The HBO “WW2” series; Band of Brothers (BOB) and The Pacific (TP) boasted many people from the hit movie Saving Private Ryan that starred Tom Hanks. BOB was a 10-part HBO television spectacle that focuses on Easy Company, a group of American soldiers in World War II, tracking their experiences from the beginning of boot camp to the end of the war. Anchored by actors Damian Lewis (Homeland) and Ron Livingston, the series gives detailed attention to their experiences as a group, as well as the way that each of them develops individually. The series was based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s book of real-life accounts. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Hanks also directed one episode, featuring his son, Colin Hanks. The series was realistic (not surprising given that it was based on real-life accounts of the European War) and engaging. It also spawned some great characters.
The spiritual follow-up was The Pacific (TP) which followed from the producers of Band of Brothers. TP tracks the real-life journeys of three U.S. Marines–Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge and John Basilone from the first clash with the Japanese in the gloomy jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain forests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, and finally through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the difficult attempts to return to normality in civvies after V-J Day.
10. Joe Toye (BOB)
A great character, Joe distinguished himself in Winters’ assault on the gun positions at Brecourt. After killing most of the German gun crew, Toye then approached a German POW, who was babbling in panic. Toye yelled at him to shut up, before slugging him in the face with his brass knuckleduster. Toye was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
Toye then fought in Operation Market Garden in Holland and was wounded by an Artillery bombardment, and sent back to England. Toye returns to the Company, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. During the battle, Toye had taken off his boots to massage his feet, when an Artillery bombardment destroyed his boots, causing his feet to freeze, and get a severe case of trenchfoot. Never having much luck, he was wounded again by bomb Shrapnel, and was sent to the main town of Bastogne to be treated. However, he busted out, and rejoined the Company. In the depth of Winter still trying to turn back the Germans in the Bulge he was out in the open during another Artillery strike, and was knocked down by shell shrapnel which went into his back, and blew off one of his legs. That was the war over for Toye as he went off to hospital for the fourth and last time.
9. 1st Lieutenant Norman S. Dike Jr. (BOB)
Known as “Foxhole Norman”. Dike was transferred from Division HQ to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the first week of November 1944 while the company was in Bastogne becoming commanding officer.
He spends his time being extremely distant from the company, constantly going on walks and just generally eluding himself from the company. It was apparent from the start that this guy wasn’t worthy to lead such a well established company but it wasn’t until the last moment where it was truly shown.
8. PFC Robert Leckie (TP)
Bob Leckie is one of the three main characters in TP. He tries to maintain a Christian attitude during the trials and tribulations of the war against Japan. Here’s some great dialogue between Leckie and one of the other main characters, Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge:
PFC Robert Leckie: [in Leckie’s ‘library,’ he sees Sledge picking up a Bible and chuckles] Now that explains it. You’re a believer.
Eugene B. Sledge: Yes.
PFC Robert Leckie: OK, question: God created everything, right? The heavens, seven seas, Marine Corps…
[gestures to the sleeping Runner]
PFC Robert Leckie: Sleeping Beauty there…
Eugene B. Sledge: [chuckles] Even him.
PFC Robert Leckie: Land crabs, rats, mosquitoes…
Eugene B. Sledge: Mosquito’s a little tough to understand, I guess.
PFC Robert Leckie: God created Japs too, right?
[Eugene’s smile fades]
PFC Robert Leckie: Yellow slants who’ve tried to kill me on many occasions. Japs come from the garden of Eden too?
Eugene B. Sledge: Well, what we do is up to us. He gives us a choice.
PFC Robert Leckie: Free will, right. ‘Cept he’s God, of course, so he knows what we’re gonna do before we do it.
Eugene B. Sledge: Predestination.
PFC Robert Leckie: So the whole game is fixed by the will of Gramps on his throne while we’re down here for what? His entertainment? That makes us chumps, or God’s a sadist and either way, I got no use for him.
Eugene B. Sledge: So what do you believe in?
PFC Robert Leckie: I believe in ammunition.
PFC Robert Leckie: Tell you what, though – since I’m not on speaking terms anymore, next time you’re havin’ a chat with the old geezer, can you ask him to sink a few Jap transports and have ’em all fall on their bayonets so I can get the fuck out of here and go home? Sure would appreciate it.[/quote]
7. Technical Sergeant Donald Malarkey (BOB)
After meeting up at Ste. Marie-du-Monte, Malarkey got in a conversation with a German POW Sergeant, who had apparently been from Portland, Oregon, and had joined the Germans after receiving the order for all Germans to return to the fatherland. This gave Malarkey a newer perspective on the war, that the people you could be shooting at could be 100 miles from you. He always had a thing for Lugers, the German side arm.
When he participated in the Brecourt Manor Assault he made a break for what he thought was a Luger in a dead body out in the open. After discovering it was simply a sight for the 105mm guns, he ran back, but survived, because the Germans thought he was a medic. He was later awarded the Bronze Star for his actions.
