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Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Why Herbert Sobel?

I picked the name Herbert Sobel for a couple of reasons. Cpt. Sobel, who died in 1988, is/was my 2nd cousin once removed. Stephen Ambrose vilified him in his book Band of Brothers, an otherwise excellent account of the actions of E Co. 2nd of the 506 PIR during WWII. But Mr. Ambrose neglected to ask Sobel's family about the man, instead choosing to immortalize him in history based solely on the accounts of the men he trained. As a result, the popular culture version of Herbert Sobel from HBO's miniseries is that of a man who is a martinet, and nothing more. Although Mr. Ambrose is also dead, making any revisions of his book unlikely, I would point out that Sobel's relatives remember him as a troubled person who felt it was his duty to push his men to the limit for their benefit, and who could not understand their ill-concealed resentment. I'll go into this in more detail as time allows, but I'll finish by noting that the survivors of E company, by all the accounts I can find, overwhelmingly credit their survival to the harsh training of Herbert Sobel. The Lesson? History is written by the winners and by the survivors, so do your best to outlive your enemies and maybe you'll get a fair entry into the history books.


Dude with out reading what you wrote i knew that... Sorry about his death. He seemed like a great man, a Troubled Great man I read he had mental problems and took it all out on Easy
Training is what makes a man ready for his duty. Trainers are not expected to be popular. They don't get elected to the position and sure wouldn't be voted into the job by the men they trained after the fact.

History is always a version of popular culture. J.E.B. Stuart's acheivements were made folly 15 years after his death by James Longstreet, another Confederate General. Longstreet was defending his ineptness at Gettysburg and placed the blame on Stuart for leaving the Army of Northern Virgina without any cavalry. The records show that one third of the cavalry was detached from Stuart and placed under General Longstreet for the campaign.

The film "The Caine Mutiny" comes to mind. Captain Queeg wasn't popular, but his officers did not support him or help him.

Herbert Sobel did his job. I'm sure others would have been better at it. I'm sure others would have been worse at it.

Ambrose seems to think Eisenhower was the greatest leader of all time. Ike did his job the best way he could. Popular culture seems to mock Douglas MacArthur. "Dougout Doug" and the anti-military attitude of M*A*S*H have personified MacArthur as a war mongering, showboating, prima-donna. In reality, MacArthur was a dedicated genius who acheived objectives with lighter casualties than his contemporaries, Eisenhower, Nimitz, and Bradley.

Be proud of your relative and his service. He was there doing the job before Pearl Harbor. I'm sure the records reflect a different picture of him, just as the records show a different picture of JEB Stuart.
Found your blog looking for more on the true personal
history of Herbert Sobel.

I among many other persons want to know more about this man. Why did his family, in your words, describe him as "troubled"? Is it true that no immediate family member came to his funeral? Did he really harbor bitterness against Easy Company for the rest of his days?

His son Michael has written that his father was never cruel or malicious, that Herbert Sobel adored his wife.
Yet he divorced, and Ambrose, through Sobel's sister, was told that he was estranged from his children.

IMHO. Ambrose did not villify Sobel, so much as record the impressions of others in service with him I feel he gave credit where credit was due; though the pages of BoB didn't have a lot of high praise for him, there was acknowlegement of his contributions to the core of Easy.

What is undeniable is that people want to know more about what became of him. Can you offer any insight or accurate details about the life and career of Sobel?
I agree that most of the public perception of Herbert Sobel comes from Ambrose's interviews with E CO survivors. bblatt's perception comes in part from an anecdote I related to him.

A few years ago, I encountered my cousin, the late Howard Sobel, at a relative's bar mitzvah. He asked about my uniform and current service, and the conversation led to WWII. Howard was involved in logistics, and was stationed in England. He related this story: On a day prior to D-Day a trooper from the 101st came into his supply room. Howard asked if he knew his 1st cousin, Herbert. The response went something like, "that mother@#!% son-uv-a-@##!@! @$#$#hole! What a bastard! I hate him!" After VE Day, the same soldier stopped by Howard's post, and told him that he'd only survived the war because of CPT Sobel's training.

Howard then went on to tell me that nobody had asked Herbert's side of the war, or had bothered to delve into his life before and after WWII. Howard remembered him as troubled and misunderstood. Prior to their deaths, Howard had corresponded with Ambrose and taken him to task for his one-sided account of CPT Sobel.

Let me add that I have nothing but the greatest respect for all the officers and men of E CO. They, along with all who served (including my mother, father, uncle, and many other relatives and friends), sacrificed much in order to preserve the country and freedoms we enjoy today.
Maj. Winter's view of the then Lt. Sobel seemed universal throughout the men and officers of his company. While I'm Sure your cousin was probably trying to do what he thought best, unfortunately there are many people who try to be leaders but are just not suited for the job. In this respect by all accounts he was a good "trainer" but a poor leader. The difference being the former does not need the respect of his men, the latter can't do without it. This is something many people who have never served in uniform just don't understand, unfortunately by all accounts your cousin didn’t seem to understand this either. AR Al_Renner@sbcglobal.net
From what I have read about Lt. Sobel, he was at the top of the list when it came to training impressionable young men for combat. But training for, and being in combat are two entirely different situations. Herbert Sobel did E company a great service preparing them for war, and his separation from the company was both timely and necessary.
Is Captain Sobels final resting place in the Chicago area ? I would like to visit his grave site and place some flowers there...I believe he was somewhat misunderstood.....a good trainer but perhaps lacking in refined leadership...
With a long line of military history in the family I couldn't think of a better man than Sobel to prepare the sword nor a better man than Winters to wield it. This is what they call synergy...where the sum is greater than the parts.
I just finished reading "band." I think Ambrose was sympathetic to Sobel and stressed that it was his training a Taccoa that got them through the rough stuff. Sure - he did point out that he wasn't the best leader - and thank god he didn't lead them into combat. But he was a great instructor. God Bless Sobel and God rest his soul.
It´s obvious that the late Captain Sobel was an extremely efficient PT instructor, but that was all. He lacked the capacity to respect his men as people, and lacked of knowledge in other important stuff like land navigation, map reading, and field tactics.
When I was in boot camp at the Marine Corps I met with people in attitudes like him, but they were concentrated in honing our skills in certain specialty. Our Senior Drill Instructor was a character that joined both the wisdom and judging of a leader with the toughness of a bull. When our unit went to Desert Storm that pressure in the training paid for itself. An instructor MUST be tough, but wise in its judgements too, Mr. Sobel didn´t have that combination of skills. Maybe due to wartime haste, the PIR trained the officers with the enlisted at the same time, but that didn´t gave the option to mix people later and create outfits with the perfect balance in their ranks.
Semper Fi !
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hm, I was watching the "Replacements" ep of Band of Brothers, and Sobel has been made Company Suply Officer and it seems that he had tracked down Easy Co so he could prevent a motorcycle from being apporpriated by Malarkey. HAHAHA. The way the ep was directed (by David Nutter), it would appear that Sobel played by David Schwimmer deliberatly gave Popeye a ride just so he could prevent Malarkey's Motorcycle theft.

I stopped the video and popped "Herbert M Sobel" into Google and this blog popped up. Well, it seems that the writer of the episodes of BoB were using creative licence to make Sobel into some kind of Comic Relief.

However, watching the episode "Currahee" you KNOW that Sobel, although unliked, really did a good job training. I had friends in the Air force and the Navy that talked about instructors that were just like Schwimmer/Sobel, so I just chalked Sobel as depicted by Schwimmer as the normal mode of training in the military.

But as good as the guy was at training, it would seem that Easy Co did not respect him, especially regarding the fiasco about court martialling Winters for something that was just stupid. I don't know if the details given in the book and the series are what really happened, but if Sobel really did this, it would seem that Winters and Sobel were on different planets, Sobel thinking Winters would just accept discipline for something he was not responsible for. I myself would side with Winters, and I would have done the same in the same circumstances. On the other hand, Sobel thought that he could use the same kind of intimidation techniques on Winters, and Wiunters was just too stong a personality for it to work, ahaha: So it backfired.

IN the end Truth Outs, Winters being the better soldier I mean when it came to actual fighting and planning, seeming to grasp the idea of Maps and Locations like it was second nature. Also, his ability to see the best way to approach a situation, made him the better man to eventually lead Easy Co.

I do not want to believe however that Sobel was as big a jerk as was portrayed by Schwimmer- Whose acting makes us think, "G-d what a jerk!" when we see what this guy did. But I refuse to just simply believe the depiction from book and moovie, and every man must have some qualities that are good, and I am sure Sobel did, and I want to believe that if Sobel was not such a hard arsed disciplinarian, more of Easy Co would have been killed on the Day of Days.

