I liked this book. It was not the best reading ever, but it fills out more fully the story of the `Band of Brothers", the WWII exploits of E Company of the 101st Airborne division. It is one of several books that came out after the success of "Band of Brothers".
To read "Parachute Infantry" is to look at the flip side of the story of E Company.
David Kenyon Webster, a Harvard student, was not an original member of E Company at Toccoa, jumping on D-Day as a member of the HQ Company.
He later joined and became a completely unaccomplished member of E Company, and had a very limited role in its storied successes during WWII. He was a self-admitted "goldbrick", and refused to volunteer for anything. He was not a coward but did have a strong sense of self-preservation which served to severely limit his opportunities for doing anything heroic.
Webster barely seems to have even gotten to know Major Dick Winters, the central character of E Company in the BoB story. Throughout his time with E Company, Webster was so good at keeping his head down that he rarely was able to see the bigger picture of what his unit was trying to accomplish beyond a very tightly focused small objective.
Webster would end his autobiography of his WWII experience with this lament: "I have accomplished nothing, achieved no rank, seen almost no action".
Why would anybody interested in WWII, in the story of E Company, be interested in this book? Why would Stephen Ambrose be so interested in it that he would help get it published in 1994, after it had been initially rejected in the 1950's, when it was first written?
For BoB aficionados, it does fill out some more details about several members of E Company, such as Joe Liebgott, Donald Hoobler, Burton Christenson, George Luz, John Janovek, Ronald Speir, Lieutenant Thomas Peacock, and the Camera Killer Lieutenant.
The other books about E Company concentrate on the most active members of E Company, the "heroes", the "killers" (Dick Winters's term). This book is about the other guys in the company, the faceless GIs of E Company who were only trying to get by and survive the war. And to that extent, this book is full of the rich details of the daily grind and trivia of Army life during WWII. We get abundant details about food and Army rations out in the field, about the cooks, about the looting, about the sex, about the civilians in the countryside.
We find out additional details such as the fact that towards the end of the war, George Luz had left E Company to go to the HQ Company.
From this book came the scene of German prisoners being shot by the roadside by a French soldier (Webster's account is much more striking than the movie version - you'll have to read it), as well as the scene of Webster chatting with the German MP at the roadside checkpoint from the HBO series.
Other scenes from the HBO series involving David Webster are not in this book, and so it remains unclear whether these came only from the imagination of the writers. These include the conversations between Webster and Joe Liebgott in the truck (where Liebgott talks about his dreams after the war is over), Webster's rant at the passing columns of surrendering German soldiers, the scene at the concentration camp involving Webster and Liebgott, and Webster's involvement in the Last Patrol (he actually stayed in one of the outposts to cover the patrol while Liebgott went as the translator - Webster's account does have a more detailed description of what happened to the dying German soldier left behind by the American raiding party). The HBO depiction of Webster getting snubbed by E Company members when he rejoins them is completely contrary to his account of a warm reception by E Company in this book.
It was good to read this book to find out more about what was true and what was Hollywood in the scenes involving Webster, and to get such a different viewpoint of "Band of Brothers" beside the ones focusing on the heroes of E Company.
This was a book written well before its time. The ethos of the 1950s simply could not handle its raw honesty about life in the military. It is not unlike "Jarhead", a book about the first Iraq War, and it also is similar to many other Vietnam era and post-Vietnam era war autobiographies.
The only part that's really different, that has changed completely, is that this book describes a time when students at elite universities like Harvard would volunteer to serve with the military, with the paratroopers of the U.S. Army.