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The Unvarnished Truth About Captain Herbert Sobel

Sep 09, 2014 // By Marcus Brotherton
Sobel 4

Sobel as portrayed by David Schwimmer (R) in a confrontation with Lt. Dick Winters (played by Damian Lewis) in the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers.

He was a hated man.

He was an admired man.

Anyone I’ve ever talked to who served under Captain Herbert Sobel—the one-time commander of Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne—has an opinion about him.

Some of the veterans from this elite group (the WWII paratroopers commonly known as the Band of Brothers) describe Sobel as an inflexible tyrant of a drill sergeant. They say he was a man who drew hard lines over petty issues. He was a poor map reader and an all-around lousy leader. He was so incompetent he was going to get others killed in battle, thus he needed to be removed from his position of leadership, which he was.

Yet other describe Sobel as a strategist. They say he became an integral part in shaping the company into the best it could be. Sobel’s role as a drill sergeant was not to win any popularity contests, but to harden young men into combat soldiers. Men lived because Sobel chiseled them into top warriors.

Sobel died in 1987 at age 75 after shooting himself in the head, and none of his family members attended his funeral, but even these parts of his life have not quite been portrayed accurately in times past.

Several years back I had the opportunity to interview Michael Sobel, Captain’s Sobel’s middle son.

What follows are some facts about Sobel’s life, not in-depth information about his service in the war—that’s been written about extensively in a variety of books—but about the man he was before and after.

How will Captain Herbert Sobel go down in history?

The question still remains.

Sobel 3
1.

Herbert Sobel was born on January 26, 1912, and grew up in Chicago where he attended the strong-disciplined Culver Military Academy. He did well on the high school swim team and graduated from the University of Illinois. He was six feet tall, a slender build, and bore a striking resemblance to David Schwimmer, who portrayed him in the HBO miniseries.

After WWII, Sobel married. He was nine years older than his wife, an American who first worked as a nurse in a hospital in Italy during the war. Later she worked at Hines VA Hospital in Chicago. They met there when Sobel visited a fellow soldier who had been wounded. Sobel and his wife had three boys in their family and a daughter who died several days after birth.

Sobel’s wife was blonde-haired and blue-eyed, an attractive woman. Her family were dirt farmers from South Dakota, German immigrants. She was Catholic, but Sobel was Jewish, which created tension. Sobel’s parents were business people from Chicago, part of the old aristocracy, and that side of the family never really accepted Sobel’s wife, as Jewish families then weren’t generally open to their sons marrying Catholic non-Jews, Michael said.

Sobel’s children were raised Catholic and attended Mass on a regular basis with their mother. Sobel attended Mass sporadically and also went to Synagogue occasionally. There was never much discussion of faith and religion in the home.

I3, Rich Riley, Sobel

Captain Sobel and his wife, early years. Photo courtesy the Sobel family via Rich Riley.

2.

As a child, on several occasions, Michael asked his father about the war but never received any information from him. Sobel could be very private when he chose. Mrs. Sobel told her son later that Sobel had never talked to her about the war either. He stayed in the reserves for many years, eventually retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Sobel leaned conservative in his politics and was a staunch Republican. He never missed a day of work. Even when it wasn’t popular to drive an economy car he owned a little four-cylinder Metropolitan that he drove to the Chicago L station to ride the train to work.

Sobel worked as a credit manager for a wholesaler, A.C. McClurg & Co. in downtown Chicago, then for the Mathias Klein Company, which made tools for the telephone industry. His positions were mid-level. Every day he wore a suit and a clean, starched white-collared shirt. Michael didn’t recall a single day when his father was sick or stayed home from work.

Mrs. Sobel worked too. Every morning Sobel got up early and made breakfast for his wife. If it was the dead of winter he pulled his wife’s car up to the front of the house, cleared off the snow, and turned on the heater for her.

Every evening after work Sobel had a cocktail with his wife, and they chatted about the events of the day. Michael remembers going to family gatherings where his father was always well-liked and lively.

“He was a great dad in many ways,” Michael said. “He was very loving and attentive. He doted on my mother and was very much in love with her. I never heard him use profanity or witnessed him losing his temper. He never raised a hand to us kids when we didn’t deserve it—and there were plenty of times we did deserve it and didn’t get it.”

I4, Rich Riley, Sobel

Captain Sobel with his young son. Photo courtesy the Sobel family via Rich Riley.

3.

The Sobels lived in the same house where Sobel had grown up as a kid. It was a large red-brick house with a slate roof, the biggest house on the block, and all the neighborhood kids hung out at the Sobel’s house. On Sunday mornings Sobel made pancakes, and there was always a place set for any of the neighborhood kids who straggled by.

Sobel spent a lot of time with his sons playing sports, especially baseball. He always addressed his boys by the nicknames he had given them: Michael was Inky. His older brother was Footsie; his younger brother, Skookie.

When the boys were young, if they had behaved during the day, then they were given the honor of doing twenty minutes of calisthenics with their father before bed—pushups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks. If they boys had been goofing off then he wouldn’t allow them to exercise.

Michael recalls: “Dad was always in great physical shape and could bang out pushups no problem. It’s odd that the HBO series showed him struggling with pushups. As kids we did 50 to 75 pushups per night, and Dad did them right with us. It was a game, fun for us. I’m pushing age 60 today and I can still hit tennis balls at a highly competitive level thanks to the strength and disciplines Dad developed in us as kids.”