6. Staff Sergeant Bull Randelman (BOB)
One of the universally popular soldiers in BOB, the cigar chewing nice-guy Denver “Bull” Randleman caused a big loss in morale when he went MIA presumed KIA during the failed Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Randleman was separated from his unit, only just managed to escape being run over by a tank. Injured, he hid in a culvert. Unable to return to his lines, he spent most of the following night hiding in a nearby barn with Germans all around. He was looked after by the locals until he could rejoin his unit, where he was welcomed back as a hero.
5. Gunnery Sgt John Basilone (TP)
What can you say about the man in reality and the man as portrayed in TP? Hero. Period. He won the congressional medal of honour, returns to the US to sell war bonds, gets fed up, starts training new recruits, gets married and returns to active duty only to die while once again playing the hero. He perfected the art of using the 30 calibre machine gun single-handed. He was revered and respected by his men, he was loved by his wife and his wife’s family.
Although he hates his enemy, he respects them, and here gives a short but powerful speech to some of his new recruits about the Jap soldier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qt3smwSBx8
4. Captain Herbert Sobell (BOB)
Easily one of the most memorable characters from the entire franchise. Captain Sobell was given command of Easy Company (Part of the Regiment’s 2nd Battalion) who we see mostly in the first few episodes of Band of Brothers educating and training his company.
Sobell was a person who’s dictionary doesn’t include the word “leniency”, he was used his ‘No Bullshit’ attitude to keep his company in line, creating a huge sense of fear. Without a doubt, his attitude worked extremely well in getting his soldiers physically ready for combat however when it came to tactical thinking and strategic decisions, Sobell made things anything but easy.
While Sobell may have seemed to only put on a harsh front in order to keep the men in line, this was far from the truth and he was a complete bastard at heart.
Sobel later developed a grudge against Winters. He issued Winters a court martial for not inspecting the latrine, mostly because he had changed the time from 1000 hours, to 0945, though Winters wasn’t informed. Later, a mutiny among the Companys’ NCO’s was forming, giving Colonel Sink, the Regimental commander, to wonder about Sobel’s popularity in the company. In a fireplace room, he hinted at this, but Sobel said they were the finest men he had. Sink, however, reassigns Sobel to Chilton Foliat jump school, much to Sobel’s horror.
3. Merriel Shelton AKA Snafu (TP)
Easily one of the most memorable characters from The Pacific, Merriel Shelton (More commonly known as Snafu) is a character who we truly see develop over the series of The Pacific. Snafu is first seen supervising the new recruits in the early episodes which follow the story of Eugene Sledge, he is getting them to clean oil drums and generally give them all a hard time.
Being extremely cold to all new recruits and soldiers, Snafu eventually opens up and we find out the true reason why. No one wants to see their friends die in combat so Snafu’s answer this was not to befriend anyone! At least not until they have proved themselves as worthy soldiers. This becomes apparent in a rare case in the series where he does befriend a new recruit only to lose him shortly after.
Snafu is also an extremely creepy character, Rami Malek who portrays the character does a fantastic job of being generally odd. In the Battle of Peleliu, he is later seen prying a dead Japanese soldier’s jaw right off the skull to get some gold teeth right in front of Eugene Sledge. Later Sledge almost gets reduced to Snafu’s level, about to try and pull the golden teeth out of another Japanese soldiers mouth. Snafu stops him, because he doesn’t want to let Sledge lose his humanity. He tries to get Sledge to back away from the corpse by telling him that the Japs have diseases, so Sledge cuts off a unit insignia instead. It is interesting to see the influence Snafu had over Sledge over the course of the series.
Despite all of his oddities, Snafu is a fantastic solider who got the job done.
2. Lieutenant Winters (BOB)
Dick Winters appears in all the episodes of BOB and is by all counts, a bit of a hero. He is able as a leader, looks after the welfare of his men, and ultimately stands up against the brutish loser Captain Sobell. He does what is required of him as a soldier but clearly is humane and just wants to get the job and for the war to be over and done. There’s a scene that haunts him where he comes across a young German soldier who smiles at him, but he shoots him.
1. Captain Ronald Speirs (BOB)
Speirs is the closest thing in BOB to Clint Eastwood’s Kelly from the movie Kelly’s Heroes. He takes out a German 88 single-handed after all… In the BOB mini series, on D-Day morning, he is shown giving out cigarettes to Nazi POWs, and later is reputed to have “hosed them down” with his Thompson. He was also said to have shot a drunk allied Sergeant. He neither denies these, nor confirms them, and he merely says “the guy that told you this says he was there, but when asking him what it was like, will say he heard it from the other guy.”
Speirs again comes into his own when a drunk soldier shoots a fellow soldier in the head after the war had ended. The passion Spiers showed as his beat the shit out of the ignorant private showcases how much the Army and his troops meant to him.