But history just does not respect certain things, and forgets, that it was Sobel that toughened up these guys and trained em how to drop. Maybe BoB was not fair to not just Sobel, but others as well: It seems that the soldier named Bligh (correct me) did not in fact die in 1948 cos of his wounds, but in fact he stayed in the military, seems like he was in Vietnam.

So, slthough the writer of BoB is not with us as well as Sobel, it seems that someone ought to write a sidenote to some future edition of BoB, maybe relatives of Sobel and Blythe (that's it- Blythe!) ought to write some addendum to be put in future editions of the book BoB's

However, anyway you look at it, BoB is a story about Easy Company, and Sobel just was not part of Easy Co after a certain point, except for various times he came across them during thee course of the war.

So, no disrespect to Sobel really, but more to Schwimmer, for overemphasizing the things the guy did that were seemingly bad.
Sobel was a great instructor. Any soldier can agree with that. But he was a poor combat leader. I can underrstand Col. Sink transferring him.
A disciplinarian, your relative ought to have been placed as a master in some military schools. Leading an entire company when you have some trouble with your sense of direction could be disastrous. E Company could have run out of ammos because of some `sudden hustling of the leaves...´
Had he not been replaced as Easy's CO he would have been killed on D-Day, because the CO's plane was hit right?
I have read all of the comments and many are way of base. First, the job of a leader during training such as Airborne school will breakdown the individual in order to mold that individual into thinking of their squad, platoon and company. Combat soldiers fight in units, not individually. Second, Sobel lost respect of his me due to his incompetence period. Great leaders lead great men. I lead men into combat. Hell, I have more "real" combat time then most. My men followed me because they knew that the decisions I made will bring them home alive. By the way, there is no such title "trainor" in the United States Army. They are instructors. Leave it to a civilian to try to understand training, leadership, and combat.
Like others, I believe Capt. Sobel deserves a lot of credit for Easy Company's survival and success. It's unfortunate that his shortcomings as a combat leader were discovered and dealt with as they were. His career might have turned out much differently if he had been retained stateside as a "maker of men" rather than a "leader of men." Still, he made his contribution to the Allied victory and we should be grateful for that.

It is good to see such interest regarding Herbert Sobel. I have never met the man, nor would I have heard of him if it hadn’t been for BoB. But I suppose like most of the authors of these comments I feel as though an injustice may have been done against Sobel. I wont dwell on the man himself, but on the instructor in the man. A good instructor will always detach himself from his recruits. This distance during intensive training keeps individuals not only alert, but on their toes. This in turn creates a disciplined learning environment where the collective effort of the individuals through discipline, endurance and commitment bond them together, thus creating a team. Sobel created a team, a team that became an elite airborne company, a company that were an integral part of a machine that ended a world war. No one can deny him, his contribution. However, Sobel being a mere mortal, had both strengths and weaknesses. I believe as do most, that Sobel was a good instructor, however, I am not 100% happy that he was a bad leader. It is clear that his weakness was leadership, but it is important to ask yourself, was this exasperated by a lack of confidence due to his inability to map read, or to tactically asses combat situations? This would then be further compounded by his feelings of isolation created by his own training standards. My point is, if a weakness is so identifiable that SNCO’s stand against an officer in times of war, be it under training conditions. Then the officers senior should have identified the weakness a long time before and dealt with it. Moving Sobel was not dealing with it, it was moving the problem on. What Sobel needed, was what any person with a weakness needs… TRAINING. If Captain Sobels Major or Colonel, had been the leaders they have been portrayed to be, then they would have identified this problem and dealt with it as officers should. That is unless the eventual outcome and Sobels move had been designed from the start. Sorry for ranting, just a few of my views

PS BoB, great series.
As a veteran myself, that was also raised by a USMC Recon Ranger instructor a lot like Eastwood's Gunny Hiway character, I can say this:

Training is to prepare you for how the ENEMY is going to treat you.
They will not give a rat's ass about your feelings, your pride, or your life.
They will try to break you or kill you - depending on the circumstance.

One more thing:
Hindsight is NOT always 20/20 when it come's to oneself.
In fact, it can be quite myopic.

That is all.
i am from romania and i am a former paratrooper.I think the E co. were the best because their cpt trained well .
Maybe cpt Sobel was not a leader that you will follow in a battlefield but he well trained them phisicaly .
I'm always a little suspicious of dramatised accounts of true events. However, if BoB is to be believed, Cpt Sobel does indeed to be an arsehole as a person - for what deeper seated reasons, we don't fully know. However, it is his petulent behaviour (the Winters court martial, the 'spaghetti incident') which highlights this. Despite this,there can surely be little doubt that, as an instructor, he was superb.
Similarly, there can be little doubt that as a leader, he would have been very poor, as he did not have the respect of his men (remember, you dont have to like someone, to respect them - Sobel had neither from his men. Additionally, he could not effectively lead in combat situations.
Having seen both the accounts as well the interviews with Maj Winters, he strikes me both as a skilled and repected leader, but also a wise and thoughtful man. However, would he have been as effective an instructor as Sobel? I doubt it. Would Easy Company have been as effective without the diverse lesdership of both men? Again, I doubt it. Both men deserve our admiration, but unfortunately, one is a hero and one a villain, less out of choice but more out of the necessity of their respective roles.
`I will not follow that man into combat.´
Well said, Bill.
One more thing, tyranny is never justified, even in the name of training, instruction, whatever.
Matheson and Speirs were also very tough on training, but they were respected.
Sobel must have something in him that he never gained respect.
Please, again, can someone please post where Sobel is buried? Despite all that is continually written and said about him, for better or for worse, some of us simply would like to pay our quiet respects to him at graveside.
New Insight read BIGGEST BROTHER the life of Major Dick Winters by:Larry Alexander. Sobel was nothing more then a drill Sgt. others could have done what he did and still got the respect of his men that he would fight with. it was said in this book that Winters wondered "if Sobel appreciated the fact that, had he not been relieved of command of Easy, it would have been him and not Tomas Meehan who died in the fiery plane crash on June 6." pg. 93
More from Biggest Brother. Pg. 246-227. "...many of the surviving members of Easy credit Sobel and his harsh policies with helping to forge them into a first-rate fighting unit. Winters never bought into that belief." Continuing from the sorse. "He didn't make us a better outfit," he (Winters) said in 2002 "He just made things worse then they had to be." Pg. 284 Dick Winters on leadership "...It is impossible to imagine what would have been the result if we had been led into battle by Sobel. he had driven the men to the point of mutiny, more important, he had lost their respect. If he had been in command, more men would have died in battle. Speirs had the men's respect. He had my respect. We both knew he would get the job done."
Winters did talk by phone to a woman who identifyed herself as the sister of Captin Sobel. She took offense to the way the book Band of Brothers depicted her brother. She told him of a "nice guy with a good sence of humor and a good brother." in a interview with the author of Biggest Brother Winters said after relating the phone conversation with sister of Sobel "we had not known Herbert as well as we could have... But that did not eexcuse his behavior or his tactical deficiencies A military academy is one thing the army is another. For us it was the real army, and it's life or death and you're going to go into combat with this man, not just school, so you take it a little different."
and if anyone is interested another sorse will soon be out check Barnes & Noble for the release of a book titled Beyond Band of Brothers.
It's every drill sergeant's duty to push the kids to their limit... and to humiliate them to their death... it's just they've gotta do. Soldiers would have to go through harsh conditions in war(like in bastogne), and it's the trainers' duty to prepare them well for that.
Alot of interest in CPT Sobel, I like many others it appears wish to know more about the soldier. Sobel would make an outstanding Ranger Instructor, good at making tough training conditions, but lacking the leadership skills to lead infantrymen. Regardless it´s he served his country and was the foundation of Easy company which allowed men like Winters and Nixon to see what´s wrong and make it right.

Being an ex Army drill sgt. I can relate to Capt Sobel & Lt Winters.It's one thing to train a grunt to do his job without questioning and quite another to gain the respect of that same grunt to follow you through the gates of hell. Capt Sobel by all accounts was the type of man who who could train his men to do their job to the best standards of the army and then some. But like most army drills, once that grunt has graduated you hope he's learned enough from you to do his job to keep himself and his fellow grunts alive in combat.It's almost unheard of now days that a drill will take his men all the way through basics into combat.
Dick winters in his latest book," Beyond a Band of Brothers" states that it was Sobels hard training that accounted for the success of Easy company and he always respected him for that even though he didn't like his style
Herbert M. Sobel did a great job!
been viewing band of brothers for countless times now for the reason of analyzing the character of Captain Herbert Sobel. Easy Company's success stems from that harsh training He gave to the men. As a person of military background, I can highly state that He did a great job as a "Training Officer" but as a Combat Leader, I have to admit He fell short in maintaining morale to all His men that might have had earned some respect to His men. This must be the untold reason why He was transferred and given the authority to command and train chaplains and doctors for parachute training at foliat- He specializes as a training officer and that I believe is His Truest Calling in His Military Career. I regret to state the common nature from the view of a person of non-military background, Captain Sobel is understood as a villain from the civilian point of view.