Sobel was conservative in his savings and set aside money for all three of his sons to go to college. The family did not consider themselves wealthy, but Sobel made it known that second only to family, an education was imperative.

Michael came of college age during the height of the Vietnam War era. The relationship between him and his father became strained during those years. The younger brother was a diabetic so he was exempt from the draft. The other brother got a low draft number and enlisted in the Coast Guard. Michael grew his hair down to his shoulders and went to Berkeley.

Michael remembers. “I was quite at odds with my father politically, and I know that hurt him a lot. I was arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I know those years stressed our relationship quite a bit.”

I2, Rich Riley, Sobel

Captain Sobel and young son. Photo courtesy the Sobel family via Rich Riley.

4.

When asked about his father’s attempted suicide, Michael said the story was difficult to talk about, and that it required some explanation.

After the Kent State Massacre in 1970, Michael was attending college at Southern Illinois University. As a result of the killings, there were student riots going on all over America. Michael had been involved in some political groups that were unpopular at the time and had decided to lay low for a while. It took the police three days to track down his whereabouts before being able to deliver a message that Sobel had attempted suicide, and that Michael needed to call home.

Michael recalled the evening he got home to the family house. He and his mother sat at the kitchen table trying to make sense of what had happened. She was inconsolable.

Sobel had shot himself in the head with a small caliber pistol, but had lived. The bullet entered from the left temple and passed behind his eyes out the other side of his head, severing the optic nerves and leaving him blind. Michael found this rather odd, as his father was right handed.

Because of Michael’s political beliefs, he had been out of touch with his father for some years so he was unaware of what was happening in his father’s personal life preceding the suicide attempt.

“I don’t know why he chose to do what he did,” Michael said. “I asked my mom if she knew, although I didn’t want to probe too much. It’s true he could be overly private, even controlling at times. To this day she is not certain why he did what he did. She postulated that he thought he had cancer, and was unwilling to get tested for the disease. He was not divorced from my mother yet, as some people suggest—that happened later.”

After the suicide attempt, Sobel was moved to a VA assisted living in Waukegan, Illinois, where he lived out his remaining years. He was fully ambulatory but in and out of being lucid, sometimes in a semi-vegetative state, according to Michael. He had friends in the VA ward though the living conditions at the VA were poor.

I1, Rich Riley, Sobel

Captain Sobel during training.

5.

Michael confirmed that none of Sobel’s immediate family were in attendance when he died in 1987. Yet that part of the story requires explanation as well.

To Michael’s knowledge, a memorial service was not held. “Our contact with him had waned over the years,” Michael said, “and when he passed we were unaware of the event. His sister attended to the details. It was days, perhaps even a week, after he died that his sister phoned my mom to let her know.”

The death certificate listed malnutrition as the cause. He was cremated. Sobel had spent the last seventeen years of his life in the VA assisted living.

Michael said, “I recognize this might sound a bit strange, but my father’s death seemed anticlimactic to me. The passage of time had served to distance him from his family. I was living on Maui at the time. My mother and father were divorced by then. She remarried in 1995 at age 75. She married a wonderful man and enjoyed eight fantastic years with Bert before he died. I find it remarkable and heartwarming that she chose to find love again after the heartache she had been through. To this day I admire her inner strength and unwavering support for her sons.”

Michael added, “I think my father and I reconciled our differences partially before he died and partially after. One of the last times I saw him in the hospital I gave him a gold coin, a small memento of a trip to Guatemala I had been on, and some money for his personal needs. I think he received it well. I believe now, even in death, my father is closer to me than ever. I respect his strength and guidance. I’m thankful for the father I had.”

Michael said he bears no animosity toward HBO for portraying his father as they did, although he was stunned and upset at the portrayal when he first saw the series.

In 2002, Michael ended up as an impromptu guest speaker at the Easy Company reunion in Arizona. One of the men’s sons hugged him through tears and said, “My father told me that if I ever had the honor of meeting you to let you know that it was because of your father that I’m alive today.”

“That was pretty much the sentiment of the men I met that day,” Michael said. “I receive calls from men who served with my father and who praise him to this day.”

 

Question: What can you learn most from the life of Captain Sobel?

 

Enjoy Marcus’ new novel, FEAST FOR THIEVES.

  • Hank

    I’m glad you wrote this Marcus. Watching Band of Brothers, you love to hate the guy. Schwimmer did a great job of making you hate him. I can understand his son’s surprise and disappointment at HBO’s fictionalization of parts of his character. As much as I get the artistic license that creatives have, it does bother me to see, especially in a dramatized documentary, a man’s character misrepresented. There was probably plenty enough truth to how they characterized him to make you dislike him (you always need an antagonist), without making stuff up.

    Anyway, to your question of “What can you learn from Sobel’s life”? One thing I learn is that it’s really easy to sit back and evaluate a man on only a portion of the available information … and you really miss out. When my last day dawns, it’d probably be easy to sum up my life with a few sentences. But that won’t really tell the whole story, will it?

    I’m glad to hear his son’s take on him, and despite the faults (that we all have), that he saw the good in his father and the love he had for his family. In the end, it’s people like Michael whose opinion really matters.

