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#1
Old 05-13-2010, 11:15 PM
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Band of Brothers Question

Hello,

I just recently registered and I'm having difficulty understanding the organization of this board.

I have a few questions about the HBO series Band of Brothers and I've seen one question about that series in this forum. So, I'm hoping this is the proper forum to post that kind of question. But for some reason, I keep expecting to see a separate forum devoted to TV or Movies. If you can give me any advice or point me to some page that describes the correct procedure on where to post these kinds of questions, I would very much appreciate it.

My question is about Episode One and the ouster of Captain Sobel (played by David Schwimmer). It always seemed to me that the boss (I think he was a Colonel) always knew what was going on. After all, wouldn't someone have clued him in on Sobel's dismal ability to lead the men into battle and what would likely happen if they were ever led into battle by Sobel?

The other officer present (I think he was a Major) was the same officer who questioned Sobel about cutting the farmer's fence. So he must have known that Sobel was a fool.

My question is, given the boss man knew what was going on, why was he so hard on some of the NCOs while only giving a slap to the others. Why did he demote the ones he did? It seemed to me to be completely random and without any reason.

A minor question is who was Major or Colonel Horton? I always thought that the officer who told Sobel he was going to Chilton was named Colonen Horton.

Anyway, if anyone can shed any light on this incident for me, I would sure appreciate. It's always been a puzzle to me. Why wouldn't anyone ever tell Sobel that he couldn't lead men into combat because he couldn't read maps under combat conditions? Why didn't the senior officer tell Sobel the truth? It surely would have been better for everyone all around. It would have given Sobel an honest shot at improving himself and maybe one day becoming competent at leading troops into combat. At least it would have given him a fighting chance. Whether he succeeded or not would have then rested on his own shoulders.

Last edited by Joanie; 05-13-2010 at 11:17 PM.
#2
Old 05-13-2010, 11:36 PM
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Band of Brothers is a true story based on a non-fiction book. I've read the book several times.

The real Captain Sobel was very much like you see him in the series. A lot of the men credit Sobel's tough fitness program in boot camp for saving their lives. They went into war much more fit than most soldiers. In some cases that extra fitness made the difference in living or dying.

Sobel was a terrible field officer. But, in the military there's a strict chain of command. I don't think anyone dared say anything about Sobel to senior officers. That sort of thing just isn't done in the military.

Last edited by aceplace57; 05-13-2010 at 11:38 PM.
#3
Old 05-13-2010, 11:36 PM
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I don't think there's a definitive answer for this. Band of Brothers was based on Ambrose's work, which is... somewhat biased by the opinions of the interviewees. I've never seen an account of Sobel's side of the story, and the nearest other account we have -- Dick Winters -- is by someone who admittedly just didn't like the guy.

Nonetheless, Winters sort-of speculates in his autobiography (I think that's where it is) that the command knew full well that Sobel wasn't up to leading troops into battle. But he was damn good at getting them in shape for battle -- several Easy Co members attributed Sobel's crazy training as the reason that the Company performed so well.

I suspect the miniseries went with that interpretation, for as much as it influenced the portrayals (likely, not much).

That said, the rebellion of the sergeants was far more serious. Even if command knew that Sobel was a martinet, that sort of thing was utterly unacceptable... but they couldn't bust them all down, or they'd be left with no NCOs at all. It's been a while since I read all the books, but essentially the ones who got busted with both barrels were either seen as the instigators, or had been in trouble for various other reasons. The miniseries was entirely too short to have depicted the whole background, so it comes across as rather random.

Col. Sink (played by Dale Dye) was the one who told Sobel he was being transferred. Maj. Horton was the officer that Luz imitated out in the field. Beyond that, let me point you to Bill Guarnere's site.
#4
Old 05-13-2010, 11:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
I have a few questions about the HBO series Band of Brothers and I've seen one question about that series in this forum. So, I'm hoping this is the proper forum to post that kind of question. But for some reason, I keep expecting to see a separate forum devoted to TV or Movies. If you can give me any advice or point me to some page that describes the correct procedure on where to post these kinds of questions, I would very much appreciate it.
Hi Joanie. Welcome to SDMB.

I can't help you with BoB, since I've never seen it. But as to where to post, the forum titles have general descriptions. For example, Cafe Society says:
Our salon for art, drama, literature, movies, music, comics, cuisine -- all the artistic disciplines -- if it's about creativity, entertainment, or leisure, it goes here.
So you're in the right place to ask about a TV series.
#5
Old 05-13-2010, 11:40 PM
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Even if the higher brass suspected that Sobel was incompetent, they would not be grateful for being forced to a decision by a NCO rebellion. They dropped the hammer on a few NCOs to remind the rest that this wasn't how things are done in the military.

It might be useful for you to read up on Gen. Lloyd Fredendall. He was in command of US forces at Kasserine Pass. He was highly thought of by his superiors & detested by his subordinates. After being mauled by the Germans, Fredendall was kicked upstairs & replaced by Patton.