Ps: I believe He must be thankful he was not there at normandy. with a faulty navigation skill like that- He might not have made it home to His family.
If you wish to learn more about boot camp, read Spare Parts: From Campus to Combat : A Marine Reservist's Journey from Campus to Combat in 38 Days. OUTSTANDING. When I read BoB, many memories came flying back. Remember the passage where Capt. Sobel runs the men until they get sick on themselves? Not mentioned but likely to have happened too; they lost control of their bladders and bowels. Now remember what the men slipped on during the D-Day jump. The men where prepared for the smells, the hate, the heat, the cold, and the fear that come before the jump. Instruction will never prepare one for combat. You do as ordered, and pray to God Almighty to see your mommy again.

God Bless our troops passed and present!!
Old adage: "Train hard, fight easy". In this case no pun is intended, so perhaps under the circumstances it should be "Train hard, fight easier". Nothing really prepares you for first contact with the enemy, but training has to get as close at it can to prepare you for that. Good tactical training has to build up as much stress as possible in the trainee, BEFORE the real training commences, so they can then learn to function through the muzzy, slow motion haze of adrenaline. The other adage, "Horses for courses" is also a truism here. Thankfully the good combat leader, in this case, came to the fore and took the men into battle. Not all companies were this lucky. I'm grateful that men of BoB, and their compatriots elsewhere, walked this earth in the way they did.
Some soldiers are born to teach others are born to lead. Sobel was without a doubt a trainer. He didn't have a mentor to help him refine his leadership skills.
I agree with the statement "Some soldiers are born to teach others are born to lead"

In the events leading up to the graduation of the men of Easy Company from Airborne School, Capt Sobel, in my opinion, did an excellent job training the men. He did not let the men disobey an order without swift retribution; furthermore, he did not believe in judicial punishment but instead punished those that failed to follow instructions by making them train more, which is a much better form of punishment.

However, you must take into consideration that every, not some, but every NonCom in the company wrote a statement to the BN Commander that they did not want to be a NONCOM in the company because of Sobel's lack of leadership. That is an alarming issue to investigate.

I am sure that Capt Sobel's family had a very positive view of the man, of course they are his family; however, history and the Band of Brothers movie were not criticising his personal demeanor but his ability to function as an effective military leader. He was easily flustured under stressful situations and had much difficulty with his navigation skills. The men saw that and that is why they did not approve of him being a combat leader.

Nonetheless, I am sorry for your loss. I do agree that his story should have been told and I am not ignorant to the fact that there are always 2 sides to the story of Capt Sobel. I do wish there was more to the story of the man.

Respectfully submitted,

SSgt Edwin Baez
United States Marine Corps
I have never been a soldier, though I work in an emergency field in an organization patterned in leadership after the Military. I have worked for "supervisors' like Sobel. One of the methods used on me by one was similar to what may have occurred to Winters. Nobody in the entire group we worked in believed in this particular man, and because he was so insecure in his profession and person, his method of making himself look better, after conflicting with me, was to attempt to make me look worse, in evaluation, and unwarranted disciplnary issues....he has to this day, never fit in, or been respected...
Irrespective of any distortions that Ambrose may have plugged into the book, I believe that Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg went to extraordinary lengths to verify the way they made their series with the actual veterans of Easy. Look how many of them are on the show. I trust that Dick Winters' involvement in the show implies its historical accuracy. I trust him personally, not that I have ever met him. Part of his comment on Herbert Sobel is as follows: "A leader can lead by example or by fear. We were being led (referring to Captain Sobel) by fear." It was obvious that Capt. Sobel unconsciously recognized some of his own leadership shortcomings, and attempted to compensate for them by force and iron discipline. It's impossible to know how well he knew what he was doing as an instructor, but a certain measure of his tactics sprang from his fear and resentment. Nevertheless, I admire what he was able to accomplish. Easy was the best-conditioned unit in the Army. He reminds me to a certain degree of Herb Brooks, the legendary coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that beat the Russians. Brooks pushed those kids further than they knew they could go, and they were the best-conditioned team in the tournament, Russians included. The difference between Brooks and Sobel is that Brooks knew what he was doing, and had a great capacity to teach and coach hockey, whereas Sobel could not grasp the intricacies of combat. I hope, as one of the earlier commentaries states, that he can find rest.
I have seen Band of Brothers, and just finished reading Biggest Brother, again about E-Company. I think Capt. Sobel deserves much credit for the training he gave these men...all seem to agree that it was his training that brought them through the whole thing. Granted Major Winters was also a hero, but he too was trained by Capt. Sobel, and regardless of what he may think, I believe Capt. Sobel and his training, was in the back of his mind for most of those days.
(Anonymous, 8/14/05) "...by all accounts he was a good "trainer" but a poor leader. The difference being the former does not need the respect of his men, the latter can't do without it."

(Anonymous, 3/26/06) "Being an ex Army drill sgt. I can relate to Capt Sobel & Lt Winters.It's one thing to train a grunt to do his job without questioning and quite another to gain the respect of that same grunt to follow you through the gates of hell."

And I would maintain that war is such a grisly and inhuman business that one had better make damned sure the people in your training are NOT doing their best out of any respect for their trainers, or their buddies, or themselves. They must learn first and foremost two things: 1) how much they have to FEAR, and 2) to ACT in spite of that fear.

The best trainer for war is both your worst enemy and your only friend. He will care nothing for your humanity except that you remain alive to use it after your duty is done. He will teach you how to overcome your human nature and act as an instrument of survival.
I have to agree with some of the posts regarding Captain Sobel's contribution in training Easy Company in preparation for war. In war, your enemy isn't going to give you a timeout when you get hurt.
Captain Sobel's tough training methods are mirrored today in both Navy Seal and Green Beret training.

If you want to evaluate Sobel, consider that leading men into combat requires a different skill set compared to training men into combat.
I should know, I was a Hospital corpsman serving with the Marines. I saw how training and leading are two different things.
Some officers and NCOs have both skills, others don't.
Reading Ambrose's book and watching the HBO series, you could tell that Major Winters had both. Captain Sobel certainly should be credited for his training what was arguably the best company in the 506th Regiment. Look at the performace at Brecourt Manor and Carentan. It speaks for itself.
As for the men's disdain for him, I can say it probably stem more from the fact that he had no real innate combat leadership ability and his petty jealousy of Major Winters.
In war, you need the best combat leaders available. Captain Speirs who probably killed German prisoners is a testament to the fact that the US Army did not care about such transgressions as long as you won battles and achieve your objectives.

Captain Sobel unfortunately, felt slighted and demoralized and let it fester and influence his life till the bitter end.

It is too bad that no members of Easy Company did not attend his funeral nor according to reports, his ex-wife or sons.
What no one has commented on is this; Sobel was Jewish. I served in the Navy during the early 80-90's and am also Jewish and encountered not allot of "issues" but certainly some who were guided by innacurate and old sterotypes. In the book Ambrose touches on the issue of anti-semitism in Easy Company, but seems to rule it out after some self-serving statements from the veterans. All we know about Winters is from Ambrose, the mini-serties and Winter's book. At least from the mini-series you get the impression that Winters came from some sort of strict background. I don't want to seem as if I am alleging anything I guess the big question to be asked is whether the issues with Sobel and Easy Company were totally because he was an a-hole and poor leader or because he may have been a partial a-hole and not that bad a leader but also a jew.
Nice write-up, but you have a bunch of problems with your analysis of sobel as a great man done in by the resentment of soldiers he trained.

You neglect to point out that Sobel was widely regarded as an incompetent officer, and fairly poorly in such basics as map-reading and even basic combat tactics. He was SUCH a poor officer that EVERY ONE of the Easy Company non-comms attempted to resign from the company on the eve of the invasion because they believed he would get too many killed by his inabilities.

In fact, he was removed from command of Easy Company after more than 2 years on the eve of the invasion because his superiors agreed that the man was incompetent. this is almost UNHEARD of during a time of war. But it supports what was said of Sobel.

