In 2001, when a ten part miniseries came to our notice, the world immediately sat up and listened. It wasn’t just a story written for the big screen. It wasn’t something fabricated and given the Hollywood treatment. Band of Brothers was fact. It was historical. It was Easy Company.
Crossroads continues the story of Easy Company. Captain Winters is promoted to Executive Officer (XO) of 2nd Battalion and no longer has command of the Company. He is transferred to Battalion HQ and tasked with administrative duties which include typing field reports. He finds it incredibly hard to relinquish control, knowing that he can run the unit well and knowing what they are going to face. But he knows that he must and ensures that in Heyliger they have the best man to take them forward.
It’s October 1944 in Holland. Captain Winters heads to HQ with Nixon after he gave him a not so subtle awakening of throwing yellow liquid over him. The yellow liquid being Nixons own urine. Winters and Nixon laugh at the absurdity of the awakening. The simplicity of this scene shows the camaraderie between these two gentlemen. Two men, who if not forced together through the spoils of war, would most likely not be friends. Winters found Nixons drinking abhorrent.
Winters is asked by Colonel Sink to give a fully written battle report of how he took a ‘crossroads’ with his company. As he does so, we see him begin to recall events. Captain Winters flashes back to Liebgott coming in with the remainder of the patrol. Liebgott has a neck wound, procured during the fighting. After sharing where they located the Germans, Lipton is asked to get first squad to come with them to the crossroads.
The area is scouted, and the attack arranged. Machine gunners back up with covering fire while the company go up front with Winters. The viewers are shown a true leader in Richard Winters. He himself once said “if you’re a leader, you lead the way. Not just on the easy ones, you take the tough ones too.” This is demonstrated consistently though this episode and by extension, the series.
The following day, Winters leads the charge. A smoke grenade, slow to deploy, leaves the rest of Easy some way behind him. But, as his stature and morals dictate, that did not stop him. The surprise attack on German soldiers is a win.
Private David Webster assists in the clearing out of enemy soldiers. They claim they are Polish, but the SS insignia leads the soldiers of Easy to believe otherwise. Webster heads back to the aid station after a stray bullet gets him on his foot.
Liebgott is instructed to take the prisoners back to Battalion CP. Sensing Joes anger and realising that this might be a time that he cannot trust him to do the right thing, Winters leaves him with one bullet only, taking temptation away. The episode ends with Nixon and Winters heading back to CP. This not only takes the temptation to shoot them from Liebgott, but it also takes away the possibility of Winters being disappointed in him. By removing the bullets, he is telling Joe in a nonverbal way, ‘I get it, but don’t do it.’
The episode emphasises the strategic importance of Bastogne. The town was a crucial crossroads, and its capture by the Germans could have had dire consequences for the Allied advance. Easy Company’s mission to defend Bastogne becomes a symbol of the larger Allied effort in the Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of Bastogne was a gruelling engagement, and “Crossroads” portrays the soldiers’ immense sacrifices and acts of bravery. The scenes of soldiers enduring freezing temperatures and relentless enemy attacks highlight the physical and emotional toll of war.
We see many factors and qualities throughout this episode. Leadership and decision-making being top of the tier. While many would perceive that the leadership comes from the top, which it does, there is also the indirect leadership that is evident. Lipton, throughout the entire series demonstrates a cool and calm exterior that serves to put his men at ease. There is a respect with Lipton that is given to those who’ve earned it. In an interview, it was reported that when Damian Lewis and Donnie Wahlberg were in Boot Camp, Donnie told Damian, “I may not know you, but I know who you’re playing so you already have my respect.” That came through in the performance of Donnie Wahlberg.
Major Richard Winters continues to evolve as a central character. His decision-making under pressure and his commitment to his men earn him further respect and admiration. The episode also delves into the personal struggles and growth of other soldiers, such as Private David Webster, who grapples with the brutality of war.
Crossroads is gripping and emotionally charged. Intensive combat combined with character development aids the viewer in exploring dilemmas and challenges of war. Through the experiences of Winters, Malarkey and Company E, the episode displays a powerful and poignant portrayal of the human cost of war. It is a testament to the men of Easy, and the commitment to duty under the harshest of circumstances.
Easy Company were called up to aid in the defence of Bastogne, which was a key position at the intersection of seven major roads. Allied forces set up a perimeter around Bastogne and observed to be barely holding their line, despite constant artillery fire from the German lines.
The story largely follows combat medic Eugene “Doc” Roe (Shane Taylor) as he scrounges for much needed medical supplies amongst the men and in a local village. In the opening scene, Roe loses his way and finds a group of dead German soldiers. He quickly returns to Captain Winters’ (Damian Lewis) position, where Winters is engaged in taking a young German soldier prisoner. Among the German’s possessions, Winters finds a bandage, which he gives to the under-supplied Roe.
The German shelling continues, resulting in many deaths and injuries. The perseverance and resilience of the company is demonstrated time and again. Roe happens to be one of only two medics assigned and is busy much of the time attending to his fellow troops. He often returns to the town of Bastogne, where a poorly arranged hospital has been established. He befriends a local woman, Renee (Lucie Jeanne), who works as a nurse. During a run back to the hospital with a wounded man, the driver informs Roe that the Germans have captured the 362nd medical unit, leaving the Army even more shorthanded.