That's the Army Way!

#6
Old 05-13-2010, 11:45 PM
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Sometimes bad officers are dealt with in battle. Someone like Sobel would have gotten killed on day 1. He would have been running around confused and walked right into a stray bullet. Unfortunately, he would have also gotten good men killed with him.
#7
Old 05-14-2010, 01:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wedgehed View Post
Even if the higher brass suspected that Sobel was incompetent, they would not be grateful for being forced to a decision by a NCO rebellion. They dropped the hammer on a few NCOs to remind the rest that this wasn't how things are done in the military.

It might be useful for you to read up on Gen. Lloyd Fredendall. He was in command of US forces at Kasserine Pass. He was highly thought of by his superiors & detested by his subordinates. After being mauled by the Germans, Fredendall was kicked upstairs & replaced by Patton.

That's the Army Way!


Wow! He was kicked upstaris and replaced by Patton.

You know, when you say, "They dropped the hammer on a few NCOs to remind the rest that this wasn't how things are done in the military" ...

I wonder how they expected the men to behave. Surely they didn't expect them to follow Sobel into battle and get slaughtered?

But for my curiosity. Can you tell me, what is the way they expected things to be done in the military? I'd really like to know.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks very much to Lightray. Thanks for the insight and for the link to Bill Guarnere's site.

And thanks very much to Johnny L.A. - thank you for the info.

And thanks to Wedgehead. I am curious to see how you think these guys would have expected the NCOs to behave with the problem they had.

Also thanks to Aceplace57. I had never heard of "fragging" in WW2. But I guess it must have happened. It really steams me to think that Sobel would have gotten so many good men killed though before he got what was coming to him.

Thanks to everyone who replied. It feels very good to know that people here were willing to help me. I really do appreciate.

Last edited by Joanie; 05-14-2010 at 01:54 AM.
#8
Old 05-14-2010, 01:57 AM
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I remember the NCOs saying at the time they signed the statement "you know we could get shot for this," and the boss man confirmed this in the meeting in his office, "Ah oughtta have you awl lahned up'n shot." Could this really have happened?
#9
Old 05-14-2010, 03:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
Why wouldn't anyone ever tell Sobel that he couldn't lead men into combat because he couldn't read maps under combat conditions? Why didn't the senior officer tell Sobel the truth? It surely would have been better for everyone all around. It would have given Sobel an honest shot at improving himself and maybe one day becoming competent at leading troops into combat.
You might want to watch an old movie called The Caine Mutiny. Humphrey Bogart plays Navy Captain Queeg, a character somewhat like Capt. Sobel. He's petty, tyrannical, short-tempered, and blames others for his mistakes. When he appears mentally unstable, his executive officer relieves him and assumes command. The XO is court-martialed, but the captain breaks down on the stand. As the XO and others are celebrating the acquital, his lawyer gives them all a severe dressing-down for their actions, plotting against their captain instead of trying to help him.

I've always felt that ending was a bit of a cop out. People did try to help Queeg. Queeg's greatest problem, and probably Sobel's too, is that he couldn't listen. Things had to be his way. Whenever anyone tried to tell him anything he didn't want to hear, he'd bite their head off. I think if Sobel's commanding officer had told him he couldn't command in the field, he would have become even worse, pushing the men even harder (since it must be their fault) and not developing any of the skills he really needed.

I don't know what it would take to turn someone like that around, but I think it's more than just "an honest shot at improving himself."
#10
Old 05-14-2010, 05:27 AM
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One of the reasons I think David Schwimmer did such a fabulous job with this character is that he demonstrated the one character trait that I see over and over again with people who behave like Sobel.

They are complete tyrants and monsters to those people who are below them in rank. But they are complete pussy cats - totally passive with those who are above them in rank (like the Colonel boss man). So much so, they are even passive to those who are invisible (like the invisible Major Horton who told him to cut the fence - just hilarious!).

So, I agree that Sobel would never have accepted any kind of criticism or advice from anyone of a rank below his. But, I think it would have been a different story if he was told about his shortcomings from the Colonel. I think this may have something to do with his subconscious image of his father figure. Subconsciously, he must view the Colonel as his father figure and he would have always behaved in a totally passive way with the Colonel. Remember how meek he said to the Colonel, "Permission to speak, Sir?"

Then, he never asked why he was losing Easy Company. Instead, all he wanted to know was who would be replacing him. Wow! That was so powerful. I know that was due to the writer and not to David Schwimmer. But they both helped to put the image across. I found it to be so powerful. The great Captain Sobel couldn't even ask why he was being replaced. All he wanted to know was who was replacing him - presumably to help protect his very fragile self-image. He needed his replacement to be someone that he respected - not someone that he had prevously scolded. But, I'm not very confident about that scene. Someone probably has a much better understanding of that dynamic than I do.