He was after the war a bitter man who refused to attend Easy company reunions, despite repeated invitations. not one Easy company member attended his funeral.

so while you have a very one-sided account, you didn't tell the whole story. he was a "chicken-shit" officer, a martinet, and incompetent who tried to make up for his lack of abilities by being a bully. that's pretty much the definition of Sobel. He could not have been more different from most of the other commanders of easy, each of whom was very respected: Meehan, Winters, Heiliger, Spears. Only Dyke was held in lower esteem than Sobel.

cheer up. if he's your relative, I pity you.
The original post simply points out that Ambrose's account of Sobel was one-sided. He did not speak with Herbert Sobel or his family. The post also points out that history is written by the survivors.
Herbert Sobel was an officer in the Illinois National Guard prior to WWII, as was my father. I serve in a Guard position now. I'll be happy to exchange punches with anyone who says the Guard or Reserve are not properly trained, or are incompetent, or are dodging "real" service. Some are better at soldiering than others, but all must meet a baseline standard.

I myself was surprised when I encountered "office politics" in the current military. I have seen excellent soldiers and commanders villified and careers ended because they ran afoul of some other's agenda; someone with better connections. This during the current World War, when unity becomes more urgent daily.
he didn't get done in by "office politics" -- he was a lousy combat commander and a chickenshit martinet of an officer. the record is clear. From what I've read in the four books I can find on easy company (not just BOB), the record is stark and clear as to Sobel's incompetence.
but let's leave our opinions out: I found this on Winter's website -- someone who lives in Philly (like I do), who talked extensively with "Wild bill." The subject of Sobel came up and the quotes are telling:


that's pretty telling about what they thought of this man.


"Sobel was a great training officer, but would have been a disaster in combat...I did pay his dues and did call him and write him, but he never responded"
As the original post simply points out, it's easy to villify the dead. There was more to the man than commanding Easy Company, and that side of his story will be largely untold (unless his sons and wife chime in).

Clearly people hated the man. No one will ever know how well he would have commanded CO E in combat, because he didn't. History is replete with examples of men (and women) who got their shit together once they were under the pressure of combat.

I wasn't in that particular war, and I suspect you weren't either. I'm not going to argue with direct quotes from survivors, because they were there. That is their perception of the man, and always will be.

From an earlier comment of mine:
"Let me add that I have nothing but the greatest respect for all the officers and men of E CO. They, along with all who served (including my mother, father, uncle, and many other relatives and friends), sacrificed much in order to preserve the country and freedoms we enjoy today."
>"he was a "chicken-shit" officer, a martinet, and incompetent who tried to make up for his lack of abilities by being a bully. that's pretty much the definition of Sobel. He could not have been more different from most of the other commanders of easy, each of whom was very respected: Meehan, Winters, Heiliger, Spears. Only Dyke was held in lower esteem than Sobel."

Could not agree more. In other words, he was a Jerk. Plain and simple. And IMHO he probably would have gotten many of 'his' Men KIA.

He reminds me of a Lt. as found in the book "Charlie Company, What Vietnam Did To Us" (Published by Newsweek - excellent reading). You will NOT find a better book on the Grunt's view of that War.

This Lieutanant called the Firebase for marker rounds at coordinates 100 yards North of their position. When satisified with the results, he told the Firebase to Fire For Effect using coordinates 100 yards Due SOUTH. Despite the pleas of his Men who were desparately trying to ramp him up on the basics, he refused to listen.

A dozen text-book perfect mortar rounds later, most of the Men had 'Made In The USA' shrapnel in them. Fortunately these weren't Fleshette rounds, and no one was killed.

But that incident strikes me as one that Sobel would have done - hands down. To pompus to listen to either reason or common sense, and this regardless of the cost to others.
I just read Beyond Band of Brothers, and Winters, Biggest Brother.....Although I think Sobel had problems, I also think Winters held a lasting grudge against him for his attempted court martial...I do believe Capt. Sobel was troubled, but also fully trained his men for combat.
Having Served in the military for 16 years you run into alot of officers like Sobel. Just because you have a degree doesn't obviously make you a good leader. Good men make good leaders. And vice versa.
My drill instructor or first airborne instructor, I would not wanted to go to war with. They get in a mode, they have a job to do and they do it well. Most men do not like their first instructors. You are beaten down and tore down.
Sobel made his mistake by continueing this attitude towards his men while in England. And to have an officer removed of command like him, his superiors obviously saw this happening and the NCO's just pushed the issue.
Okay so I want to say much about this subject but it is obvious to me the cousin never replies to any of these posts. So "cousin"if you really want to change peoples minds pay more attention and awnser some questions. There are people who want to know where the man is buried and so do I. I was able to dig up his social security number from the webpedia thing. I pluged it in to the death record place it gave me this Herbert M. Sobel born jan26,1912 death sept.30 1987 last residence was 60611 chicago cook Ill. AND HIS SOCIAL is 351-07-4644. Hey if any one does find it please email me at winona_king2002@yahoo.com Im also on myspace.com find me by putting in cosmicgirl47@yahoo.com. Im very intrested in this and if I find out I will definitly go visit his grave put flowers and take pics for you all. Hows that "cousin"?
Ive read the book (BoB) and seen the series. Both are amazingly good and I was moved deeply by both of them.

As regards Cpt Sobel, he sure did train them well but there are many point which were (as described in the book) useless chicken sh*t.

Why ask for a petty court martial, why did he ask for veterans to give back their Normandy maps, why didnt he let them take the bike. Also, he trained his men hard, he skipped out on training himself. He was always breathless and he hardly managed to make the required push ups for the test.

At the end of the day history speaks for himself and Easy Co were the favoured, best outfit of the war. Cpt Sobel does deserve the credit but no more than a father deserves when his child is born, the fact that Easy were amazing is down to Winters and his team.

May Cpt. Sobel rest in piece, forever in the memory of all war veterans and civilians.
I believe (and this may sound a little churchy for some) That Herb was placed in charge of E Co by the grace of God. He knew the tough situations that the men would face and he gave them the best man for the job. Wacthing the mini series for more than the second time, and reading the book, i can see God's watchful hand over them. They were being trained for a bloody difficult task, and Sobel was the man for the task. You should be proud of your cousin, and ignore the bad press he may recieve, as long as you remeber him in your heart as the man he was nothing esle matters.
I would like to say that it's a bloody discgrace that no one cared for this man. He may have been a 'petty tyrant' of a man, but even Hitler was liked! It truly sadens my heart, when these words are spoken: 'i couldn't give a rat's arse.' the man had a soul, made in ther image of God and these spiteful, comments with little regard for the conserquences really boil my potato's! they only what they have been told and take it for Ghospel! You're cousin may not have served in battle with distinction, or won the VC, but he trained Easy Company and they certainly couldn't have achieved anywhere near the achievements that they did if he hadn't have been so mythodical! Stand up and be proud of Herbert M Sobel-Captain, first member of Easy Company and in my mind the finest!
As some one who served in the gulf war(1st) and being a hostorian(military) i would have rather thrown myself in front of a truck the man was a petty tryant who took his temper tantrums out on his men if it werent for the sqaud leaders and tem work Easy could have been dead no thanks to Sobel.
Faar enough October 15th fair enough. I can see your not a man of God, you may be a 'Historian' but simple facts are nothing more than conjecture. Many an Easy man has admitted that if Sobel hadn't have been so heavy in trowing 'Temper tantrums' they wouldn't have survived. You may not agree with his meathods, or manner and find him offensive in some way, yet to quote a trooper 'Sobel made Easy.'
I will not change my opinion of Captain Sobel. It takes more tham mental training to be a leader. Sobel was not kind to the troops he commanded. He demanded respect rather than earning it. The men of Easy Company were destined to be good soldiers. They were good people with good skills. Thank Good their brotherhood was able to overcome an individual who had a little mans complex. You can be a tough leader a good trainer and a good person. He was none of the above. The men of Easy company I salute you..Dan Carlton
I'll give you that, but niether will i change my opinion that Herb was there for a purpose. Until you ignore all the outside factors and see God's purpose for 1 or many indivuduals i know you won't come to the same conclusions.
Don't take this as a chance to belittle the Lord, i may not find out but he already knows.
May God bless you in all your endevours.
To all those who continue to say that the men of Easy Co would not have survived without Sobel. How do you know this?
Yes, he was successful in uniting the men of Easy with their obvious disdain for him, however the men became brothers on the day they took their first jump into hostile territory. . . where Sobel was nowhere to be seen.
I have nothing but respect for everyone who has, and is currently serving in the Armed Forces, but not everyone gets it right.
I lost a lot of respect for Ambrose after reading "Band of Brothers," primarily due to his treatment of Sobel (and to a lesser extent of Norman Dike, who was relieved of command under fire). Yes, he was not well-suited for combat command and was greatly disliked by his men. But Sobel volunteered and served honorably (if not with great distinction) and doesn't deserve to be immortalized as the US Army's all-time petty incompetent buffoon commander.