    Last lesson? Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

    • MB

      Good thoughts, Hank. Thanks.

    • Mick

      All of this is all well and good..but as Michael said he was a good and loving father, so why when he needed them most did the contact ‘wane’ as he states. Wild Horses wouldn’t have kept me from my father, whatever the circumstances..I find it immeasurably sad that he died without his family by his side!

      • jackell59

        if you had a father like Sobel who constantly pushed you away emotionally and physically it might be different. I was close to my dad when he passed, and I’m a much better man because of it…..

      • jackell59

        if you had a father like Sobel who constantly pushed you away emotionally and physically it might be different. I was close to my dad when he passed, and I’m a much better man because of it…..

    • Joshua Graham

      There was most definitely a reason that Sobel is seen struggling to do pushups.

      It was because it actually happened.

      Here is an excerpt from the book Band of Brothers: “Sobel’s test was public and fair. I was part of a not-so-casual audience perhaps fifty feet away. At twenty push-ups he was noticeably bushed, but kept going. At twenty-four or twenty-five his arms were trembling, and he was turning red, but slowly continuing. How he managed to complete the thirty push-ups I don’t know, but he did. We were silent, shook our heads, but did not smile. Sobel did not lack determination. We comforted ourselved with the idea that he was still a joke, no matter what.”

      He quite clearly struggled to pass the test. He also obviously got in better shape later on in life,

  • Nomasidiotas

    I’m really glad you wrote this Marcus, thank you. I did not see Band of Brothers when it originally came out. I watched it a few years ago with my soldier son when he came back from a deployment, shortly after we had learned from a military historian friend that one of my 8 uncles who served in WWII had landed on Omaha Beach on D Day, something our uncle had never discussed with any of us. I asked my son about Sobel and it sparked an interesting discussion about leadership, and eventually went off into media representations of history. He said that he suspected there was much more to Sobel than as he was portrayed, and he urged that I try to keep in mind a “balance” and consume with a large grain of salt, all the stories told regarding all of the soldiers whether they were portrayed as sinners or saints, whether they were mentioned in the miniseries or not, and that the important thing was that they had put on the uniform and had served when they were needed. That advice helped also when I later read two Band of Brothers books on Major Winters which unfortunately served to cast him in an unflattering light, intended or not. People are complex creatures, people rub each other the wrong way, none of us are perfect. I still feel completely humbled by all of these marvelous men and their incredible courage, and am so grateful to all of them. I do not expect perfection, just humanity, and choose to celebrate and notice the good they brought to the world. I was just deeply moved for some reason to read that Sobel fixed his wife breakfast every morning and cleared the snow from her car, heating it so that she could get to work in comfort. That is real sweetness.

    • MB

      Thanks for your comment. Good thoughts.

  • The war took men from all walks of life and put them together in circumstances that were frequently very stressful. Many of them found themselves and thrived, others failed. The true stories of each of those men would undoubtedly contain admirable parts and others that would, if taken out of context, cause the observer to think disparagingly of him. Right now I’m reading Stephen Ambrose’s biography of Eisenhower. It was interesting to read that Ike made many tactical mistakes in virtually every campaign leading up to D-Day. A lot of his contemporaries, especially the British, did not care for him. By some accounts (including her own) he had an affair with Kay Summersby, which might bring on the disapproval or even contempt of people then and now. Yet taken in context, Ike’s conduct in the war, and conduct of the Allied campaigns in North Africa and Europe, were critical to our victory.
    The HBO series had to have conflict in the episodes covering the company’s training, and Sobel provided that. Whether the series’ portrayal of Sobel was completely accurate is, as Marcus noted, in question. But suppose the script had shown Sobel as being admired by some of his men, as he likely was? Suppose the scene where Winters confronts him in Europe (where Sobel, by then outranked by his former subordinate, does not salute) had included a line where Winters says, “Sobel, I just wanted to say thanks. The training you gave us back home was tough, but because of that a lot of your men will survive this war.” Leaving the viewer with some positive thoughts about Sobel would have (at least in the opinion of the scriptwriters, evidently) tamped down the conflict in the earlier episodes and thus made the shows less interesting.

    • MB

      Thank you, David.