Quote:
Originally Posted by Robot Arm View Post
You might want to watch an old movie called The Caine Mutiny. Humphrey Bogart plays Navy Captain Queeg, a character somewhat like Capt. Sobel. He's petty, tyrannical, short-tempered, and blames others for his mistakes. When he appears mentally unstable, his executive officer relieves him and assumes command. The XO is court-martialed, but the captain breaks down on the stand. As the XO and others are celebrating the acquital, his lawyer gives them all a severe dressing-down for their actions, plotting against their captain instead of trying to help him.

I've always felt that ending was a bit of a cop out. People did try to help Queeg. Queeg's greatest problem, and probably Sobel's too, is that he couldn't listen. Things had to be his way. Whenever anyone tried to tell him anything he didn't want to hear, he'd bite their head off. I think if Sobel's commanding officer had told him he couldn't command in the field, he would have become even worse, pushing the men even harder (since it must be their fault) and not developing any of the skills he really needed.

I don't know what it would take to turn someone like that around, but I think it's more than just "an honest shot at improving himself."

Last edited by Joanie; 05-14-2010 at 05:30 AM.
#11
Old 05-14-2010, 09:45 AM
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Another thing to remember is that there was no way to know how bad a combat leader Sobel was until they actually started training for combat. A martinet who demands everything be done his own way, but trains his troops well, and does a good job in combat, would certainly make an acceptable officer. So until they started doing field exercises and realized he couldn't read a map, and didn't understand infantry tactics, there was no reason to do anything about him - he was doing an acceptable (or better) job up until that point.
#12
Old 05-14-2010, 10:04 AM
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Also, with good officers and troops serving him, many of Sobels blunders may have been mitigated. In one training maneuver, Lt Winters took the objective (a crossroad) while Sobel got lost. Sobel still got the credit for this since Winters was one of his men. Getting ambushed in the North Carolina training maneuver was more a problem for Sobel since he directly ordered the actions that led to their loss.

But even if the Colonel knew that Sobel was despised by his men, so what? A lot of officers are hated by their troops even if they're competant to lead. Grumbling and griping from the ranks is as old as organized warfare.
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#13
Old 05-14-2010, 11:18 AM
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"Leadership" is the toughest thing to try and train/teach.

The military tries to train it's NCO's and junior officers with organisational techniques, but being able to motivate your men, and get them to trust you, is less of a science, and more of an art form.

Some organised officers (like Sobel) who pay attention to detail (granted, Sobel couldn't navigate cross country) and ensure all the i's are dotted, and all the rooms in the barracks are spic-and-span look great on paper (i.e. in non-combat roles), but somehow fall short as ideal in combat. Then again, some martinets (like Patton) do fine.

Even in WW2, the military had manpower problems, where there is more jobs to be done than there are bodies to do them. After spending all the time (and money) training these folks, the senior leadership like to give the officer's under them every opportunity to succeed.

The merely adequate officer can still muddle through well enough, as there may be enough skilled NCO's and officers below and above the individual in question to compensate for whatever shortcomings there may be. Part of Sobel's problem was that he did not instill loyalty and confidence in his leadership with the men serving around him. Thus, noone was inclined to cover for him. I think even Colonel Sink finally had enough with Sobel, when Sobel's NCO's did their mutiny.

As far as military discipline goes, the NCO's are expected to follow orders. The military is not a democracy. That old saying sounds pretty cliche, I know. But it's true, and the meaning goes deeper than just deciding what hilltop to overrun today.

There are a lot of unpleasant (or boring) tasks that had to be done. (Like mucking out the latrine.) In any outfit, your probably going to have a number of malingerers and bad attitudes. If they thought they could get out of unpopular duties by complaning to the chain of command (with potentially made up crap, as well), they would do so in a heart beat. Such behavior destroys unit morale.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie
Also thanks to Aceplace57. I had never heard of "fragging" in WW2. But I guess it must have happened. It really steams me to think that Sobel would have gotten so many good men killed though before he got what was coming to him.
I don't think Aceplace57 was referring to fragging. Sobel was more than capable of blindly wandering in front of a German machine gun nest, with his troops all lined up with him.

Last edited by mlees; 05-14-2010 at 11:19 AM.
#14
Old 05-14-2010, 11:22 AM
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In the 1960's Sobel attempted suicide I believe, succeeding only in blinding himself, and he died in the late 80's in a VA home.

I picked up a book by his son, IIRC, in a train station book store, and flipped through it. It seems his son had a fractious relationship with him, partially as a result of Vietnam, but had made his peace with his father and was writing the book at least partially to rectify what he felt was an unfair treatment of Sobel in Band of Brothers.
#15
Old 05-14-2010, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
Also thanks to Aceplace57. I had never heard of "fragging" in WW2. But I guess it must have happened. It really steams me to think that Sobel would have gotten so many good men killed though before he got what was coming to him.
I don't think he had anything "coming to him." Sure, his men didn't like him because he was a martinet & a hard-ass, but that's true of a lot of people in the military. He wasn't a good combat leader, but he got relieved of that position before he could get anyone killed. And from the book, it sounds like he became a perfectly good regimental Supply officer - there's even a story (not seen in the TV show IIRC) where he drives a jeep full of ammo to the front lines because they're running short.

