.
Ronald Speirs: Where's the weapon? I Company Replacement:*cough* What weapon? [CRACK] Ronald Speirs: When you talk to an officer, you say sir.
Non-Action Guy: Nixon makes it through the whole war without ever firing his weapon in combat. Ironically, he was also the only airborne trooper to earn three jump-stars (received for combat jumps) in the entire European theater.
No One Gets Left Behind: Though they are occasionally forced to leave their buddies dying, whenever possible they would go back for their friends.
In Episode 6, Babe Heffron has to leave Private Julian, whom he's been sharing a foxhole with, to die on the German line. He nearly has a breakdown as a result, because he had promised to get his things back to his family and he was sure the Germans would strip him of everything. (Though it wasn't shown in the series, they did manage to retrieve Julian's body and things later, and it took the real Heffron years before he could contact his family because of the guilt he felt for leaving him to die.)
Not So Different: After the German surrender, Allied soldiers actually have the opportunity to socialize with their former enemies. Many men of Easy Company found that they had a lot in common with the German soldiers, as they were all essentially young men fighting to defend their country. Some of them even admitted that had they met under different circumstances, they could have been great friends with the Germans they met.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Battle of The Island, which was left out of the final cut. While the rest of the episode doesn't make it clear, more than two months passed between Arnhem and Bastogne. While Winters was in Paris, Guarnere was in charge of leading his platoon on "The Island" on the Rhine, but they were too spread out, so he used a motorcycle to go between them. A sniper shot him, he crashed and broke his leg, and was sent to the hospital in England, along with Webster. After a few weeks he left the hospital and regrouped with Easy at Mourmelon, where we find him returning seemingly out of nowhere.
There are also several battles left out of the series, including one where the artillery attack was even worse than Bastogne. There's also another one between "The Last Patrol" and "Why We Fight" that gets left out, even though it might explain Webster's rant at the surrendering Germans in the latter episode.
Old Soldier: While on guard duty after the Germans had surrendered, Private Janovec and an old German soldier are chatting friendly. The old German soldier notes he was also a veteran of World War One. Janovec just shakes his head in disbelief and congratulates him on surviving two world wars.
One-Man Army: Dick Winters. He leads a charge on an entire company of SS, who are so surprised by him they start running away, while he simply stands there firing away.
Speirs. At least twice too: During the assault on the German battery early on (rushing outside of the trench and taking the last gun) and, more memorably, the run through Foy. Also, when Speirs replaces Dike and shoots down Dike's plan of attack, ending his orders with "The rest of you follow me." And then he runs through a German-occupied town, past retreating Germans, in order to link up with a friendly company. And the best part? 'He does it again to get back to Easy.''
One Last Smoke: Played straight with Speirs. He gives a bunch of German prisoners one last cigarette before he (supposedly) kills them all. Him giving them cigarettes is shown, but he is not shown killing them. The other soldiers don't seem to care that he killed prisoners, but are rattled that he gave them all cigarettes first.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: As many of the actors in Band of Brothers were British, there was a chance for accents to slip. In episode 3, "Carentan", one can hear Rick Warden's (who plays Harry Welsh) natural English accent slip through quite noticeably on several occasions.
In episode 5 you can hear Damian Lewis' British pronunciation of "lieutenant."
And in episode 2, one can also hear Lewis's natural accent slip through on the word "situation."
Pants Positive Safety: Averted, tragically, when one of the men of Easy Company practices this trope, shoots himself in the leg, and rapidly bleeds to death.
Perma Stubble: Justified. Sometimes it's hard to shave when you're fighting Nazis. Everyone has it while they're in Bastogne, except for Winters, who shaves every day despite the freezing cold and occasional wandering German.
Plunder: What else do you do when you come across the holiday retreats of Hitler, Goering, and other Nazi leaders? Speirs was notorious for this (though it's slightly okay in that he sent all his plunder home to support his pregnant wife, who it turns out was married to a British soldier she thought was dead. She later divorced him and took all the loot.
Punch Clock Villain: Many of the men in Easy Company admit that they had a healthy respect for the Germans, and knew that the German soldiers they were facing were just doing their jobs, just like they were. Once the war ends, Easy Company actually bonds very well with the surrendering Germans.
Reality Is Unrealistic: If a fictional war movie had an officer trying to link up with a unit on the other side of an enemy held town, by running THROUGH the enemy held town, right past armed enemy soldiers, it'd be criticized for being unrealistic. Even more so if the crazy bastard managed to run back without getting shot and had an artillery shell explode in front of him.
Guarnere just happening to be wearing the wrong jacket that contained the news of his brother's death. In the commentary, he confirms it really did happen.