      • I just finished Larry Alexander’s 2005 biography of Dick Winters, “Biggest Brother.” In the chapter that describes Stephen Ambrose’s book project that became “Band of Brothers,” Alexander writes that many Easy vets took part in the project, but not Sobel:
        “After leaving the army he had returned to Chicago an embittered man. Over the course of the next several years he married, took a job as an accountant, divorced, and grew apart from his children. Sobel blamed the men of Easy Company for much of his trouble and refused to reconcile his differences with them, even after Bill Guarnere paid his former commander’s dues to the 101st Division Association in hopes of getting Sobel to a reunion.
        “In 1971 a distraught Sobel shot himself.
        “‘Wouldn’t you know the poor guy botched it?’ Winters said.
        “While the attempt did not end his life, it added immeasurably to his misery. Severely injured, Sobel lingered for seventeen years in an army hospital before finally succumbing in 1988, just as the book was getting underway. In the years since, 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.
        “‘He didn’t make us a better outfit,’ he said in 2002. ‘He just made things worse than they had to be.'”
        After the book was published, Sobel’s sister (whom Alexander does not identify) contacted Ambrose to object to his description of her brother. Ambrose gave her Winters’ phone number:
        “When Sobel’s sister called, Winters listened with a sympathetic ear. She told him of a ‘nice guy with a good sense of humor and a good brother.’ They talked at length and he invited her to the next reunion, which would be held in Philadelphia. She agreed to attend. She also sent Winters copies of letters by friends of Sobel’s who served under him while he was at Culver Military School. They recalled more delightful moments, although there were some complaints about Sobel’s nitpicking. In the end, she half convinced Winters that Sobel wasn’t as bad as he seemed to appear.
        “‘We had not known Herbert as well as we could have,’ Winters conceded during an interview with the author (Alexander). But that still did not excuse 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 and death and you’re going to go into combat with this man, not just school, so you take it a little different.'”
        After reading Alexander’s book, it seems pretty clear that Winters and Sobel had a serious problem in their relationship as fellow officers. That, of course, was obvious in the book and miniseries, yet even decades after the war, Winters is not willing to cut Sobel very much slack. On the other hand, Winters has many good things to say about other soldiers, both enlisted and officers, who committed offenses far more serious than any Sobel might have done. For example, Lt. Robert Speirs of D Company was said to have shot six German POWs, and he was never prosecuted for what would be an obvious crime. He also shot and killed one of his own men, a sergeant and squad leader who refused Speirs’s order to hold in position on the morning of June 7, 1944. One witness said the sergeant was drunk and turned his own weapon on Speirs. There was never any investigation because Speirs’ CO, to whom Speirs had reported the incident, was killed the next day.
        Of Speirs, Alexander quotes Winters as saying, “The stories about him are true. When I first heard, I was speechless. What he did was unbelievable, inexcusable.” Yet Winters then offers an excuse for why Speirs was not prosecuted. “Well, you needed every man you had. Those guys that goofed up, didn’t measure up, you couldn’t just get rid of them. You needed the body, because if you lose that body, then somebody else has to shoulder twice the burden. You needed every body you could get.”

        • Jay P

          thanks, interesting post. Going through the BoB series at this moment and was curious about Captain Sobel.

        • TL

          I am going to have to disagree with your assessment that Winters gave Spiers a pass. Winters was not in a position to do anything. He did not witness these acts. As a matter of fact in the last book “Conversations with Major Dick Winters” by Cole Kingseed Winters admits that he really didn’t have much regard for Spiers as a person.

    • Jeff

      David – well stated.

  • johnboy

    From reading books about the BOB’s and watching the series Sobel could not lead men, read a map, was jumpy in the field and was tough on his men. What he had going for him was he was good at training , getting men in shape both physically and mentally(he was tough on his men in these last two areas). Unfortunately, his rank dictated he be superior in all areas of his responsibilities, not just training and getting men in shape and getting them ready for the reality of combat. If you noticed in the series when he was transferred he was going to teach priests to jump into combat. Almost the perfect position. They would know everything about jumping out of the airplane and landing safely. Only these guys would not need the level of fitness that the paratroopers did.
    Does this make him a bad leader, a bad person? No it means he was in a position he was not skilled enough to succeed in.

    • MB

      This seems to be the consensus among many vets as well. Thanks.

      • Graeme Baird

        I had a platoon commander who couldn’t read a map properly (e.g.
        stranding us in the wrong field for a heli-pickup on a covert op) and wasn’t a
        good tactical leader in the field, sometimes putting us in danger if NCOs didn’t
        intervene. He was, however, a fine man, who cared about us all and went beyond
        the call to help individuals on many occasions.
        Kicked sideways and turned into a fine signals officer. Everybody has their niche.

    • Chinacat23

      A far more succinct reflection of my point below.

  • Wes Knettle

    Marcus, very well written and brings the whole person concept to the situation. Not a bad person. Just a person in the wrong position at a trying time. There are many instances in history where the best basic trainer was not always the best in combat. He was there, he served and for that he has my respect and admiration.

    • MB

      Well put, Wes. Thank you.

  • Rob MacDonald

    This is a good article, one that has been posted in a previous book, but the one thing that it fails to recognize is that despite all his described faults Sobel stood in there and did what he had to do. He could have hid behind a posting in the quartermaster but instead put himself out there and was willing to place himself out on the frontline as a junior officer. Yes he had faults but he also helped make Easy Company into the “Band of Brothers”. May his efforts never be forgotten or minimized.

    • MB

      I hope that thought comes through loud and clear, Rob.

  • gary sedgwick

    Marcus: A great story about Sobel and glad you could talk with his son. The military had a variety of leaders training new active duty men and women. Sobel pushed the men very hard but some of the Band of Brothers gives him credit for their condition in combat. I am now reading about the Big Red one on D Day and in most of my reading it the leadership of many men, under fire, who step into command at the time when needed to continue with the combat. Officers would become wounded or dead, and someone would continue the fight with instincts. Just about every book mentions how replacements were killed due to a lack of training. Sobel + other individuals contributed to the best chances the fighting men had in all battles. Loved your book and will write Amazon this week.
    gary

    • MB

      Well said, Gary, thanks for the good word.