ETA: He did remain a martinet in the book as well. There's another story where the Army wants all the paratroopers to turn in their silk escape maps of France, or face a $75 fine. Those maps were prized souveniers, so when Sobel wants to collect them all, Winters (by then a Major and battalion commander) tells him to screw off.

I read a quote once that leading men into combat, and leading them well, is the hardest and most rewarding job on Earth. There's no shame that he didn't have the skills to do that job well.

Looking at Wikipedia, Sobel was awarded the Bronze Star - it doesn't say for what or when, but they don't give those out for perfect attendance or shiniest shoes.

Last edited by muldoonthief; 05-14-2010 at 11:32 AM.
#16
Old 05-14-2010, 12:41 PM
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In thinking this over, I believe you make the best point. Your post makes this episode hang together and has it all make sense. In the military, when someone is given an order, they must carry it out. It is absolutely unacceptable for that person to refuse a direct order. Never under any conditions is that acceptable.

So, one way or another, Sobel had to go. It's just too bad he couldn't go somewhere where he could do some good. Like somewere he could train officers in how to train paratroops. After all, when it came to training paratroops, he was excellent at that. From what we see, he may have even been one of the best ever. He was so good, that he surely did deserve a promotion. It was just too bad that the promotion he got was not a real good fit for his skills. As a matter of fact, it wasn't even a real promotion. If he could do it - and there is never any gurantee that someone who is well skilled at something will be competent at training others how to become competent in that skill. But, if he could do it, Sobel should have been training pratroop trainers - not training officers how to jump. Nothing in his history indicated that he was the right man for the job when it came to training officers how to jump out of an airplane. It seems to me that he was not the right man for that job.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Lightray View Post
I don't think there's a definitive answer for this. Band of Brothers was based on Ambrose's work, which is... somewhat biased by the opinions of the interviewees. I've never seen an account of Sobel's side of the story, and the nearest other account we have -- Dick Winters -- is by someone who admittedly just didn't like the guy.

Nonetheless, Winters sort-of speculates in his autobiography (I think that's where it is) that the command knew full well that Sobel wasn't up to leading troops into battle. But he was damn good at getting them in shape for battle -- several Easy Co members attributed Sobel's crazy training as the reason that the Company performed so well.

I suspect the miniseries went with that interpretation, for as much as it influenced the portrayals (likely, not much).

That said, the rebellion of the sergeants was far more serious. Even if command knew that Sobel was a martinet, that sort of thing was utterly unacceptable... but they couldn't bust them all down, or they'd be left with no NCOs at all. It's been a while since I read all the books, but essentially the ones who got busted with both barrels were either seen as the instigators, or had been in trouble for various other reasons. The miniseries was entirely too short to have depicted the whole background, so it comes across as rather random.

Col. Sink (played by Dale Dye) was the one who told Sobel he was being transferred. Maj. Horton was the officer that Luz imitated out in the field. Beyond that, let me point you to Bill Guarnere's site.

Last edited by Joanie; 05-14-2010 at 12:46 PM.
#17
Old 05-14-2010, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mlees View Post
"Leadership" is the toughest thing to try and train/teach.

...

Some organised officers (like Sobel) who pay attention to detail (granted, Sobel couldn't navigate cross country) and ensure all the i's are dotted, and all the rooms in the barracks are spic-and-span look great on paper (i.e. in non-combat roles), but somehow fall short as ideal in combat. Then again, some martinets (like Patton) do fine.
I would say that much of "Leadership" comes down to respect for those below. Comparing (David Schwimmer's portrayal of) Sobel with Patton, I believe that Sobel shows the typical pattern of respect upwards but not downwards. In my opinion, Patton exhibited great respect down the ranks, which endeared him to those below him. So, while Patton might have been a martinet, the soldiers under him respected and trusted him because the respect flowed from the top.

I believe that Napoleon, too, exhibited that trait.

I think that, generally, people will follow anyone who truly respects them.
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Old 05-14-2010, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by BobArrgh View Post
I would say that much of "Leadership" comes down to respect for those below. Comparing (David Schwimmer's portrayal of) Sobel with Patton, I believe that Sobel shows the typical pattern of respect upwards but not downwards. In my opinion, Patton exhibited great respect down the ranks, which endeared him to those below him. So, while Patton might have been a martinet, the soldiers under him respected and trusted him because the respect flowed from the top.

I believe that Napoleon, too, exhibited that trait.

I think that, generally, people will follow anyone who truly respects them.
I can't tell if you are confusing respect with friendship or some other compassionate emotion.