Ambrose never served in combat, never trained soldiers, and was never wounded by enemy fire, yet he chooses to cartoonishly depict someone who did all of those things. And in the ultimate case of literary kicking-a-man-while-he's-down, Ambrose writes that Sobel attempted suicide but "botched the job" -- making light of someone who had reached the very depths of human existence. What a swell guy Ambrose is (was).
I wanted to comment on Capt. Sobel. There are different qualities we all possess. Every person has different strengths and frailties. It is obvious that Captain Sobel was an outstanding training officer, but his inability to read a map and make command decisions would have cost many more lives. There can be no hesitation or self-doubt in battle. If a commander cannot perform simple tasks, then his men will have no confidence in him. The right Company Commander trained Easy Company while the right Company Commander led them into battle in Normandy.

Many of the Toccoa men credit Captain Sobel for making them excellent soldiers in an outstanding Company and without who's training they would not have survived the war. The very fact that the men of Easy Company hated Captain Sobel did help then Lt. Winters as he took over Easy Company. Winters was not a hard ass who could have brought the razor sharp edge out of men that Captain Sobel brought out. Winters was a capable combat commander who had the ability to use that razor sharp edge created by Captain Sobel.

The men of Easy Company may have had no confidence in Captain Sobel's ability to lead them into combat, but without Captain Sobel's training, they would have lacked the confidence in themselves and each other that carried them through World War II.

Captain Sobel's contribution is no less important to the outcome of the war than any other officer or soldier who served and fought. I find a villification from the men, but also a recognition or at least a realization that they should give thanks that Captain Sobel trained them. This is not really stated in so many words, but was evident in the subtleties of the teleplay from A Band Of Brothers. Colonel Sink gave credit to Captain Sobel for training the sharpest Company in the regiment, which was no small task.

Having served in the military, I can appreciate Captain Sobel's contribution.
While I have not served in the military, I have seen a lot of people in my life. Sobel is an example that I've seen more than once...perhaps he was good at what he did, but personality and delivery often trump ability. I've known several people who were brilliant and had a lot to offer, but their personalities negated their efforts. And often they share the same characteristic of general bitterness toward life, and manage to drive away everyone who might give a damn about them.

My impression of Sobel is that, as others have suggested, he had deep-seated problems that were manifested in what happened at Toccoa and in the rest of his life. It seems to me as though he wanted to prove something (perhaps to himself) by leading Easy Company into combat, even though he was manifestly not fit for the job (as evidenced by his "Here they come!" outburst in a field exercise and wearing an aviator's jacket that would have marked him perfectly for a German sniper in the field), and when he was reassigned away from Easy he felt he had been robbed of his chance at glory.

(In contrast, I'm reminded of a D-Day vet my dad once met, who said that he had jumped three feet from the pier to get onto his departing troopship because he wanted to be in on the invasion, and that had he known what he was headed for he would've jumped three times that distance to get the hell off.)

It was a damn shame to read of his being eaten up by his experiences, that apparently grew and became more consuming in his mind, until they finally destroyed him...again, I think there was something more (perhaps a LOT more) at work there.

Finally, in regard to a prior poster's mention of Sobel's "botching" his suicide attempt, when I originally read it in BoB my impression was that Ambrose intended to emphasize the tragic nature of his demise. My impression was that he wound up a vegetable from a botched shot to the head, and finally died some time later. (Am I wrong?) I don't think there was anything nefarious about what Ambrose wrote.
He did as best he could. Unfortunately he had some severe hangups and insecurities which limited how well he could function. Those insecurities led to some petty, spiteful behaviour on his part. That's just human nature, nobody's perfect.
Having said that, having a leader who lacks decisiveness, can't read maps, and can't adapt to changing and developing situations is extremely dangerous in the situation Easy were thrown into.

Regarding the training, and rolling back 22 years, if our instructors had gone into a combat situation with us, I very, very much doubt they would've walked in front of us and not expected to be delivered home in a bag. Training is good, and yes, the additional hate fuels a sharp response, but there's nothing like stored-up anger to focus the mind on the past injustices rather than the present predicament.
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There are two sides to the story. In this story he (Sobel) is the villain. To be a good or great trainer is to be a good/great leader in combat. If the portrayal was mostly true, he was a petty tyrant, not a great trainer. Who knows his real motives. I'm sure he didn't come to work with the intention to screw things up, but to make Easy Company prepared for combat. But that doesn't make him a great trainer. Drill instructors are harsh in boot camp, but they are professional. Sobel had no business harrassing troops. How qualified does one must be to haze? What innate or learned leadership qualities and skills are required to be a trainer who looks for the negatives in his men and doesn't catch me them doing things right. His tyrant behavior got him what he deserved and ultimately received. Soldiers have to do what they are told, they don't have to go to your funeral.
Folks, "trying" doesn't cut it when leading our sons and daughters in training or combat. The soldiers were scared not of their ability but that of Sobel's. He as incompentent in leadership and tactically. Guys like this get thru the system because we don't have enough officers or noncoms. That doesn't make it right. I don't see the rationalization of him being a good trainer. If hate is what kept them alive, then we should consider revising our coaching and training methods in schools and homes to be more like Sobel's. One truth I learned in combat was those who led well and could be depended on in peacetime carried it to the battlefield. Those that were shitheads in peacetime carried it w/ them in combat. There is no magic key in your back that makes you into a great leader in combat from a lousy or mediocre leader in peacetime when the situation becomes more stressful. You are combat what you are in peacetime. Anything else is Hollywood or wishful thinking on behalf of those that don't get the translation of leadership from peacetime to combat.
I probably read BoB over 10 times, including listening to the book on tape while driving, plus I have read all of Ambrose's books, Winters book, and Babe and Guarnare's (sp?) book. Great reads, but only those who have actually faced combat can truly understand what the BoB troups went through - myself not included. Coming of age at the end of the Vietnam War, I definitely had no interest in serving - in fact, popular consensus tacitly stated those with little skills to no skills joined the army. Of course, I had little to no skills so my stepfather put me to work as a logger in WA state setting chokers on a high-lead side. Learning by screaming insults was my step-dad's method -just the way he was brought up. The first year was tough but I never quit. In five years I knew at least ten people who were killed logging - either setting chokers, cutting (falling trees), or equipment operators getting crushed when the 100' telescopic towers breaks a guy wire or two and dumps - lost a couple friends that way. I came very close to getting pulverized by a log coming off a rock face (we were logging in steep, rocky ground) when I was 20. The hook-tender, standing right next to me, who was 26 yrs old and considered "an old man" went white - as did myself. I just couldn't believe I almost died at only 20. I can't imagine being as young or younger and somebody trying to kill you in war. Needless to say, I worked until I was 26 yrs old then quit and went back to college. Life is good and I still have fond memories of the logging days.
A lot of people have elaborated on my thoughts so I'll keep this concise. Sobel was perfect in the role of military trainer and instructor, though, his combat and leadership (in the field) abilities are to be questioned, if the sources provided are accurate.

I understand the family not approving of the way Sobel was portrayed. Some argue that Schwimmer or the director/producers overdid it. If that's the case, it is sad, though from all I've read about him, I'm leaning towards the belief that it was a fairly accurate representation.

However, this is the important bit for the family, and those reading to remember. It's not a representation of the whole man. Sobel could have been a great bloke for all we know. We, and BoB, isn't saying that. It is just trying to say he was an c*** as an instructor (as you should be, which is why he did a good job), but it also highlighted his weakness in combat, and that his men didn't like him. His men didn't like him for combat, you can't change that.

From BoB, you can respect his awesome instructor abilities, and acknowledge his lack of skill in combat areas. However, relatives should not be concerned about the series portraying him as a bad person. It's just portraying his military aspect, not the actual man. That's what everyone should remember.
To the surviving Sobel Family,

I can't imagine the feelings you must have had watching the Band of Brothers mini-series, (if you did). But in reading the book "Memoirs of Dick Winters", Mr. Winters talks about Herbert's demeanor to the men, and how he choose to rule by instilling fear, rather than by example. He clearly was not cut to be a field officer, but Dick Winters goes on for a good while about how he admired Sobel's dedication to the training of the men so they would be the best prepared company in the Regiment for combat. And this showed as Easy Company was easily in the best physical shape of the entire 506.

