Band of Brothers at 15: Bastogne

battle of the bulge, bastogne, band of brothers

The Seige at Bastogne was a pivotal confrontation in Battle of the Bulge, which saw the Allied forces assert their most courageous and bloody defense against the last big push by Nazi forces in WWII.

The Bastogne episode of Band of Brothers was arguably the most emotionally intense and beautifully filmed of the series. It was like watching a dream sequence through a filter of constant snow, a bitter cold that you could almost feel in your bones as you’re watching. Or an opera of bodies, bent over, running for cover, crouching near trees, or frozen solid to the ground. You could watch all the action without sound and still feel it viscerally.

Because the attack came as a surprise to the exhausted and unarmored forces holding the line in the Belgian forest, Bastogne was grisly and slow and cold. The Allied forces were surrounded by a bulging front line of German forces on all sides.

bastogne, band of brothers, battle of the bulge
source: wikipedia

Instead of miring us in an indulgent tale of gore, the Bastogne episode instead used the violence brilliantly as punctuation in the steps taken by a lone medic, Eugene Roe, trying to gather supplies: a dose of morphine here, a bandage there, scissors. The camera follows the medic and you see the action through his eyes and consequently feel the draw of those in his line of work must feel, to rush as quickly as he could to wherever he’s needed the most.

band of brothers, bastogne, eugene roe

In this episode, Damian Lewis as Dick Winters figured as the calm still center trying desperately to get his men the support they needed to hold the line. Really, any course on leadership should, by all rights, feature a unit on how Dick Winters stood by his men. One for the books.

Something about a man shaving his face in the middle of bitter cold too. On the one hand it’s as if these men were automatons driven by the very basic impulse to survive. And on the other, they shaved and told each other to wear dry socks for pete’s sake, and used (or didn’t use) nicknames with each other, and talked deeply with each other and felt it all deeply, if not at the moment in battle, then certainly afterwards in their memories of it. I read somewhere that a lot of the men fighting in the Battle of the Bulge let their beards grow to stave off the cold. Not Dick Winters apparently.


imageedit_7_2433411341 imageedit_3_4574399039

Bastogne was also one of the few episodes in the series that featured a female character. Who can ever forget the Belgian nurse with the cornflower blue scarf who gave the New Orlean Eugene Roe an opportunity to hear and practice his French? True to the documentarian style of Band of Brothers, the nurse may have been modeled after a real-life Belgian nurse who served in Bastogne, Renee Lemaire…more here about the “Angel of Bastogne.”

band of brothers, bastogne

What more can I say, really. Let’s let some beautifully rendered pictures of this episode speak for themselves. Thanks go to radleys for this set.

tumblr_m0qawbUssi1qixy31o1_250 tumblr_m0qawbUssi1qixy31o2_250 tumblr_m0qawbUssi1qixy31o3_250 tumblr_m0qawbUssi1qixy31o4_250 tumblr_m0qawbUssi1qixy31o5_250

The blue scarf makes a reappearance at episode’s end…Just as we are told that even though history tells us that Patton’s army eventually rescued these men from the sure annihilation promised by the Nazi commander, “no member of the 101st has ever agreed the division needed to be rescued.”



Join the conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.