Soldiers and sailors will follow a leader who is a prick, as long as that leader knows their buisness.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wiki entry, Admiral Jackie Fisher
Fisher was appointed to command HMS Bellerophon as flag captain to the Admiral of the North-West coast of America squadron, Astley Cooper-Key from 2 March 1877 to 4 June 1878. Bellerophon had been in the dockyard for repairs, so the new crew was less than perfect in carrying out their duties. Fisher told them "I intend to give you hell for three months, and if you have not come up to my standard in that time you'll have hell for another three months". Midshipman (later Admiral) A. H. Gordon Moore reported, "Fisher was a very exacting master and I had at times long and arduous duties, long hours at the engine room telegraphs in cold fog, etc., and the least inattention was punished. It was, I think, his way of proving us, for he always rewarded us in some way when an extra hard bit of work was over".
I think Sobels problem was that he demonstrated that he didn't know his buisness (small unit tactics and overland navigation). He also blamed others, or other circumstances, for his failures, and didn't appear to make the effort to learn from his mistakes. [At least in the TV series, anyway. I hadn't read any books on this topic.]
#19
Old 05-14-2010, 01:43 PM
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Reply to Lightray

I never really got to answer Lightray before I exceeded the five minute time limit on editing posts. In other words, I tried to change my post later than five minutes after I first edited it (at least I think that is what happened).

I once learned at a very early age, that just because someone is skilled at something (like hitting a baseball), that doesn't mean they will have any ability at all when it comes to teaching others how to do that. In fact, they can often be downright terrible when it comes to teaching others. Just because someone is highly skilled at something - like Sobel was skilled at training paratroops, that doesn't mean he will be able to teach others how to train paratroops. In fact, he could very well be completely terrible when it comes to that. But here is the reply I wanted to give to Lightray:

Lightray, I want to thank you for helping me understand what went on when it came to terminating Sobel from Easy Company. As I understood it, your point was that the rebellion by the Sergeants was far more serious than any problem with Sobel. After all, there is no way the Colonel would have ever allowed Sobel to lead any of his troops into combat. But, there were likely many easy ways to get Sobel out of his leadership role before he ever faced any combat. However, there were probably very few good ways to handle the Sergeants' rebellion and that was much more serious and involved a lot more men than any problem with Sobel.

I know that leading a hundred men (or so) into combat would be very serious if they were likely going to suffer terrible casualties. But it would have been easy to get Sobel out of there before he ever led anyone into combat and there would have been very few negative consequences there. But dealing with the Sergeants' rebellion could have had many long-term serious consequences and that needed to be handled properly and right away, too. Anyway, I believe you hit the nail right on the head and I thank you for helping me to understand that. I never understood it before.

P.S. This is not related to the main issue here. But is there any way that anyone could help me to know how many men are in a Company and what is the relationship among a Company, Platoon, Regiment, Army, etc.? I'm wondering if some of those things are not exactly fixed but can be kind of honorary groupings? In any case, when it comes to this series, I would really like to know how many men are in each of those kinds of units and how those units are organized in the US Army.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Lightray View Post
I don't think there's a definitive answer for this. Band of Brothers was based on Ambrose's work, which is... somewhat biased by the opinions of the interviewees. I've never seen an account of Sobel's side of the story, and the nearest other account we have -- Dick Winters -- is by someone who admittedly just didn't like the guy.

Nonetheless, Winters sort-of speculates in his autobiography (I think that's where it is) that the command knew full well that Sobel wasn't up to leading troops into battle. But he was damn good at getting them in shape for battle -- several Easy Co members attributed Sobel's crazy training as the reason that the Company performed so well.

I suspect the miniseries went with that interpretation, for as much as it influenced the portrayals (likely, not much).

That said, the rebellion of the sergeants was far more serious. Even if command knew that Sobel was a martinet, that sort of thing was utterly unacceptable... but they couldn't bust them all down, or they'd be left with no NCOs at all. It's been a while since I read all the books, but essentially the ones who got busted with both barrels were either seen as the instigators, or had been in trouble for various other reasons. The miniseries was entirely too short to have depicted the whole background, so it comes across as rather random.

Col. Sink (played by Dale Dye) was the one who told Sobel he was being transferred. Maj. Horton was the officer that Luz imitated out in the field. Beyond that, let me point you to Bill Guarnere's site.
#20
Old 05-14-2010, 01:54 PM
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Good discussion. BTW, I had never heard the term martinet before I saw people say that about Sobel.
#21
Old 05-14-2010, 01:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
P.S. This is not related to the main issue here. But is there any way that anyone could help me to know how many men are in a Company and what is the relationship among a Company, Platoon, Regiment, Army, etc.? I'm wondering if some of those things are not exactly fixed but can be kind of honorary groupings? In any case, when it comes to this series, I would really like to know how many men are in each of those kinds of units and how those units are organized in the US Army.
Here's a decent overview. I'm not sure what you mean by "honorary groupings", but the regiment was eliminated as an actual grouping sometime during WWII. I think the paratroopers were a bit unusual that they still had a regimental commander.
#22
Old 05-14-2010, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
So, I agree that Sobel would never have accepted any kind of criticism or advice from anyone of a rank below his. But, I think it would have been a different story if he was told about his shortcomings from the Colonel. I think this may have something to do with his subconscious image of his father figure. Subconsciously, he must view the Colonel as his father figure and he would have always behaved in a totally passive way with the Colonel. Remember how meek he said to the Colonel, "Permission to speak, Sir?"
If Sobel had been criticized by a higher-ranking officer, I'm sure he would have made all the appropriate noises. "Yes, sir." "I'll try to do better, sir." I just don't think that he had the necessary self-awareness to understand what they were trying to tell him. As soon as he was out of the CO's office, he'd be thinking "my men let me down, I've got to push them harder."
#23
Old 05-14-2010, 02:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
P.S. This is not related to the main issue here. But is there any way that anyone could help me to know how many men are in a Company and what is the relationship among a Company, Platoon, Regiment, Army, etc.? I'm wondering if some of those things are not exactly fixed but can be kind of honorary groupings? In any case, when it comes to this series, I would really like to know how many men are in each of those kinds of units and how those units are organized in the US Army.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_organization