  • Great article, Marcus. I remember doing research on him at HBO, in pre-production. I even had his hand-writing analyzed – and the outcome was eerily accurate. I got to spend a lot of time with Rhea Moore and learned so very much about her and her husband, the original platoon commander of Easy (reversed when they decided how to fall out for reveille… 1st Platoon became 3rd.) Moore had a charge go off in his hand, while doing a demonstration for the top brass pre-Normandy. He survived but was in the hospital for over a year before going home. He always felt like he had let his men down. Rhea had three folded, cased flags in her bay window, which I humbly observed every time I’d go by to visit her on my trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    One was for her husband. One was for her kid brother who died as a Marine on Iwo. One was for a son who went to Vietnam.

    The story gets even more interesting, but I’m certainly drawn to the stories of the Sobels and Moores as much as any of the bigger names.

    Thanks for sharing that, brother.

    • MB

      Thanks for your insider’s perspective, David. Much appreciated.

    • Kevin Rice

      “platoon leader” …. the Marine Corps has platoon commanders

  • headlesssoldier

    Very interesting information. I do love the series and am fascinated by the characters. Schwimmer did an excellent job portraying Sobel. But it is great to have clarification of who Sobel really was. He did his job. If he had some troubles reading a map, or executing under pressure etc….so what. He did his job by showing up and putting in the effort. Now we learn that he did a fantastic job training the men. good stuff.

    • Chinacat23

      I truly don’t mean to be a jerk when I state this, but how “excellent” an actor can Schwimmer be if you were left with the feeling of needing “clarification of who Sobel really was?” Isn’t that an actor’s job, communicating via word, deed and that special ineffable something, precisely who and what a character is/was or could be in life? If you’re left feeling the way you described, then Schwimmer did not do his job.

      Has anyone considered that the PORTRAYAL of Sobel is the problem. Have we not all seen those lacking in key skills portrayed in a more complex and therefore more three dimensional manner? I blame one-note Schwimmer for the flat portrayal. He had ample opportunity to express Sobel’s “real” side, whatever that may have been. Did he need to express jealousy and envy when he pinned Winter’s bars to his collar when he was promoted at Curahee? Did he need to be shifty-eyed in the “court-martial endorsement” scene? I love the series and could give more examples, but I think you get my point. If not, try this: imagine Schwimmer playing Winters. Doesn’t quite work does it? Damian Lewis who played Winters had a quality that Schwimmer lacked, it’s called depth and vulnerability. When we can relate to the portrayal, whether protagonist, antagonist or support, those two very human qualities are key in allowing the audience to suspend disbelief and relate to the character.

      Schwimmer lacked the ability to portray Sobel as anything but a flat description of “type.” It was an opportunity lost and a bad casting choice. If we cared for Sobel the way we cared for Winters, if the cookie-cutter, formulaic pattern of good guy versus bad guy was avoided, we could have been treated to two great actors giving us a slice of history the way it truly happened. But, they cast Schwimmer, had to have a face in the opener everyone recognized to get the audience interested I suppose.

      I find it hard to believe that Sobel was a caricature in reality as Schwimmer gave him to us on the screen. Damian Lewis (Winters) could have dropped the ball just as easily and then we would have really been sunk, but then again, Winter’s part in the events portrayed was key to the entire series, it was delivered from his point of view in the main.

      In any case, the problem with the portrayal of Sobel, though I’m quite sure it was a real problem as a number of his activities are a matter of military record, is the fact he portrayed an actual person and Schwimmer missed the mark. So, to the family of Herbert Sobel, blame Schwimmer, not “Band of Brothers” on the whole. Blaming the title is like blaming the gymnasium for seeing a poorly played sporting event. Many artists collaborated to create this incredible mini-series, many will never be a part of its equal again. It’s an important piece of work and most importantly because they included the surviving soldiers not only in momentary introductions, but in a documentary dedicated to the men of the company. And it is recorded forevermore, lest we forget. As one of the men of Ez said in one of those introductions while describing 4F’s having committed suicide because they were prevented from fighting, “it was a different time.”

      In many ways it was the beginning of modern life, but that’s another subject entirely. To sum: Schwimmer bad and one note, Lewis good, fully realized, and could have been better with a more accomplished, more talented actor playing Sobel, an actor capable of finding the vulnerability in the man. I wonder if Schwimmer did any research? If he did, he should be really thankful for “Friends” because he’s essentially done, rich, but without art, which is sad because that is what he set out to do, i.e. be an artist, an actor. Now he’s just a comic memory from “Friends,” a guy who did a few bad movies and blew a major opportunity in the historic “Band of Brothers.”

      • Kevin Winn

        Clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about and just don’t like David Schwimmer.

      • Ben Butina

        Did this miniseries have a director, or did David Schwimmer just play it however he wanted? If Sobel came off as an unlikable heel, there’s a whole raft of people who wanted it that way.

      • Ben Butina

        Did this miniseries have a director, or did David Schwimmer just play it however he wanted? If Sobel came off as an unlikable heel, there’s a whole raft of people who wanted it that way.

      • Lyle

        A great deal of Schwimmers portrayal of Sobel was due to the script and the director, I think this was one of his best movies ever. This TV show sucked, talk about one-note. This series made me think he was actually an actor.

