“Band of Brothers” fans are all familiar with the scene where 1st Lt. Richard “Dick” Winters, who Damian Lewis plays, is asked if he will take his punishment for his very minor offense or ask for a trial by court-martial.
Of course, Winters chooses to be court-martialed, shocking his commanding officer, Capt. Herbert Sobel, played by David Schwimmer, as he signs his paperwork. HBO’s World War II series is known for closely following actual events, and this particular incident is no deviation.
It actually happened. Erik Dorr’s book “Hang Tough: The WWII Letters and Artifacts of Major Dick Winters,” there is a copy of the actual reprimand with Winters’ signature on the bottom with his official request for court-martial.
At the beginning of the episode, the story follows Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment way before they invaded Normandy. They were under the command of Sobel, who is tough on his soldiers because he is concerned about how their performance reflects on him.
In sharp contrast, Winters puts the needs of the soldiers before his own, almost to a fault. It led to a strained relationship between the two men, and once they were in England, they had hit their breaking point.
In the book, there are photos that Winters had sent home. There was one of himself, and the other was of Sobel with a mustache drawn on his face. He included a rather critical description of his commanding officer, saying he did not know what the captain actually did, and he was in charge when the captain was not around, which was all the time.
While it may have been hilarious, it was a rather risky move, especially because Sobel was known to read the outgoing mail. He was punished for not inspecting the bathrooms in time, though he had changed the time and never actually told Winters.
Winters knew Sobel’s actions were wrong and requested the court-martial. However, while Winters awaited his court-martial, the noncommissioned officers decided they would not serve under Sobel.
Sobel was transferred from the unit and replaced by Lt. Thomas Meehan. Winters, of course, was behind forcing Sobel out of the unit, but he did it for the good of the men.