Band of Brothers

Ambrose, Stephen E.

Simon & Schuster, 1992

pp. 23 - 25, 298 - 299

E Company had a problem in the person of 1st Lieutenant, later captain, Herbert Sobel: he had a long face, a large, hooked nose, and a receding chin. He “exuded arrogance.” If he didn’t like a man he tyrannized him. For tiny infractions Sobel imposed major penalties. He would make a man who had come in late on Sunday night pay for it after the next day’s training by being ordered to dig a 6 x 6 x 6-foot pit with his entrenching tool. When the pit had been dug Sobel would order him to fill it up. “Anyone who has ever been in the army knows the type. He generated maximum anxiety over matters of minimum significance. Paul Fussell, in his book Wartime, has the best definition: ‘Chickensh*t refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it needs to be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant “paying off of old scores;” and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances. Chickensh*t is so called—instead of horse- or bull- or elephant sh*t—because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously.’” Pp. 298-99 Sobel had an unsuccessful life after the war. He was estranged from his wife and from his sons. He was forever bitter toward the men of E Company and toward life in general. He deteriorated mentally, botched a suicide attempt, and died. Neither his ex-wife nor his sons attended his funeral.