      • Lyle

        A great deal of Schwimmers portrayal of Sobel was due to the script and the director, I think this was one of his best movies ever. This TV show sucked, talk about one-note. This series made me think he was actually an actor.

      • TL

        Wow! You used a lot of words to really not say a whole lot! For the record, they picked Schwimmer because he was a competent who looked like Sobel, not because he was a familiar face. He played the role as was depicted in the book by Ambrose and the screenwriters wrote it as such as well. Unfortunately Sobel was dead well before Ambrose wrote the book so you do not have the benefit of Sobel’s perspective. That being said you had many members of Easy Company who were able to be interviewed by Ambrose and the screenwriters and get a very good perspective of what Sobel was like when he was in Easy Company.

      • Marv Chomer

        Respectfully, I think Schwimmer did a fantastic job playing Sobel–he played the role EXACTLY as it was written in the book. When reading Band of Brothers, I could tell that Ambrose had a lot of disdain for Sobel and even went as far as calling him “chicken shit.” Winters was the character that I didn’t care about. I saw no depth in Damian Lewis’ Winters. I just saw a man ordering his men to fight and die.

  • newwatcher

    I cant help but feel Michael and the rest of Sobel’s family are ….. heartless and cruel. They essentially left their father to rot in a cheap home, even thou he provided for his family through the years and even sent them to college. “Time” didn’t serve to distance the man from his family – they decided to willingly ignore him. Even when he was clearly depressed enough to shoot himself, nobody came to help him and his wife even decided to divorce him – compounding his misery. Great, people are just great. This is no heartwarming story.

    • Trung Nguyen

      100% percent agree.
      E company vet that survive owe Sobel a great deal for hardening and
      bonding due to his training method. For some reason a few of them
      only figure that out a lot later in life?!?! Writer/screen of HBO
      should of done a better job.

      • Dan

        I think the writers of the show
        Daughter of the late Major Richard D. Winters balks at plans for statue in Ephrata – News – lancasteronline.com
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        Daughter of the late Major Richard D. Winters balks at plans for statue in Ephrata

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        An artist’s rendering shows the proposed memorial to the late Maj. Richard D. Winters that is planned in Ephrata Borough.

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        By TOM KNAPP | Staff Writer | Updated 3 months ago

        A statue honoring the late Major Richard D. Winters has drawn fire from an unexpected direction.

        His family.

        Winters – who commanded Easy Company when troops with the 101st Airborne Division parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, and whose exploits were featured in the book and HBO series “Band of Brothers” – was born in Ephrata, and the town wants to honor his memory with a statue.

        But Winters would want neither the acclaim nor the attention, insists his daughter, Jill Peckelun of Hershey.

        “We, as Winters, are very modest, quiet people,” Peckelun said Tuesday. “We don’t like a lot of attention. We like to keep things quiet.”

        Her father was the soul of modesty, she said, and used his fame to tell the larger story of World War II and its military heroes, and wouldn’t want the focus to stay on him after his death.

        “We’re really trying to put the emphasis on the people who are alive and should be recognized at this time,” Peckelun said.

        “When my dad was alive, he got such a kick out of the publicity and the attention that he received – it was wonderful to see, and he deserved it.

        “But he’s no longer here. All that acclaim and attention and financial investment should be going, in our minds, to the people who are still alive and can enjoy it. It’s time to pass on the baton.”

        Winters died in January 2011.

        A committee of volunteers in Ephrata is pushing for the statue, which is a duplicate of the Leadership Memorial sculpted by Stephen Spears and unveiled last June in St. Marie du Mont, France.

        A replica of the 1,000-pound, 13-foot-tall bronze statue is slated to be installed at the head of the Major D. Richard Winters Memorial Trail, a rail-trail in Ephrata renamed in his honor in June.

        The cost of the statue is $90,000. Committee members are trying to raise $350,000 to cover all costs of installation and upkeep so there’s no cost to taxpayers.

        But Peckelun said her family was promised no copies of the Normandy statue would be made. She said no one from Ephrata contacted the family for their blessing on the project, or even let them know it was being done.

        “I read about it in the paper, just like everybody else,” she said.

        Peckelun said the walking trail is a sufficient memorial, and she wishes the borough would leave it at that.

        “It’s fitting for him and the kind of man he was,” she said. “It’s modest and fair. Anything beyond that seems, to our point of view, somewhat grandiose. It just doesn’t fit in with who we are.”

        The family has received – and declined – “numerous requests” for permission to name everything from bridges and roads to cemeteries and competitive races in Winters’ honor, Peckelun said.

        She said the family has voiced to Spears its opposition to the copy of the statue being placed in Ephrata.

        “Obviously, that’s had no effect,” she said. “Everybody’s going to do what they want to do, but I wanted to put out our truth.”

        Spears did not respond to requests for an interview, although he sent an email Wednesday saying he has “no intention in giving any credence to the misinformation being spread on social media about the Winters project.”

        In the email, Spears denied agreeing not to duplicate the Normandy statue.

        “I alone own the copyright for the Richard Winters sculpture and never promised or signed an agreement that it would only be cast for Normandy,” he wrote.

        Ephrata Borough officials on Tuesday said borough council has granted permission for the statue to be erected on borough land.

        “But the group that is planning to purchase and place the statue is not directly affiliated with the borough,” said borough manager D. Robert Thompson.