Company = 100-200 men.
Battalion = almost a thousand men.
Regiment = two to three thousand men.
Division = roughly 15,000 men.

Numbers will fluctuate based on individual training schedules, combat casualties that are yet to be replaced, soldiers detatched for special duty, soldiers on leave, etc.

BoB was highlighting E (or "easy", in military phonetics) company, 506th Parachute Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division.
#24
Old 05-14-2010, 02:07 PM
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Right before they fired Sobel they told him Easy was one of the finest companies they had ever seen. So he was probably confused as to why he was transferred.
#25
Old 05-14-2010, 02:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
Right before they fired Sobel they told him Easy was one of the finest companies they had ever seen. So he was probably confused as to why he was transferred.
Yeah, which is why he looked like he was going to cry when they told him he was being transferred. Actually a really well acted scene by Schwimmer.
#26
Old 05-14-2010, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
Lightray, I want to thank you for helping me understand what went on when it came to terminating Sobel from Easy Company. As I understood it, your point was that the rebellion by the Sergeants was far more serious than any problem with Sobel. After all, there is no way the Colonel would have ever allowed Sobel to lead any of his troops into combat. But, there were likely many easy ways to get Sobel out of his leadership role before he ever faced any combat. However, there were probably very few good ways to handle the Sergeants' rebellion and that was much more serious and involved a lot more men than any problem with Sobel.
Yes, the sergent's rebellion was far more serious (from the Army's perspective). Even Winters comments about how foolish he thought the whole thing was; despite that it got rid of Sobel, he wasn't supportive of it.

However, I'm not sure that Sobel wouldn't have ended up leading Easy into combat had the sergents not done what they did. Recall the example of Capt. Dike basically phoning-in his command while in Bastogne. Absolutely everybody in Easy was contemptuous of him, whereas they had some grudgingly complimentary things to say about Sobel.

And, as muldoonthief noted, Sobel ended up with a Bronze Star. So he couldn't have been as horrible as the biases of Easy Co leads us to believe.

As far as Sobel's attitude towards others, I don't think it's as clear-cut as 'respectful above, contemptous below'. He was completely insubordinate to Maj. Winters, who outranked him by that point. And he got along well with his lackey at Curahee (whose name I forget), and didn't turn Popeye in to the MPs when Sobel found him AWOL trying to rejoin Easy (which mystified the Easy Co guys, apparently). He seems to have been a complex guy, way out of his element.
#27
Old 05-14-2010, 03:30 PM
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I loved Sink's answer: "Son, the war needs you elsewhere."
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Last edited by Hypno-Toad; 05-14-2010 at 03:30 PM.
#28
Old 05-14-2010, 05:04 PM
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Thank you very much Muldoonthief and MLees. I found that info really great to know.



Quote:
Originally Posted by mlees View Post
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_organization

Company = 100-200 men.
Battalion = almost a thousand men.
Regiment = two to three thousand men.
Division = roughly 15,000 men.

Numbers will fluctuate based on individual training schedules, combat casualties that are yet to be replaced, soldiers detatched for special duty, soldiers on leave, etc.

BoB was highlighting E (or "easy", in military phonetics) company, 506th Parachute Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division.

Last edited by Joanie; 05-14-2010 at 05:05 PM.
#29
Old 05-14-2010, 05:15 PM
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A Big Thank You

I have watched and enjoyed movies, documentaries and series about modern warfare for many, many years. But before BoB and before this discussion, I never really understood much about the concepts of the leadership of troops and the respect shown both up and down the chain of command and just what effect it has on leading troops into combat.

I've learned more in the past two days then I have in perhaps 40 years prior.

I want to thank all the people who have made recent contributions to this discussion, including: BobArrgh, mlees, muldoonthief, and very much Robot Arm whose post I really enjoyed. I thought it was very insightful.

