In 2001, the world was gifted a TV show like nothing ever seen before. Of course, we all know about World War 2, and the situations that the troops faced, but the show that arrived on our screens gave us a new slant on things.
Band of Brothers arrived, courtesy of Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who also served as producers. It is a 2001, American war drama miniseries. It arrived to us in ten episodes, and was based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s book of the same name. Episode one aired on HBO on September 9, 2001 and gathered Emmy’s and Golden Globe awards on its path.
The series focuses on the history of ‘Easy company’, 2nd battalion , 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101stAirborne Division. It focuses on ‘Easy’ ,from jump training in the USA through all of the actions until the end of World War 2. As well as being based on Ambrose’s book, there were extensive interviews completed with the veterans. Each episode begins with an excerpt from the interviews but the real trump card is saved until the end of the finale. It is here where you discover who each of the interviewees actually are.
While writing my own review for the show Band of Brothers Review I came across the name Chris Langlois. It wasn’t a name that was synonymous with any of the Easy Company soldiers and so I dug a little further.
If you’ve watched the series, you will know the name ‘Eugene Roe’. If you’ve watched the series you will know he was Easy`s medic. Chris Langlois is his grandson and graciously agreed to spare me some time for an interview.
Who is Chris Langlois? Tell me about yourself.
Hello!! I’m originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I graduated Louisiana State University with a degree in International Economics. While in college, watching the tv show “Cops” made me want to become one.
Life took it’s own twists and I moved to Dallas, Texas to see the big city. Not until I was 35 years old did I finally become what I was meant to do and now, I’m a Dallas Police officer. I’m a street cop and always will be. I have a lovely daughter, Julia, who’s 10.
What are your memories of your grandad when you were growing up?
Grandad was always ‘PawPaw’. PawPaw always had “dirt pits” when I was growing up. He would move up and down the local rivers and load dirt, sand and gravel in 18-wheelers. I do have particular memories of going to visit and climbing on his backhoe and bulldozer, which was an adventure for any little boy. He smoked Lucky Strikes until it killed him in 1998. That, with being outside in construction all his adult life made his skin tanned and wrinkled. He always wore cowboy boots and drove a pickup truck.
Please share with us, who is your grandad?
My grandfather was called Eugene. He was ‘Doc Roe. He always be remembered for being a medic in Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne during WWII, the “Band of Brothers.” He joined right after Toccoa and is the only medic in the company to go from the D-Day jump to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, with no time off the line for injuries.
At what age did you first realise who your grandad was?
When we are young children, we don’t always look at our grandparents with an appreciation for their life. Before filming, the actor who played PawPaw, had contacted my aunt Maxine and they traded a few emails. But other than that, we had no other information of what was to come. We didn’t appreciate the scope of what PawPaw had done and been through during the war.
In 2001, the Roe family were notified late that we could attend the premiere of “Band of Brothers” in Normandy. While we weren’t able to stay in the main hotel in Paris with everyone else, it was our first real introduction to Roe’s part in Easy Company and the war
At what age did you start to hear what he had been through?
While I was a Sophomore in college, the book “Band of Brothers” came out. I went home one Sunday to get my clothes washed and to get some of mom’s cooking. She handed me copy of the book, signed by PawPaw. Being a good college student, I flipped to the back and in the index, where I noted that he was listed 3 times. I read those short paragraphs, snapped the book closed and thought to myself, “Guess he didn’t do much in the war.” I didn’t know, I really had no idea what was to come.
At what age did you start to hear about easy company?
As I mentioned, I had seen the Band of Brothers book when I was in college, but I don’t think the enormity of it all really sunk in. The trip to Paris and Normandy in 2001 really started it all for me. I remember checking in with HBO and said, “We’re the Roe family.” The lady replied, “Oh, you’re gonna love episode Six, it’s all about your grandfather.” And I thought, “Why would it be about my grandfather? He’s only on 3 pages in the book!”
What stories did he share with you?
He didn’t share anything with me. He only shared a few stories with his kids, one being how he drove a truck full of Goring’s liquor at Berchtesgaden. He didn’t share any of the bad ones though, except for one. He did tell my aunt about treating one of the guys who had the top of his head shot off and he just kinda flipped it back over. I’ve always wondered if that was Grant, who was shot by friendly fire.
What were the effects on him when he shared with you?
If I am honest, I would have to say, I am not actually sure. He married a British girl he met on the southern coast of England while training before D-Day. They were engaged and he stood her up on their wedding day, June 6, 1944. Then they married after he got back.
Just a few years ago, my mother said something that struck me, “I don’t think the man my mother got engaged to is the same man who came back from war.” It all made sense to me then, as Roe drank a lot after the war and it was a main cause of his divorce. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was self-medicating his PTSD.
How did it affect you hearing the stories?
Hearing stories about Roe from others, as he had passed away before the series aired, changed my life forever.
In Normandy in 2001, I was meeting the actors, most of whom I had no idea who they were. I’d say, “I’m a grandson of Doc Roe.” They’d shake MY hand and say, “He was an angel.” I didn’t understand. They knew more about my grandfather than I did. They knew what he had done. I didn’t.