So I say to you, be proud of that man and what he did for us all, by training those men to be their finest, and letting them last to victory.

Jason L. Walker
Having served in the army for seven years, during Vietnam, I recognize the "Sobel" personality.
1. It is someone enamored of his own position.
2.There is normally a severe complex of inferiority and a need to hide that flaw.
3. The individual in question has risen to the level of his own incompetency.
4.They are usually quite lonely.
5. Their efforts, no matter how gallant, are lost on the individuals they are meant to most impress.
6. As it pertains to the military training environment, subordinates usually go along to avoid disciplinary action, but will seek out true leadership in other men (enlisted and commissioned).
The men of E company risked everything in telling Col Sink they could not and would not follow Sobel into battle. That is a strong message to upper leadership. Personal problems and character flaws or incompatible personalities aside, what counts during the war is safety of the men and women going into battle, and the fact that they need to be able to rely on their commander. Sobel may have united E company together, but he brought on the hatred from them because they knew he didn't care about the people of Easy. He seemed only interested and focused on advancing himself by using their mistakes and weaknesses against them. He instilled fear instead of building courage. He even took their victories and found some shred of negativity to tarnish those as well. He tore down their self esteem and morale; a great commander would never do these things. All subordinates need firm discipline but protection and strength. Just like a loving and caring parent gives to his child.
Huh? "Band of Brothers" didn't even portray him as a bad trainer...it portrayed him as a bad LEADER, there's a big difference. It was acknowledged that he did a very good job preparing his men for combat, but that he was completely unsuited for the role of leading them into combat. I guess he's a great example of the old saying, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
it's the universal rule of non-duality, man. all thing leading to one thing. without sobel and without winters, E wouldn't have been what it eventually was. go with the flow and volunteer 2nd.
If you want further reading about the 101st ABN during WWII, there's a guy named Mark Bando who made it his life's vocation to research and document everything possible about 101st. You can Google "Mark Bando" and find his website and learn more.

Bando thinks of himself as the "premier authority" of the 101st and he criticized the BoB production people for not consulting with him. His critiques were sometimes useful, but sometimes inane... he criticized the fact that a certain memo was written on yellow paper, not white bond paper like it was shown in the film...

But one thing I got from the Bando writings, and a little of my own research was:

1. It was just the luck of the draw that Ambrose profiled Easy Co. It wasn't the most prolific or most accomplished unit of the division. The actual soldiers in Easy will tell you they were embarrased that they were singled out, because ALL units of the 101st deserve the same recognition.

2. Maybe 80% of the the Ambrose/Spielberg version of BoB was accurate. That also means there were many gross inaccuracies. For example, Spiers DID NOT massacre the German POW's on D-Day. To show a living officer commit a war crime that he did not commit was downright objectionable. Also, Spiers did not sprint through the German lines and then back again as depicted in the scene where he relieves Dike. He was a great combat leader, but they took dramatic license to jazz him up.

And as for Sobel, well you have to give him credit for serving his country and making a contribution. The spaghetti scene happened to me once... I was in USMC bootcamp and there was a "light day" rumored and I chowed down, only to find we had to do a 5 mile run and I puked my guts out. That scene I did relate to.

There are few other scenes that were a bit stretched, but like I said find mark Bando's website if you wanna learn more.
George McClellan made the Army of The Potomac and will always be recognized as a tremendous Cadre officer but he was incapable of taking them in to battle in an effective way for one reason of another but the Civil War would have lasted a whole lot longer or come to a different conclusion if not for him.Just like McClellan we cant discount the effect Sobel had on his men even though leadership wasn't his cup of tea

Timothy Casey
There are some very ill thought out comments here.

Most people don't say either way, but I do find it especially interesting to compare the comments of those who admit to a military background or confirm they have none. I have commanded men in combat (and have been commanded in combat) and in later life commanded a military training team.

In the latter where SNCOs and Warrant Officers who were very experienced soldiers but were a mixture of combat veterans and Territorial soldiers. Their background and experience did not reflect directly or indirectly on their skill as an instructor, there was no correlation between the two functions.

Obviously, with no direct knowledge of Capt Sobel I cannot comment on him personally (not that that has stopped some) but I feel I have the background to comment on the type of man he appears to have been.

For every great instructor I had with no combat skills or experience there was another with a formidable record who could not stand in front of a class without dissolving into mind numbed panic.

My take on the oft quoted 'those who can, do, those who can't, teach' is this - those who can had to learn from those who can teach.

To teach, you don't have to be able to do, although it can be useful. I feel that Capt Sobel's problem was not that he could only teach, or that he couldn't do. His fault seems to have been that he either didn't know, or couldn't accept, that he couldn't do. This, combined with what appears to be other character flaws which where present then and followed him through his life led to the negative reaction of other people to him.

Since my first reading of BoB and viewing of the series I have always thought of Capt Sobel as one of the more interesting characters and it his flaws that made him stand out for me - in the same way that David Webster stood out as being intreresting, and different, from the other soldiers.

He had flaws, obviously, and on top of that was not a likeable man. Had he been likeable his flaws might have been more forgiven by those under him.

Had he been trying to court popularity would any of us be talking about him now? Without his training would the men of E Company have been the soldiers they became and carried out the actions they did?
I'm remembering, 20 years later, of an old typewriting's teacher that used to cry at us, bruise our fingers on the typewrite, and made us feel just frightened everytime he walk through the computer's room,like an Army's General, because we were all watching who will be the target of his rage. He was a kind of person that liked discipline, who's asked us then to achieve perfection, and at the time, we've just hated him!...
But 21 years later, now that I'm able to write 120 words per minute, in a very efficient way, and now I'm having contracts thanks of his way to teach typewriting, I'm now proud to have been one of his student, in 1987.
The point I want to make, here, is the comparison between Cpt Sobel and this teacher I've had : they were kind of men that just live for perfection or nothing. They requiring it for others, but they also requiring it for themselves, and it's a tough demand : imagine how scary it is to live without allowing yourself any mistake of any kind! Maybe, it's explaining the "misundersood" of Sobel (and of my old teacher) but those people are great people, and for me, we ought to say "thank you" to Sobel if we believing that dead people could hear us, in a certain way, because if we are free today, it's thanks to him : without him, the Easy Company would never been the one it used to be!
PS: Is There any picture of Sobel somewhere ??
In summary, if the movie and story is accurate, it seems that Capt Herb Sobel's biggest failure as an officer was that although he knew how to kick his troops in the ass, he forgot that to win their respect, admiration, and loyalty; he had to know how to pat them on the back too. An effective leader will Kick 'em in the ass, but also be able to pat 'em on the back! Kick 'em in the ass, pat 'em on the back! That's how his troops could have known that he truly cared about them and that they could place their lives in his hands.
Being a major WWII buff as I am, although never served, I find it uneasy and difficult to read such negative and derogatory statements made about Cpt. Sobel. Yes I'm sure that alot of negative things said about him were true. Yes, probably some were blown out of proportion and were not true. We as mortal human beings cannot understand nor grasp the detailed and infinite wisdom of Almighty God's designs and plans. But I can guarantee you they were there all the while and for purpose.

As Anonymous (above) best described it, "With a long line of military history in the family I couldn't think of a better man than Sobel to prepare the sword nor a better man than Winters to wield it. This is what they call synergy...where the sum is greater than the parts."
27 August, 2005 10:28

What happened, happened; with reason and purpose. So to discuss this for years on end is futile and fruitless. You cannot change history.

Cpt. Sobel, probably, died a lonely man. With no one around who gave a crap about his existence as he took his last breath. He died with (probably) memories of Currahee, wondering why he never became CO, why no one ever liked him, why he had no friends racing through his mind. Why Why Why?

I have pity on the man, for we are all human subject to flaws and imperfections.

Cpt. Sobel is no longer with us. He made history. He served in the greatest war of all times in our greatest generation. He was there in whatever capacity it was.


Were you?
Any chance that Herbert Sobel lived in Melrose Park, Il on Winston Drive in the 50's, 60's and 70's ?
What a lot of people are overlooking here is that the only reason the men of E company survived the war was not because of Sobel's training, but because he was not around to lead them to their deaths in combat. Most people have no idea how many military appointments during war were politically motivated and politicians were placed in combat leadership roles when they should have been in the rear with the gear. Yes, the training was good for the men, but it was better Sobel was removed and I am sure this is why the surviving men of E company never tried to contact Sobel with the exception of Wild Bill.
Wikipedia says that Sobel was assigned to a combat command after Normandy and wounded. He returned to the IL National Guard and was activated for Korea. He retired a Lt. Col..