Malarkey coming across an American-born German POW from the same state (Oregon) on D-Day. Even more unbelievable was that he worked across the street from Malarkey in Portland, though the show just has him say he's from Eugene (possibly because the coincidence was too unbelievable).
Speirs' "When you talk to an officer, you say Sir" line (delivered after pistol-whipping the I Co. replacement, of course) seems straight out of a cliché war film script, but it's a direct quote from the book.
Refuge in Audacity: During Speirs' epic run through Foy, the Germans initially do not fire on him and are just as confused as everybody else. Lipton muses that the absurdity of Speirs' run was what made it successful.
In the midst of a heated firefight, Malarkey ran out in the middle of the shooting and started going over a dead German. The Germans ceased fire, thinking that he was a medic treating their man. They only resumed fire when it became clear that Malarkey was souvenir hunting on the dead man.
Some episodes are less clear on this than others (4,9, arguably 1).
Sacrificial Lamb: 'Replacements' introduces us to the wide-eyed Pvts. Hashey, Garcia and Miller. The latter, played by a particularly young, baby-faced, innocence-exuding James McAvoy, dies the same episode. The Bull contemplating over his corpse is staged in a manner that's supposed to remind the viewer the thousands of inexperienced boys ground up in the war.
Sad Clown: To some extent, George Luz, especially after episode 7. Even so, he does his best to help keep his friends' spirits up.
Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The title comes from the Saint Crispin's Day speech in Henry V: "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother". The real Carwood Lipton quotes this in one of the episodes.
A speech given by a surrendering German general to his soldiers is reminiscent, mentioning "a bond, that exists only in combat, among brothers". In contrast to the Saint Crispin's Day speech, this is not a Rousing Speech but rather a post-defeat Final Speech. Doubles as an Crowning Moment of Heartwarming as even the American soldiers look on and feel compassion for people the day before they'd have killed without a second thought.
Shot in the Ass: This happens to two characters. Popeye Winn is shot in "Day of Days". Buck Compton is shot in "Replacements" the infamous one bullet, four holes.
Penkala: Yeah, kind of an Easy Company tradition, getting shot in the ass.
Perconte in "Breaking Point".
Shown Their Work: The only really glaring error (which you would only know about if you went looking for further information), was that Pvt. Blithe actually lived much longer than the postscript to his Day in the Limelight episode states.note In fact, the reason this was wrong is because Blithe didn't attend any reunions or keep in contact with any war comrades, and so everyone assumed he'd simply died long ago; after the series went to air and the Blithe family issued a correction, many surviving Easy Company men were stunned and felt terrible that they'd never tried to find or contact Blithe again. Dick Winters reportedly took it particularly hard. The series was based upon a book by renowned historian Stephen Ambrose who presumably Did The Research, augmented by the recollections and advice of actual Easy Company members.
Well, that, and the fact that Liebgott is portrayed (explicitly, in "Currahee") as a Jew, while the real Liebgott was in fact Roman-Catholic.note Everyone in the unit assumed that Liebgott was Jewish based on his name and German heritage, and he never disabused them of that notion
The Squad: Most of the squad is long gone by the end of the war.
Squad Nickname: "Easy Company"; although this is in theory their official designation, coming their name from "E Company" spelled in a pre-NATO radio alphabet, the name stuck as their best known moniker.
Stock Sound Effects: A sound used while the planes for the landings of Normandy are being shot up and going into flames in the second episode is the crick-crack sound of the skeleton units of Warcraft III being killed.
Tank Goodness: A number of episodes feature lovely armored vehicles in combat. Of particular note are Easy's encounter with a German mechanized unit in "Carentan" and their battle in Nuenen, Holland in "Replacements," both of which showcase a nice variety of the Wehrmacht's arsenal.
Team Mom: Sergeant Lipton, as he most often is the one looking out for Easy Company. This is lampshaded by Captain Speirs.
The Teetotaler: Winters, famously. Everyone is shocked when he accepts an offered bottle on D-Day and takes a swig, grimaces and wryly comments there's a first time for everything.
Fun fact is that Nixon and Welsh, his two best friends in the company, are also the most notorious drunkards.
Threat Backfire: And how. To keep him in line, Captain Sobel arranges some obviously frivolous charges against Winters, and tells him he can either lose his weekend pass, which he never uses anyway, or face court-martial. Winters requests trial by court-martial, which winds up revealing Sobel's pettiness to the higher ups and gets Sobel Kicked Upstairs to non-combat training duties.
To Absent Friends: In the closing scene of "The Breaking Point", Lipton narrates while Easy Company is resting in a church. As he starts listing off the casualties they suffered over the course of the Battle of the Bulge, the corresponding soldiers begin to fade away until the church looks far emptier than it did before.