I know I left out many people and I apologize to them all. But I am really feeling very appreciative to all those who contributed to this discussion. Thank you all so very much.
#30
Old 05-14-2010, 05:21 PM
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By saying he had something "coming to him", I only meant that in the context if he had ever led men into combat and caused them to be killed and wounded as a result of his incompetence. The fact that he was never permitted to lead men into combat made the whole issue of "fragging" irrelevent.

But thank you for your comments. I liked them very much and found them to be very informative.


Quote:
Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
I don't think he had anything "coming to him." Sure, his men didn't like him because he was a martinet & a hard-ass, but that's true of a lot of people in the military. He wasn't a good combat leader, but he got relieved of that position before he could get anyone killed. And from the book, it sounds like he became a perfectly good regimental Supply officer - there's even a story (not seen in the TV show IIRC) where he drives a jeep full of ammo to the front lines because they're running short.

Last edited by Joanie; 05-14-2010 at 05:22 PM.
#31
Old 05-14-2010, 05:24 PM
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Thank you for your thank you.
#32
Old 05-14-2010, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
But thank you for your comments. I liked them very much and found them to be very informative.
Stick around; this kind of thing happens a lot here.
#33
Old 05-14-2010, 06:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
P.S. This is not related to the main issue here. But is there any way that anyone could help me to know how many men are in a Company and what is the relationship among a Company, Platoon, Regiment, Army, etc.? I'm wondering if some of those things are not exactly fixed but can be kind of honorary groupings? In any case, when it comes to this series, I would really like to know how many men are in each of those kinds of units and how those units are organized in the US Army.
Divisions (like the 101st Airborne Division and regiments (like the 506th Parachute Regiment) serve as administrative units as well as combat units and can operate more or less self contained. They are actually pretty complex organizations as there are various headquarters, logistics and support elements at each level. Think of a corporation of two to twenty thousand people. You'll notice when Winters got promoted to Battalion (assigned to the battalion headquarters staff), his job mostly consisted of administration tasks.

The series is about E ("Easy" in ye olde phoenetic alphabet) Company, 2/ 506th Parachute Regiment (2nd Battalion / 506th Parachut...), a group of about 150 men and typically led by a captain. Within the company would be 3 platoons of about 40+ men led by a leutenant which would be furthur divided into squads and fire teams. A company is pretty much the largest tactical manuever element in the military (which is just a fancy way of saying all the guys in the unit are expected to fight together as a cohesive group). That is not to say that the battalion and subordinant units could not also become engaged in actual fighting as shown during the Normandy and Bastogne battles.



As for Soble, I would imagine that office politics are pretty much the same wherever you go. Another series that captured battlefield politics very well was Generation Kill about the Gulf War.
#34
Old 05-16-2010, 09:36 AM
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A Second Question

I have another question about the conflict between Captain Sobel and Lt. Winters.

Sobel's decision to Court Martial Winters has always puzzled me. This decision might well be considered to be self-destructive and indeed the cause of Sobel's downfall. But, was this decision about Sobel's need to try and make others think that his poor performance in the war games was someone else's fault? Or was it just his way of saying, "if I'm going to look bad, I will make sure that I'm not the only one."

After all, I think the reason for his wanting to discipline Winters had nothing to do with the war games. I'm not exactly sure. But wasn't the supposed problem that Winters supposedly failed to perform some minor duty and was that duty at all related to the war games?

I've always wondered what might have been going through Sobel's mind when he decided to try and punish Winters. Was he trying to show the higher brass that he was not the only one to blame for things going wrong? Or was he just acting childish and wanting to make Winters look bad because Sobel had been made to look bad?

This one incident has always seemed to me to be one of the most interesting in the series. If possible, I'd really like to understand it better and hear what other people think was going through Sobel's mind when he decided that Winters should be punished. I'd especially like to know if there was any connection between the event that Winters was supposed to have failed to do and Sobel having being made to look bad.
#35
Old 05-16-2010, 10:39 AM
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I just checked my DVD of Episode One and the duty Winters was supposed to perform was the inspection of the latrines.

That sounds like a very trivial thing for which to be Court Martialed, but as many of you explained upthread, the duty itself may not have been the real issue. The real issue is about supposedly being given a duty and then either performing that duty or failing to perform that duty.

At any rate, it seems pretty clear to me that no one could make any connection between Winter's supposed duty and Sobel cutting the fence. Or could they?

Last edited by Joanie; 05-16-2010 at 10:40 AM.
#36
Old 05-16-2010, 10:46 PM
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It has been a while since I've seen BoB, but if I recall correctly, Sobel really did not want to court-martial Winters. Sobel had given Winters non-judicial punishment, and it is a Soldier's right to turn down that punishment, and request trial by court-martial.

Winters simply called Sobel's bluff.
#37
Old 05-16-2010, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usar_jag View Post
It has been a while since I've seen BoB, but if I recall correctly, Sobel really did not want to court-martial Winters. Sobel had given Winters non-judicial punishment, and it is a Soldier's right to turn down that punishment, and request trial by court-martial.

