The video game "Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway" tells the story of a squad in the 101st Airborne Division as it fought through the Netherlands in September 1944.
The 101st — or Screaming Eagles — participated in some of the most dramatic events of World War II in Europe, so it’s no surprise that it’s been the focus of innumerable books and movies, as well as games.
Perhaps the best portrayal appears in the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers," which first aired in 2001 but is readily available on DVD.
The 10-episode miniseries is based on the book of the same name by historian Stephen Ambrose. The book tells the story of the division’s Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, from training in Georgia at the beginning of World War II to occupation duty at the war’s end. The miniseries was brought to the screen with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg serving as executive producers, about three years after they worked together on "Saving Private Ryan."
Each hourlong episode starts with reminiscences by actual Easy Company veterans before leaping into the action. The series touches on training under a ruthless company commander, barracks humor, anxiety before missions, sheer terror and agonizing loss. In addition, many of the scenes aren’t for the squeamish.
The best episodes focus on the unit’s most famous engagements. "Day of Days" covers the parachute drop into Normandy on June 6, 1944, and climaxes with the dramatic capture of a German gun emplacement. "Replacements" recounts Operation Market Garden — the subject matter of the video game. However, "Carentan," which occurs just after D-Day, and "The Breaking Point," which occurs just after the Battle of the Bulge, are strong episodes, too.
Some of the episodes are less-than-action-packed, but are necessary to present a realistic portrait of the soldiers at war. For example, "Bastogne" focuses less on fighting than on the mental wear and tear caused by warfare.
Overall, the episodes offer an excellent overview of life as a World War II paratrooper — and one that’s far more comprehensive than any you’ll find in a video game.
For those wishing to learn more about the unit, the obvious place to turn is Ambrose’s book. It was published a decade before the miniseries first aired, but is readily available in paperback.
In addition, some of the soldiers portrayed in the miniseries have written memoirs that have been released over the past two years. They are:
• "Beyond Band of Brothers," by Dick Winters, who commanded the company in France and the Netherlands.
• "Call of Duty: My Life Before, During, and After the Band of Brothers," by Lynn "Buck" Compton.
• "Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II’s ‘Band of Brothers,’ " by Don Malarkey.
• "Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends," by Robyn Post, who interviewed William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron.