- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

Few forms of military history have been more abused than the history of the unit. The American Civil War spawned thousands of regimental histories in which every soldier was a hero.

More recently the genre has gained respectability as professional historians have studied the actions of individual units, particularly in World War II. Among the most prominent of such writers was the late Stephen Ambrose, and one of his best books is “Band of Brothers,” the story of one company of the 101st Airborne Division, from its training days in the United States to VE Day.

If there is a star in Ambrose’s book and the TV series based on it, he is Capt. (later Maj.) Dick Winters, who commanded Easy Company in the 506th Parachute Infantry regiment. According to Ambrose, Mr. Winters was a natural leader who got his men to perform because he expected the best, and “you liked him so much you just hated to let him down.”

Now Mr. Winters, with Col. Cole C. Kingseed, has written his own book: Beyond Band of Brothers (Berkley Caliber, $24.95, 292 pages). Mr. Winters was an athletic, church-going Pennsylvanian in 1941 when he decided to get his military service behind him by enlisting in the Army for one year. Pearl Harbor assured that he would not be going home in 12 months, so Mr. Winters volunteered for service in the elite airborne divisions then being formed.

After rigorous training in Georgia, Mr. Winters and the 506th were shipped to England to prepare for the invasion of France. In southern England, he had the good fortune to be billeted with a British family to whom he became devoted.

At dawn on D-day, Mr. Winters, like many other paratroopers, found himself in strange terrain, surrounded by enemies — and a few friends. He gathered a handful of men from Easy Company and soon found a critical target: a battery of German cannon beginning to shell Utah Beach. In a three-hour fight, Mr. Winters’ men captured three of the guns, for which Mr. Winters won the Distinguished Service Cross. In his book he concludes that “our natural adrenaline, coupled with the elements of surprise and audacity, compensated for some foolish mistakes.”

Mr. Winters soon became commander of Easy Company, which he led in Holland and at Bastogne. “Stress and combat,” he writes, “created a special bond that only exists in an infantry company at war.” Although he would command a battalion by the end of the war, his heart belonged to Easy Company. “I never considered myself a killer,” Mr. Winters writes, “nor did I ever develop a hatred for the individual German soldier. I merely wanted to eliminate them.”

Not everything in the book reflects favorably on the American soldier. Mr. Winters tells how one officer, infuriated that a sergeant refused to move his squad forward, killed him with a shot in the head. There was no investigation. On another occasion Mr. Winters’ regimental commander, in his cups, ordered a patrol that Mr. Winters considered unnecessary and certain to generate heavy casualties. He told his company to ignore the commander’s order and to say nothing about it. The incident was soon forgotten.

Offered a commission in the regular Army in 1945, Mr. Winters declined in favor of a career in cattle feed. But he never forgot his comrades of Easy Company, and this modest memoir tells much of why the Germans lost the war in the West.

America has never known a period quite like the 1920s. On one hand, flapper girls and speakeasy proprietors flouted conventional morals and laws. At the same time, Billy Sunday and William Jennings Bryan spoke to millions in the language of religious fundamentalism. Somewhere between these extremes came Bruce Barton, an advertising tycoon who believed that religious faith could lead to success in business. Barton is now the subject of a fine biography by Richard M. Fried, a University of Illinois professor: The Man Everybody Knew: Bruce Barton and the Making of Modern America (Ivan R. Dee, $27.50, 277 pages).

Barton was born in 1886, the son of a circuit-riding Tennessee preacher. When his father was called to a congregation in Oak Park, Ill., young Bruce grew up in the north. He sold newspapers at age nine and was determined to work his way through college. He graduated from Amherst in 1907, paying his way by selling pots and pans. His classmates voted him “most likely to succeed.”

Barton went to New York City, where he joined the advertising staff of Colliers magazine. He wrote upbeat articles with titles like “It’s a Good Old World” for various publications. In 1918 the federal government asked him to chair a war fund drive. The outgoing Barton became friends with several advertising executives, and they decided to establish their own agency after the war.

“By 1920,” Mr. Fried writes, “neon-lighted signs selling dental cream, autos, Coke, two cigarette brands, and other products chased away the night in New York’s Times Square.” Barton’s advertising venture was known as Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, and soon became one of the most prosperous agencies on Madison Avenue. Magazines were its primary medium. Barton created an ad for General Motors that pictured a girl near death, attended by her grieving mother and a doctor whose trusty GM car had allowed him to treat her in the nick of time.

Although Barton continued to write uplifting essays, he would have been unknown to the public had he not written a book about Jesus titled “The Man Nobody Knows.” The Jesus of the nineteenth century had traditionally been meek and mild. As the new century dawned, however, male Christians demanded a more virile Jesus, the type of person who would throw money lenders out of the temple. Barton the advertising magnate had never entirely forgotten his religious roots, and in Mr. Fried’s words, he “stood squarely with those Christians who insisted on a masculine Jesus.”

Barton’s Jesus was a sociable fellow who, at the wedding feast of Cana, changed water into wine “to keep a happy party from breaking up too soon.” One chapter hailed Jesus as the father of modern business: “He picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.” The book was a huge success, topping the nonfiction bestseller list for two years. Barton came to embody the view that religious faith could bring success in business — that godliness was in league with riches.

In time Barton tired of the advertising business and turned his attention to politics. He was twice elected to Congress as an opponent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. In 1940, Roosevelt claimed that his most virulent opponents in Congress were “Martin, Barton and Fish,” a resonant phrase that included Barton, Congressmen Joseph Martin of Massachusetts and Hamilton Fish of New York.

Defeated in 1940 in a campaign for the United States Senate, Barton went back to advertising. The age of boosterism had been overtaken first by depression and then by war, and there was no place for Bruce Barton.

John M. and Priscilla S. Taylor are writers in McLean, Va.

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