Then talking to the veterans and hearing their words but more importantly, seeing their faces as they talked about him, I knew then, he had been a hero in the war, if only to the men he cared for and treated. So, he became my hero too.
“Band of Brothers” is now a daily part of my life, from the social media to the framed prints on my walls to the shirts I wear. My good friends are the Malarkeys, the Comptons, the Luzs, the Gordons. So the miniseries has impacted my life dramatically.
How was “Doc Roe Publishing” born and can you tell me a little about it?
In the years after the miniseries, we started losing the men more rapidly. Guys like Malarkey, Bill and Babe, Compton and Winters were not only stalwarts of the unit, they spoke to kids at schools about their wartime experiences. They were special men. To take such experiences and relay them, to schools in such a respectful and meaningful manner took courage.
Then, the idea hit me, if I could make a PowerPoint presentation that could be sent to anyone, anywhere, they could give a presentation to kids in schools too. Then I realized, I knew nothing of PowerPoint.
I had been wanting to write a book since I was a child and here was my opening.I thought to myself, I can write a book. I can write this book as a self-contained story that doesn’t require an extra effort on a presentation.
What is your book title?
“How Easy Company Became a Band of Brothers”
What is your book about?
I’ve basically retold the story of “Band of Brothers” in 60 pages. I wanted it to be illustrated so it was reach children first and foremost. In fact, it started out as a “children’s book.”
How did your book come to fruition?
So, I started writing and figured it would take me 3 months. 18 months later, it was done. I was referred to my artist, Anneke Helleman, by a buddy of mine who was a London Bobby at the time. He said I had to have Anneke. She already has a passion for WWII just being Dutch. They suffered under the Nazis for 5 years. But too, the 101st was a main liberator for them so it just worked out perfectly. She paints on the back of leather jackets, like the WWII bomber airmen, for people all over the world.
As I was writing, I was looking for material that you would not have seen in the book or in the miniseries. So, I spent a lot of time researching online and in other books to give the reader something new.
But I soon realized, it takes a long time to condense the Battle of the Bulge into 1 or 2 pages.
What is the aim of your book?
I like to say, we have many to “reach and teach” about our WWII heroes. While my book idea started out as a “children’s book” I wanted it to appeal to both students and adults. So I feel that I worked both consciously and subconsciously to make that happen. I’ve received high praise for the effort from so many and have to remind myself that I accomplished the goal of pleasing readers from age 6 to 80.
I hope the book is enjoyable, informative and inspirational to every reader. I hope it’s a springboard to more books and resources that will grow one’s appreciation to the service and sacrifice these guys made for freedom.
I started a non-profit, the Band of Brothers Family Foundation, which is made up of the “kids” of the Easy veterans. We raise money and donate copies of my book to schools.
I’ve done several book signings across America and in Normandy and Bastogne. I’m happy that museums in the U.S. and Europe sell my book in their bookstores. I’m blessed to have friends who have donated their time to translate my book into French, Dutch and German as they share my passion to make sure the next generations never forget. I’ve personally mailed my book to 22 countries outside the U.S., the latest being China, something I never dreamed would be a reality. But it is certainly a testament to the power of the miniseries, these 20 years later.
The Easy veterans had their last official reunion in 2012. But the bond that the “Easy kids” have formed means we still do the reunions. So I’ve helped organize those. 2021 was the 75th reunion. I like to think the men are looking down with smiles that we are continuing to honour not only them as people, but their sacrifices too. Like them, each year, we toast those who didn’t make it home.
I would imagine you have met many of the veterans during your time. While all deserve monumental respect for their service, is there a particular person you’ve met, that stands out to you and why?
The medics will always have a special place in my heart. I talked quite a bit to Ed Pepping and Al Mampre over the years, both served in the 506th and both of whom knew PawPaw. Those two guys in particular just drew anyone in. They had a personality and a heart that was meant for people. They always had a smile and a joy. I miss them probably the most.
What’s next for you?
Well, like most authors, your first book makes you want to write more. So I’m working on another book about Easy Company, using an artist who does his work on the computer. It’s a different medium than hand-drawn with pens and paint like Anneke’s. I think the computer allows the vivid details that kid’s these days are used to. “Patrick the Paratrooper” will tell Easy’s story from a 10-year old joining Easy and serving through the war. It has a neat twist at the end that I hope everyone will get a kick out of. It’ll be more for elementary age children whereas my first book is middle school and up. It’s never too early to plant the seed and get them interested in our WWII heroes.
Given the way of the world right now and with all the negative press the police get these days, I wanted to do a children’s book about what police do, so that’s in the works also.
My big project is a partnership with Ross Owen where we’ve interviewed 50 of the actors from “Band of Brothers” and also, several of the crew. We want to give an insight into the Band of Brothers: behind the scenes, from both sides of the camera for the fans. As a fan myself, there’s some awesome stories yet to be told! Captain Dale Dye has agreed to be the publisher on this one.
Good Luck with your future endeavours Chris.
Thank you for your time, your candour and your love for everything that your Grandfather stood for.
It has been such a pleasure to hear your stories and share the words. I feel like there is only one way to end this interview.