I first saw the insignia of the 101st Airborne Division as a child. My mother worked at the Mount Rainier Ordinance Depot as a secretary.
“The Mount Rainier Ordnance Depot served the United States Army between 1942 and 1963 as a primary vehicle-, arms-, and missile-repair facility. This depot provided ordnance equipment to the Pacific area and Alaska in World War II. During the war nearly half the depot workers were women, most employed in mechanical work for the first time. These women workers, WOWs (Women Ordnance Workers), made a substantial contribution to the war effort. Following World War II, depot activities declined, but picked up during the Korean War and the Cold War.” -historylink.org/File/9028
I remember visiting the depot a couple of times. At some kind of an open house, I was able to fire a machine gun with corks for bullets. It was a little scary for a seven year old (1952), but fun. A few years later my parents purchased the La Casa Motel in Ponders Corner just off I-5, which was the closest motel to Fort Lewis. I remember seeing the eagle emblem and the 1st Cavalry Division. You can’t live in the Lakewood area and not see uniforms and insignias. I wish I had internet then, I could have looked up details on every one and read about battles and leadership.
In the mini-series Band of Brothers, which tells the story of the 101st Airborne Division we see two types of leadership. Company Commander Sobel vs Lt. Winters. In basic training Sobel constantly demeans and denigrates the soldiers under his command in Easy Company. I think if flogging had been allowed, he would have flogged (whipped) them. His men saw him as petty and vindictive. Winters on the other hand works with the men and encourages them.
After causing his own problem in a war game exercise, Sobel tries to create a diversion by reprimanding Winters for a bogus change of orders. Company non-commissioned officers vow that they will not follow Sobel into combat. They make a blanket request to no-longer serve as non-commissioned officers in Easy Company. With the invasion of Europe on the horizon, the colonel has a fit. He transfers one NCO and reduces one in rank. He ends up sending Sobel to a non-combat unit.
The 101st Airborne Division was activated on 16 August 1942. “During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord (the D-Day landings and airborne landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France), Operation Market Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands and its action during the Battle of the Bulge around the city of Bastogne, Belgium.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/101st_Airborne_Division
The 101st fought through the end of the war. Winter rose to the rank of major. Sobel had a lack of understanding of common infantry field craft such as land navigation and basic infantry combat tactics, as well as a habit of refusing to listen to the advice of fellow officers or NCOs. Although some of the Band of Brothers story had a little Hollywood sweetening, and was squeezed down a bit, its portrayal of leadership made sense.
During the Battle of the Bulge, 1st Lieutenant Norman S. Dike Jr. was company commander. He earned the nicknamed “Foxhole Norman,” because he was never around. I liked the comment from one of his sergeants that he wasn’t a bad officer because he made bad decisions, but rather because he made no decisions. Leaders listen to advice and make decisions and act on those decisions. Winters was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross by General Omar Bradley after Normandy and left the army as a major. He later lectured on leadership at West Point.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the episodes of Band of Brothers. I use episode #1 at bedtime. I start about eight minutes into the story . . . Lt. Sobel is walking around his troops and taking away their earned 48 hour passes for made up infractions. I close my eyes. I hear his dress down . . . “You people are standing at the position of attention!” I sigh . . . and soon I am asleep.