Biggest Brother – Book Review
Book Review: Biggest Brother – The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers
When you mention Major Dick Winters, many things come to mind to those who have seen the HBO series “Band of Brothers,” — paratrooper, great leader, good tactician and cool under fire. These qualities might very well be true, but what of the man behind them? Where in his life did Dick Winters develop these traits, and how did the war affect him?
The book “Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers” attempts to answer these questions. Author Larry Alexander, spent time with Dick Winters, and using those hours and other sources gives us a glimpse into Winter’s life before, during, and after the war.
The book like most biographies deal with the early life of its subject, Biggest Brother is no different. Dick Winters, like most of the men in Easy Company grew up during the depression; it was this experience that taught him the value of hard work and determination. This is evident in his pre-war life and carries on through the present as the reader can see Winters face obstacles, adapt and overcome. This quiet man is a solid example of the many of his generation that faced the horrors of war and came through to build a better world for their children.
As expected, the majority of the book is concerned with the Easy company experiences of Major Winters. Surprisingly, this is perhaps the most disappointing part of the entire book. I was looking forward to more insight and maybe a few new stories from the man himself, but found that almost all of the stories were repeated from those that can be found in Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. A few pieces of the stories may be new, but there are really no new tales of his war-time activities.
The book does follow Winters in the post-war years, and shows that he did fulfill his promise to find a quiet piece of land and settle down. The road to this was filled with many opportunities to use the skills that he learned in Easy Company, as he worked in management and made a successful transition to corporate success.
In my opinion, the best part of this book is in the appendix. Many readers skip the appendix, and in this case, that would be a big mistake. The appendix outlines Winters’ personal theories of leadership. “Hang tough,” doing your best every day, is a simple idea, but when you break it down, it is true. If you do your best you might not always succeed, but you will have no regrets. In listing his thoughts on the important qualities of a good leader, Winters feels that the best point is to be honest and fair with those that you deal with. If you do that, others will respect you and will follow your lead. A last point to share is that you need to make up your mind quickly and do it, right or wrong. It is important to lead rather than wait for consensus.
Dick Winters, while not setting out to be a hero, has had that honor thrust upon him with the HBO series, and the many books about Easy Company and its commanding officer. There is necessarily much more to the man than the stories that have been written to date, while the book Biggest Brother, tries to examine Winters, it is unable to get a much clearer view of the man that led the band of brothers. Overall I would recommend the book as it is interesting and entertaining yet I hope that other books can bring us a clearer picture of Dick Winters.