By the way Pvt. Blithe who is depicted as being shot by a sniper at the end of "Day of Days", survived the war and returns to the Army after a brief period out. He serves in Korea with the 82nd. Ironically he attends a ceremony at Bastonge in December 1967 while stationed in Germany and dies of an infection a week later.
Remember if you will, when giving credit to "dougout Doug" MacArthur, that he also fought in battles that had fewer enemies than the rest of the ETO Army, and the Marines in the Pacific. Remember also if you will, the men from Korea who died and froze in large numbers, due to MacArthurs foolishness, in crossing the 38th parallel. Truman was no comfort as a leader as he let BIG MAC run all over him until it was too late, but MacArthur clearly is directly responsible for the 58,000 KIA in Korea (not the 38,0000 as it's wrongly reported in many articles). Also consider the 100,000 plus, who were wounded for life, thanks to Big Mac.
AND.....Big Mac deserted his men in the Pacific (loading his family and furniture on PT boats and Subs, so no one else could fit on those ships, and he never got any better as the War went on....OR ... in Korea). Thanks....A FROZEN "CHOSIN" VET.
I think it was because Sobel was a toyal Jerk. Just because you are a good person it does not make you a leader. Thank good someone saw this before Normandy.
Thats total jerk, sorry.
Typical Christers hate Jews crap here, because JEWS are Better, Smarter, and Tough, unlike Christer wimp cowards.
Funny as hell, because the Jew wanted you to off Hitler. You fuckers would rather kill Sobel.
Herbert M. Sobel was my late grandfather. My father, Herb, is the oldest son of the man this blog is dedicated to. I can not set the facts straigh one way or the other because my neither my dad, grandmother, or two uncles have really spoken to me about his life and what kind of man he was. Maybe the silence speaks volumes..? I want to say he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but I'm not certain. My grandmother is almost 90 and still sharp ask a tack. I'll have to discuss the facts with her in the near future.

-Lance Sobel
Was your late grandfather from Melrose Park ?

Hi, A question about Captain Sobel. Is it true he did NOT jumo into Normandy? In the book and movie it appears that he didnt. He wasv at Chilton Foliat. But I just read an article here in Omaha NE about an Ed Mauser, 92 yrs old , 2nd platoon of Easy. He claims he parachuted into Normandy and the 1st person he ran into after landing was Captain Sobel...Now I have always followed Easy Company and read every book about them. They never said he jumped. Did he?

I feel the comments about cpt Herbert Sobel are extremely unfair. epecially from many people who have never had any military experience or served. The harsh training is designed to ensure that you are fit for purpose in an environment that many people wouls never understand. Note in Anothony Beavours book D-Day the German soldiers said that they were aware that 'American paratroopers were not dropping to give them candy.' War requires of soldiers to endure the unendurable and to suffer extemes of hardship both physically and mentally. As quite rightly was dipicted in B.O.B. What I find alarming is the ill discipline of SNCO's who would be commanding the younger soldiers at the business end. It appears that in B.O.B. this lesson was learnt when 1st Sgt Lipton used his skill and prior learning to quell the murmorings of discontent about Lt Dike. That should have been happening from the very begining seeing how all the Sncos had rank. An Ex army trainer.
I found this blog while looking for more information on Captain Herbert Sobel, while also watching for the first time 'The Band of Brothers' - I was looking for him in particular because I wanted to know more and felt a compassion for the man. I do not have a military background, my father was out of the Army while I was still young, and older relatives with war experience didn't share very much. However, and I realize the level is different, my husband, a police officer, went through a grueling training period for the chance at a position in law enforcement. Many men quit, and it was very taxing on their bodies and mind. They were subjected to a number of the same things I'm watching on this program, at the hands of Cpt Sobel...one thing that my husband and others who conquered this training was that these things were not random tyrannical behaviors of their superiors, but were breaking them down to build them up again into One. Every thing was to help them be sharper, stronger and survive. I "get" this when watching the portrayl of Sobel, even if it was not the director/writer's intention...I believe that the men of E came to know this, I hope that they all did. I'm glad that there are men out there like Cpt Sobel who want their men to be more than what he himself can obtain. Their heroism and abilities are a testament to the man Cpt Sobel.
I was enlisted in the US Army and my husband is a graduate of West Point. We both agree that, no matter what his portrayal was like in BoB, LTC Sobel served his country, did his best, and was a hero of the Greatest Generation. Too many of them are gone, so please thank them while they are still with us. Much love and respect to all vets,
A. Luu
Many men lose their lives due to the incompetance of officers who are attempting to seek recognition for the superior performance of the units they command. What a waste! That does not make a hero. Sorbel was a bully full stop. Train your men, respect your men. With their repect in you, they will follow your leadership and strive harder to please you. Hate and fear is what Sorbel taught his men, without the true leadership of his subordinate Officers and NCOs, Easy Co would not have the record it does. The leader of the country Easy Co fought againstwas a troubled individual as well
The only listring for a veteran grave (meaning veteran buried in a military cemetery) as founf from http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/j2ee/servlet/NGL_v1 for Herbert Sobel is;
DATE OF BIRTH: 11/08/1926
DATE OF DEATH: 07/02/2000

Date of Birth/Death does not match for the Capt Sobel from BoB. jjj
I served in the US Army as a Paratrooper, on jump status, in the 82d ABN DIV. I know that the best instructors can train a soldier without losing their respect.
I offer Hebrews 12:11 to appreciate Captain Sobel's talent as a professional military trainer of young men. God rest his soul. I am a history buff. I have read the book and seen the mini series on Band of Brothers. The Captain Sobel role as a trainer is one that can only be appreciated when those trained encounter circumstances that depend on the training succeed. Anyone who has ever had a tough teacher, coach, parent, and others responsible for our training, absolutely hated them during the training period, but deeply appreciated it when we had to depend on that training to meet life's challenges. Though Captain Sobel did not possess the talent to lead men in combat, he did possess the talent to train them for combat. I believe that because World War 2 compelled many young men to consider it a privilege to engage in warfare against their country's enemies,Captain Sobel became passionately patriotic in desiring to lead men into battle. Given the patriotic ferver of that time, Captain Sobel most likely could never contemplate being relegated to a training officer, having never to go to war. Had it not been for the war, I believe that the his superiors would have reconized his talent for training young men and would have positioned him into that role for the development as a military training professional career. But, his superiors were hard press for combat officers and war effort directives. I believed Mr. Sobel was a man who unfortunately tried to become someone he was not. He would have so very happy as an instructor at West Point and his life would have been totally fulfilled.
Hey there.

I've never been in the army and I never will, most likely. But I've been reading up on the man and his company. And so, from a humble civilian's point of view:
Herbert Sobel is misunderstood by the general public.

Granted, I wouldn't have liked for him to lead me into battle, either... but I would for damn sure liked to have him as my instructor.
As far as I've come to understand, when it comes to training men for combat it's all about separating the weak from the tough, and making the tough even tougher - and that means you've got to be a bit of a dick sometimes. And Sobel did an outstanding job at this.
Sure he had his personal flaws and was a lousy leader, but he deserves more credit than he's gotten thus far.
I wouldn't say that BoB depicted him as a tyrant, per se, as I for one felt that there had been left some room for sympathy. I suppose it's all about the eye of the beholder; if you have the ability to see the world in other colors than just black and white, then you'll appreciate the notion that Cpt. Sobel wasn't really The Bad Guy. That being said, though, his character was quite obviously and unscrupulously set to be one of the great antagonists on the show (I can't speak for the book, as I have never read it), and that must be part of the reason why many saw the show and thought, "God, what a dick." For shame, BoB, for shame.
Didn't fool me, though; watching the show, I felt that the hatred the men of Easy Company felt for him was somewhat... I wouldn't say entirely unjustified, as he was a poor leader, but rather an overreaction. I suppose none of them really took into account that the army aint supposed to be summer camp. I for one think that Sobel was right to go to the lengths that he did to discipline his men (even the spaghetti thing, which would certainly seem sadistic to the untrained eye). Imagine, if you will, Winters as the instructor of Easy! They would have turned out like a bunch of softies and all died on D-Day, lemme tell ya. Now, Winters was a great leader, but that doesn't mean dick if the guys you're leading are used to a cushy lifestyle.
Maybe it was a good thing, though, that Easy hated and disrespected him so much. Not for him, of course, but for the men - in hating Cpt. Sobel they found their first common ground, perhaps. Maybe that's something they needed to become such a tight-knit group... still, it saddens me to hear that he was hated by so many, when clearly his family and relatives all have an entirely different impression of him. And I'm sad to hear that he died alone and bitter, when he did so much his country.