Winters simply called Sobel's bluff.
OK. But why did Sobel want to give him punishment? And could he have had any expectation of some kind of outcome from that which would be somehow favorable to Sobel? Specifically, was he hoping to send some kind of message to the brass about his (Sobel's) performance on that war game where he cut that fence?
#38
Old 05-16-2010, 11:32 PM
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My view might be naive, but I just saw it as Sobel being angry at his humiliation and wanting to take it out on somebody. If he spots an opportunity to take Mr. oh-so-competent Winters down a peg, so much the better.
#39
Old 05-16-2010, 11:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
My view might be naive, but I just saw it as Sobel being angry at his humiliation and wanting to take it out on somebody. If he spots an opportunity to take Mr. oh-so-competent Winters down a peg, so much the better.
Given what we know about Sobel, that certainly makes sense. Sobel was just that childish and just that much of a fool.

Still, I just wish there was some kind of clue as to what Sobel was hoping for by doing this. The only clue I can see is that he clearly wasn't expecting Winters to call his bluff. They showed his face for a second after Winters signed that form and you could see that Sobel was clearly shocked by Winter's decision.
#40
Old 05-17-2010, 12:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joanie View Post
OK. But why did Sobel want to give him punishment? And could he have had any expectation of some kind of outcome from that which would be somehow favorable to Sobel? Specifically, was he hoping to send some kind of message to the brass about his (Sobel's) performance on that war game where he cut that fence?
I don't get the sense that Sobel was trying to take down Winters, or redeem himself for the wargame, or impress the brass. He doesn't strike me as the Machiavellian sort, who would plot and scheme and think that far ahead. Something went wrong, an order didn't get carried out, and he started looking for someone to blame for it (because, after all, it couldn't possibly be his fault). After that, it's just a case of complete, pig-headed intransigence. There is nothing anyone can tell him that will change his mind.
#41
Old 05-17-2010, 07:03 PM
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Winters was very popular with the men of Easy. Sobel was very unpopular. Sobel was trying to make himself look better, by making Winters look worse.

For example, the spaghetti incident (which is seen in the miniseries, but explained better in the various books): Winters had mess duty, Sobel told him to have spaghetti served as a special lunch since they wouldn't be running Currahee that day; Winters has spaghetti served, Sobel announces a sudden run up Currahee. Everybody vomits their special lunch all over themselves.

And then Winters looks like a chump when someone asks "who the hell thought serving spaghetti in mess was a good idea before a run up Currahee?"

Sobel was playing the same game with changing the timing of the inspection on Winters -- Winters was censoring the mail (as ordered), before the inspection Sobel ordered. Sobel slyly switches the inspection time, and oops Winters doesn't learn about it in time. So now he gets to issue a 'punishment' that will make Winters look bad. Because, again, no one else will know the details -- they'll only hear the summary (that makes Winters look bad).

So when Winters calls Sobel's bluff, suddenly there's the threat that other officers will learn what an ass Sobel is being. Of course the court martial would have found Winters in derelection -- but in the course of that finding, Sobel's shennanigans would have been exposed.

Add to that, the embarrasement of having one of your officers actually request a court martial instead of accepting your punishment, and Sobel was frantic to get Winters to just play along. Bad call, though.

Last edited by Lightray; 05-17-2010 at 07:06 PM. Reason: i can haz spagetti spelt plz
#42
Old 05-17-2010, 08:21 PM
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Lightray,

Thank you very much. That was excellent info and it went a long way to explaining a whole lot of the background for me.

It feels very satisfying for me to hear a confirmation of just how much smarter Winters was over Sobel.

Rarely have I felt so much respect and admiration for any character as I have for Lt/Captn/Major Winters. (Ack! He's not just a character. He's actually a real person and a character).

I have, on occasion, met some older gentleman (either walking to work or riding the bus or subway) and asked them about their war time experiences. On a few (very few) occasions, I have been in a position to help one or two of them out in a minor way (like maybe giving them a few dollars or some bus tickets). Or at the very least, I have thanked them for their efforts during the war. They don't usually react very much to that, but I doubt they hear that very often and I think they deserve to hear it a whole lot. I have found that some of them seemed to enjoy the opportunity to have someone who wanted to listen to them. I will never forget one of these gentlemen who had experienced being a prisoner of the Germans as well as taking some of them prisoner. He told me the German women were the very worst. He told me that he ran into more than one who would make a point of shooting Allied prisioners in the knee so they could never fight again. I certainly believed him. It was chilling. But, it's strange that I've never met many older gentleman who appeared to have been shot in the knee.

Last edited by Joanie; 05-17-2010 at 08:26 PM.
#43
Old 05-17-2010, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
"Ah oughtta have you awl lahned up'n shot." Could this really have happened?
Yes, but it would even more Southern than you suggest.
#44
Old 05-17-2010, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers View Post
Yes, but it would even more Southern than you suggest.
What, they woudla strung 'em up from a tree?
#45
Old 05-17-2010, 11:03 PM
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Nah, just drawlier.
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