Averted, sadly enough, in the final episode. Winters provides a voiceover giving some details about what happened to the Easy Company men, but only for those whose actors were present at the baseball game. Others, like Malarkey, Guarnere, and others who left the unit due to either reassignment or injury were left out.
Tragic Keepsake: Subverted in in Bastogne when it looks like Eugene "Doc" Roe is going to keep Renee's hair smock, but he instead uses it as a bandage.
Played straight when Roe gives Malarkey what's left of Muck's rosary after he is killed at Bastogne.
Mentioned in the book when Moore is rooting through diddy bags of soldiers who were killed looking for money and snacks. He stops when he comes across a pair of baby booties.
True Companions: This series basically defines the trope - Both the company as a whole, and several nested groups within it. Malarkey, Muck, and Penkala. Guarnere and Toye. Bull and Johnny, and many other close-knit groups within Easy. This could cut both ways, either pushing men to excel to keep their buddies safe, or breaking men as they see their "family" slowly whittled down.
Truth in Television: The show and book both dramatize real events, but they strove to remain as accurate as possible. Only rarely did either make serious errors (most notably with the mis-attributed death of Albert Blithe, who not only didn't die of his wound in Normandy, but continued to serve with distinction through the Korean war and died without retiring, a Master Sergeant).
War Is Hell: Partially. Of course, it's sensationalized as well. To clarify, the series is mostly a mix of Crowning Moment Of Awesome, and War Is Hell, both sensationalizing soldiers and showing the grim reality of fighting a war. It's not until the ninth part, when the soldiers find the concentration camp, that they, and in turn the viewers, realize/remember exactly what the point of all the death and heroism was.
War Is Glorious: The series has elements of this, despite the above trope. Depression-era/World War II men on the battlefield at their Badass best as soldiers and men of honor, especially the likes of Winters, Randleman, Lipton, Roe and Speirs. And consider, this is just one company in an army full of guys just like Winters, Randleman, Lipton, Roe and Speirs. However, the series does go to great lengths to point out that for every badass in the army, there are countless other men who weren't so lucky.
Speirs himself expresses this view. He just loves to kill.
Cockney: Oi, yer 'aving a bath if you think yer half-inchin' that one, mate!note Translation: You're having a laugh if you think you're pinching that one [a Luger], mate.
What Were You Thinking?: Webster yells this at a bunch of surrendering Germans when he sees that they still use horse-drawn wagons for transport.
Webster:"Hey, you! That's right, you stupid Kraut bastards! That's right! Say hello to Ford, and General Fuckin' Motors! You stupid fascist pigs! Look at you! You have horses! What were you thinking? Dragging our asses half way around the world, interrupting our lives... For what, you ignorant, servile scum! What the fuck are we doing here?"
Malarkey gets yelled at for running out into enemy fire at Brecourt Manor hoping to find a Luger.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Each episode had been topped and tailed by interviews with the survivors. After the final episode, the interviewees returned — this time with captions telling you who they were. Within the last episode there was also a Sandlot-like epilogue where the characters' later lives are narrated while they play baseball.
Where's the Kaboom?: In episode 7, Luz and Lipton had a mortar round land in their foxhole and... smoke a little bit. The two are, understandably, quite shaken up. Then they use it to light a cigarette.
Episode 8 has a raid that leaves behind a time bomb in a building used as a German observation post. Winters checks his watch shortly before the building explodes, as if checking that the Kaboom isn't behind schedule.
Worst Aid: In "Crossroads", Moose is accidentally shot by a friendly sentry. Winters and Welsh provide first aid until the medic arrives. Doc Roe promptly informs them that they gave Moose a morphine overdose, which is far more likely to kill him than the bullets were, and chews them out for being that stupid.
You Are in Command Now: During D-Day, the plane carrying Easy Company's CO and HQ section is shot down and destroyed, leaving Winters as the highest ranking officer and de facto leader of Easy. Easy's replacement CO is then subsequently shot by friendly fire and is shipped back to the States, leaving Winters the acting CO yet again until he is officially promoted to the position.
During the invasion of Foy, Lieutenant Dike freezes in place, endangering the entire company. Colonel Sink specifically reminds Winters that as he is the commander of the entire battalion, and not just Easy Company, he cannot rush into battle and assume command in place of Dike. Winters immediately turns to Lieutenant Spiers and orders him to relieve Dike and lead the assault into Foy. Spiers takes about a second and a half to come up with a workable battle-plan and successfully takes the town.
You Make Me Sic: When Winters is handed written notice that he is to be court-martialed, the document contains a number of spelling mistakes. Nixon comments on this.