        Thompson said he received a letter from Peckelun, which is on the agenda for discussion by council’s community services committee at 4:30 p.m. today at borough offices, 124 S. State St.

        Mayor Ralph Mowen also stressed Tuesday that “the borough is not involved in the project.”

        But, he added, “the borough has approved the site. The down payment has already been made, so I don’t even know if it’s possible to back out at this point.”

        Rebecca Gallagher, who co-chairs the statue committee, agrees that Winters was a humble man.

        “He would never have wanted a statue to honor his celebrity … but I think he would have wanted to know that he was an inspiration to others. And I think that’s what this statue is about,” she said.

        “It’s important to have heroes to look up to. Dick Winters is a symbol.”

        Like the statue in Normandy, the Ephrata statue would be called the Leadership Memorial to honor veterans past and present, Gallagher said.

        “I don’t disagree with Jill that we should honor our remaining veterans, and I think this statue will do that,” she said.

        “I think we’re doing the right thing. No one wants to exploit his memory. We want to share it so it can be an inspiration to others.”

        Peckelun, however, said the $350,000 being raised for the project would be better used helping veterans.

        “Yes, his name has a lot of recognition … I get that. But there are a lot of heroes out there, and it’s their turn,” she said.

        “It’s a lot of money. If you could raise $350,000, wouldn’t you rather use it to help somebody, to improve their life? People who are coming back with missing limbs, with post-traumatic stress syndrome. People who can’t find jobs.

        “That’s why my dad did all that publicity. Not for the acclaim, but for the veterans.”

        Peckelun has an ally in Tim Gray, chairman of the World War II Foundation, which orchestrated the Winters statue in Normandy.

        Gray, who also responded to a request for an interview by email, said Spears was not part of the foundation’s conversations with Winters or his wife, Ethel, in 2009.

        “My wishes, good, bad or indifferent, and those of the sculptor are totally irrelevant, as it’s the family who should have the final say. It’s the right way to go about it,” he wrote.

        “We can play the ‘he said/she said’ game forever, but it doesn’t matter what I want, what I say or what the sculptor says or offers or even what the borough of Ephrata desires. It’s about honoring a commitment made to a World War II hero and his family.”

        The Winters family insisted that no duplicates of the Normandy statue be made, Gray said. When the foundation received word of the Ephrata project, “we immediately voiced our objections to the sculptor and others involved. Unfortunately, when they made their decision to move ahead they neglected to ask the family for permission.”

        Cole Kingseed, who co-authored Winters’ memoirs, “Beyond the Band of Brothers,” said Wednesday he believes the statue is an “appropriate” way to honor Winters.

        “Dick Winters, next to my dad, was the greatest man I ever met,” Kingseed said. “He’s a public figure. He doesn’t belong to any individual – he belongs to the American people.

        “But, having said that, I think we should respect the family’s wishes.”

        Bill Jackson of Hershey said he was a close friend of Winters’ “for more than 30 years – before ‘Band of Brothers,’ when he was just Dick Winters, feed dealer.”

        Jackson said he supports the statue, and he thinks the major would have, too – as long as it honored the men with whom he served.

        “He would always say, ‘I’m not a hero. I served with a company of heroes.’ He always wanted to push the recognition off to the men of Easy Company.”

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        I think what the producers, writers & directors did in this case, did what Hollywood always does diss torts a story to fit thier version regardless of who get hurt. To make it more intresting

    • codemonkey

      We can’t judge these things. These are private matters of a private family. We don’t know what went on, and it’s really none of our business. Odds are, the only reason he even agreed to this interview is because his father was torn to shreds on the HBO series.

    • Monicatoby

      My father is also a veteran, retired from the Marine Corps. Today happens to be the 50th anniversary of Operation Starlite, which was the first big offensive battle in Vietnam. Dad saw combat for a long time, over there, but that was the one that traumatized him the most. Like many veterans of combat, it’s made him very reclusive. I’ve only seen him twice in the last two and a half years, and I live only 25 miles away. It’s not because I don’t want to see him. I try, but he wants to be left alone. Perhaps that was the same thing, with Herbert Sobel. I don’t think it’s fair to judge people based on a small amount of information about them.

    • Mousey

      I agree with you.

    • ThomasFrancisBeckett

      He didn’t shoot himself, his wife did! She botched the job despite having a lover. Read it again, the bitch been cheating on him for years

    • RobertNorwood

      It is sad, some things simply do not square and one has to ask “why”?

    • MaximusX67

      For his son to say otherwise years later is laughable. The family obviously despised him as much as everyone else. He tried to commit suicide and died of neglect from the VA AND his family. Had he been looked after and cared about he’d never have died of malnutrition.

      Look at how MOST WWII vets are/were revered throughout the years … and look at Sobel. That would never have happened to any number of the millions of other WWII vets who were decent, good, NORMAL men. Sobel was a sociopath and a narcissist. Whatever was good for HIM was what he did – period. Not getting his way is what led to his inevitable downfall throughout the years. And I can only imagine what a giant prick he was to take care of once he was blinded and couldn’t take care of himself. While it should never be OK to let someone die like that – especially in the care of a hospital …. he was either too much to deal with after years and years of abuse to staff, OR, he refused to allow anyone to feed him towards the end and just wanted to die sooner rather than later. I imagine a VERY LONELY life for Sobel in that VA hospital. No family every visiting or contacting him. Unable to make any friends there because of his personality – everyone just disliked the guy.

