Friday, July 3, 2015

Conversations with Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons from the Commander of the Band of Brothers by Cole C. Kingseed

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: June 22, 2015

On the hellish battlefields of World War II Europe, Major Dick Winters led his Easy Company—the now-legendary Band of Brothers—from the confusion and chaos of the D-Day invasion to the final capture of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. But Winters’ story didn’t end there. It was only the beginning. He was a quiet, reluctant hero whose modesty and strength drew the admiration of not only his men, but millions worldwide. Now comes the story of Dick Winters in his last years as witnessed and experienced by his good friend, Cole C. Kingseed. Kingseed shares the formative experiences that made Winters such an effective leader. He addresses Winters’s experiences and leadership during the war, his intense, unbreakable devotion to his men, his search for peace both without and within after the war, and how fame forced him to make adjustments to an international audience of well-wishers and admirers, even as he attempted to leave a lasting legacy before joining his fallen comrades. Following Winters’ death on January 2, 2011, the outpouring of grief and adulation for one of this nation’s preeminent leaders of character, courage, and competence shows just how much of an impact Dick Winters left on the world. This is a story of leadership, fame, and friendship, and the journey of one man’s struggle to find the peace that he promised himself if he survived World War II.

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I asked for and received Conversations with Major Dick Winters: Life Lessons from the Commander of the Band of Brothers by Cole C. Kingseed for Christmas 2014, but I didn’t find time to dive into it until recently. One of the downsides of being a reviewer is that you work on a schedule and don’t always have time for the pieces no one asks you to review. Finding a gap was difficult, but when I did Kingseed’s work was at the top of my list.

Jumping into the first few chapters, I admit my first impressions were optimistic. The book started strong and I liked how Kingseed allowed Winters to speak for himself. The famed commander’s personality shines through his dialogue and I felt his reflections on his experience both during and after the war heartfelt, shrewd, and intuitive. Unfortunately, my admiration of the title was soon tainted by the author’s blatant hero worship, tendency toward repetition and overtly superior tone. 

I don’t doubt the author’s sincerity, but as a reader I felt Kingseed’s sentimentality suffocating. It prevented him from impartiality and detracted from Winters’ views. Kingseed’s retirement ceremony and discussions with his daughter seemed superfluous and I often felt annoyed with how far the author wandered from the intimate one-on-one discussions he shared with Major. 

When push comes to shove, Conversations with Major Dick Winters is not study on leadership, fame or struggle. It is a chronicle of Kingseed’s friendship with Winters and while I’ve nothing against that, I can’t help feeling disappointed that the publication failed to deliver the insights advocated on its jacket description. There are moments, quotes that I very much appreciated, but I don’t think the book compares to pieces like Easy Company Soldier or Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.

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“Wars do not make men great, but wars sometimes bring out the greatness in good men.”
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