All in all; Sobel needs more cred, people. Easy Company wouldn't have been half as great hadn't it been for him. So let's all stop thinking about him as the villain, yeah?

RIP Herbert Sobel

PS: Why doesn't anyone make a movie about this, by the way?? His story is a real tragedy, so it would surely sell like hotcakes at the box office. Just saying!
A poster commented "why did he ask for veterans to give back their Normandy maps?"

Perhaps because the Normandy beaches were still being used for the unloading of supplies many weeks after D-day and long after Easy Company was returned to England for R&R before being prepped for Market Garden. It is a not unreasonable request or requirement that maps not required any more by a unit should be gathered in for use by those still operating in the areas covered by the maps. The BoB character portrayed as Captain Sobel may be partly based on the actual man and partly based on a certain archetype. The portrayal by David Schwimmer was, I thought, not one-sided but that of a complex man able to master all the skills required of a military leader but pretty good at some of them.
Sobel was a good instructor. That's awesome. He also brought up charges against Dick Winters that were entirely groundless.
Drill Instructors drop the crap after training is done. Sobel treated his men like shit all the way to england.
He was incompetent in the field and his inability to understand his own shortcomings was endangering the lives of everyone under his command. His abilities were so poor and his personality so flawed that Every NCO in the company risked execution to save their men from him.
The way he is portrayed in Band of Brothers may be from the point of view of the men he trained. But since those men are bleeping hero's all of them- i think their generally unanimous opinion of the man is good enough for me.

@kirsten. I know it's been like 4 years since you posted but in case you ever come back to this blog, I just want to ask-
Out of all the hero's in the history of the armed forces, why would you travel to who-knows-where just to pay your respect Sobel?
It's a rhetorical question. The answer is that you are retarded.

not gonna proof read this. don't like my typos? goto hell. Everyone that defended Sobel beyond his training abilities, is a faggot.
I sure wish Captain Sobel was alive so that he would know that many, many people acknowledge his contribution, despite his portrayal, accurate or not. I wish I could thank him.
I don’t understand why anyone is sympatric towards Cpt. Sobel. If Band of Brothers got it right, then Sobel was lucky that he was removed from Easy Company when he was. Otherwise I believe he may have been fragged by his own men shortly after D-Day.

My major problem with Sobel was that he failed to realize that you cannot DEMAND RESPECT, you must COMMAND RESPECT. The men of Easy Company were not your run of the mill standard U.S. Army soldiers. They were above average soldiers and they all volunteered to become paratroopers, something that was fairly new and extremely dangerous. These men expected to be pushed harder than the average soldier. However, Sobel seemed to have abused his rank and the men who fell under his command.

With rank comes responsibility and authority, he was not responsible with his authority. You don’t break a man down just to break them down, there has to be a reason. What was his reason? To make them stronger, mentally, physically or both. He could have achieved these goals without being cruel, he was not smart about it. When I was in basic training and A.I.T. we were “beat down” but not “put down” and there is a HUGE difference. Sobel should have justified his training regiment to his higher ups and been held accountable for any infractions instead of misdirecting blame and punishing everyone. If indeed soldiers under his command committed infractions no matter how minor, he should also held himself accountable. But, he even knew what he was doing was BS and once you cross that boundary of trust and mistreat your men for no logical reason then you will lose the respect of your men and have failed to be an effective leader.

Point in case, why did Sobel attempt to court martial Winters, or revoke weekend passes as often as he did? Was it because he was a control freak and or a loner? Either way, I look at what Sobel did to the men prior to D-Day as a poor attempt to enforce his will and insecurities upon stronger men. These men took a long hard look at themselves and realized Sobel was not up to the task of leadership and needed to be relieved of his command. Thank God, he finally was relieved allowing Major Winters to lead the men of Easy Company.

Im not sure what kind of soldier Herbert Sobel was, but he was promoted to Lt. Col. and he did serve when it was absolutely necessary so don't let a movie totally influence your thoughts on the man.
If you read the book, you'll see that it's not just Sobel's tactics that prepared Easy Company as well. COL Sink also made some extraordinary, maybe sadistic is a better word, requests of Easy Company that definitely helped prepare them for the conditions of combat. And promoting Sobel the way he did without noticing the harsh and unfair treatment Sobel was giving to the men is a reflection of poor leadership on his part. Despite how the aggregate total of that harsh treatment supposedly helped them stay alive.

For example, COL Sink volunteered Easy to march the 100+ miles to their next training location after Toccoa. Bob Malarkey was said to have crawled to chow one night during that march because he could not walk. With the senior person in charge willing to do something like that to Easy, why would Sobel hold back? It's quite obvious he was a vindictive a-hole and that has no place in a leader.
Hello from Greece. Captain Sobel was very good DI. It's army not kintergarden. Training is supposed to be rough and also is supposed to be unpleasant.
In Greece we have a saying: the more sweat in training the less blood in combat.
I agree with all who said that Sobel was good for training but not for combat.
However Sobel was trying all the time to find a reason for punishment. The most ridiculous was the attempt to punish Winters (in England) before D Day.
Sobel may be receiving too much credit...as was pointed out in BoB the men of easy co were self motivated type a to begin with...that's why they volunteered for airborn...regardless of sobels methods easy would have performed heroically imo due to their already impressive fortitude and leadership of the ncos...sadly sobel is an interesting sidebar to an epic outfit and not the reason for its success...nevertheless the man served our great country and deserves more respect than the depiction offered by print and film...he may have been better served such distinction by downplaying or even omitting the accounts of his character flaws
The primary (and most valuable) task of an Army Physical Instructor is to completely disintegrade a well fed and peacefull ordinary man and then remold him to a deadly teamworking warrior. According to these facts, any "Herbert Sobel" is an ideal Physical Instructor. The rest, most invaluable fighting knowledge (i.e. map reading, communications etc.) are the scope of other Army Training Schools.
has anyone read inferno by hastings? he mentions that sobel was referred to as "the fuckin jew" by the members of easy company; i feel that in our desire to romantize the "greatest generation" and the "band of brothers" we ignore aspects of our history that are not pleasant;
All the stuff about Sobel above is irrelevant - how can you defend a man who allows his petty and mean spirited approach to interfere with his obligation to train the troops? That's not being tough, it's simply chickenshit or worse. The several examples of his seeking to revenge himself upon, or to humiliate, those under his command do him no credit.

A revealing episode related in Winter's Memoirs was later in Europe, when Sobol, still a captain passed Winters, then a major, and did not salute him. He had to be reminded by Winters that "you honor the rank" (not the person), before Sobol was shamed into saluting.

By the way, he did jump into Normandy - and he was awarded a Bronze Star at some time in his service. He also participated in the Market Garden Operation. He was recalled to active service in the Korean conflict and retired as Lieutenant Colonel.
You need a leader who is sworn to get you through to the last man. But you need a TRAINER who TRULY DOES NOT care whether you, the individual soldier, live or die. Anything less com promises the mission and breaks faith with the LEADER.
Despite knowing that Sobel was a troubled man, and did not have the ability to lead men in the field, this man was a genius at pulling a team of men together. Many a man would not have survived without his harsh training; what he instilled in the unit was rubbed off on all people involved in the unit for the remainder of the war - including the replacements.
He was a superb instructor in terms of physical conditioning...

as ex-army myself though I can definitely state that in combat he would most likely (99%) have been shot by his own men if the Germans didn't get him first.
Although circumstances conspired to make this a moot point.

BoB did give him a it of a raw deal though - more could have been said...
Both your Family and our Nation should be proud of Captin Soble.

After WW2 he was recalled for duty and served in Korea for the duration of the war, and left a Lt. Colonel. Accorrding to regimental records,he did parachute into Normandy during D-Day.

My father was in the 2nd Armored division and after watching the Band of Brothers, he really didnt see anything out of line with the training. He added that he would rather have his butt kicked in training and not in battle. He also added things are probably different now. Not for the better or worse, just different.

Maybe Captain Soble at the time wasnt the best combat commander, even though he was light years ahead of Dyke. He still was an excellant trainer and officer.
As it was stated earlier, the survivors of Easy company have stated that their survival was made, at least in great part, to Sobel's hard training. Think about it; the paratroppers were doing some of the hardest work and fighting in the European front. The hardest training got them the farthest, simply put. True Ambrose vilified him based on the statements of the members of Easy company and he was portrayed as he was then. Maybe it was an accurate portrayal of his behavior and training but the story and the movies surely did not portray what was in his heart and mind.
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