    • MaximusX67

      For his son to say otherwise years later is laughable. The family obviously despised him as much as everyone else. He tried to commit suicide and died of neglect from the VA AND his family. Had he been looked after and cared about he’d never have died of malnutrition.

      Look at how MOST WWII vets are/were revered throughout the years … and look at Sobel. That would never have happened to any number of the millions of other WWII vets who were decent, good, NORMAL men. Sobel was a sociopath and a narcissist. Whatever was good for HIM was what he did – period. Not getting his way is what led to his inevitable downfall throughout the years. And I can only imagine what a giant prick he was to take care of once he was blinded and couldn’t take care of himself. While it should never be OK to let someone die like that – especially in the care of a hospital …. he was either too much to deal with after years and years of abuse to staff, OR, he refused to allow anyone to feed him towards the end and just wanted to die sooner rather than later. I imagine a VERY LONELY life for Sobel in that VA hospital. No family every visiting or contacting him. Unable to make any friends there because of his personality – everyone just disliked the guy.

      • Don

        You write this comment as if you knew him personally. I don’t think it’s fair to read this article and then make the assumptions you have. You don’t know his son and you don’t know the experiences or life they had lived together.

        For you to say otherwise, is laughable.

      • Don

        You write this comment as if you knew him personally. I don’t think it’s fair to read this article and then make the assumptions you have. You don’t know his son and you don’t know the experiences or life they had lived together.

        For you to say otherwise, is laughable.

        • Tina

          I agree

        • Tina

          I agree

      • BrunoT

        Projection. Look it up.

  • Jack

    If Sobel’s son had such admiration for his father throughout his life, why did contact between them “wane” for years prior to Sobel’s death ? Why didn’t the author interview Sobel’s other living relatives to get a more complete picture of Sobel ? Regardless of the answers, this article along with what we know about Sobel in “Band of Brothers” confirms that Sobel was a deeply troubled man who desperately wanted loyalty and acceptance, but had no real clue on how to attain it despite his best attempts. To make matters worse, Sobel allowed life’s hurt and disappointment (real and perceived) to consume and destroy him. And that is why Sobel’s life (as much as we know of it), and more importantly how his life ended, is tragic if not pathetic. There is nothing really complex here as the author presumes.

  • Dr Greg

    Thanks for this Marcus.As a university neurologist,I have learned that teaching is a lonely thing.I believe that you have to let go of mastering your own art,and in so doing,share it perfectly so that others with more talent may master it.The love of the art comes from seeing it ultimately being fulfilled.And not by fulfilling it yourself.Sobel was a teacher.And once you love teaching,you don’t hurt anymore.

  • Trav

    I don’t think you become a captain or a colonel just because. I’m sure he had great accomplishments, the push up thing doesn’t matter it was just a one time thing. Even though I can do over 50 some times when I do 25 or 30 I have trouble.

    Parts of his life are unfortunate and sad, that’s why life is important and decisions we make now have big effects

  • Brian Denney

    I feel terrible for Mr. Sobel. From reading this story, it appears he was a great man. I disagree with a few things about the HBO miniseries but the thing that bothered me the most was how they disrespected Sobel and made he look like a terrible person. As for the situation with his family, we can’t judge something we don’t totally know about. God rest Herbert M. Sobel. I hope he’s at peace.

  • Sargeant Rock

    I can relate to the feelings the soldiers may have felt while in basic training and Capt. Sobel being their commander. I had a company commander similar to the image HBO profiled Capt. Sobel in. All of the images we have of people aren’t the full identity of the individual. Mr. Sobel was a great father who went to work every day and provided for his family. He and his wife worked together and built a life that could be envied by many others of their time and present. He went to work every day and probably didn’t complain about his circumstances. He achieved what most would truly like to and at a point got depressed (sick) and made a mistake by an attempt to end his suffering. He also didn’t hurt his family by hitting his kids or criticize them without mercy about small failures. His son spoke well of him after his death and all minor frailties aside did a good job living his life. Lt. Colonel Sobel didn’t make the world take notice but maybe he wasn’t suppose to. I am sorry for the man’s misery but, I award him for the effort

  • Randy Schmalz

    They didn’t make him look like a terrible person, they made him look like a terrible military strategist. He was removed as Ez’s leader for a reason and that’s a matter of record. The court martial versus Winters is a matter of record. Schwimmer’s characterization aside, some of the points made in the HBO series are a matter of record. His superiors realized he was a terrible strategist. His performance in pre-D-day maneuvers are also a matter of record. They speak to his character, but do not, of course complete the picture. Of course his family will paint a sympathetic picture. If the survivors of Ez owe him their lives it’s because he wasn’t there screwing up the actual war instead of just the training maneuvers. The non-coms attempt to resign is a matter of record as well. That group of men didn’t put their lives in jeopardy and face the possibility of a firing squad because he gained their trust and confidence, quite the opposite one can logically surmise. His superiors didn’t send him to lead those men on D-day for a reason. And that reason had nothing to do with his character, but his ability to command, which was woefully lacking substance, talent and the innate abilities that a man like Winters possessed. When I heard of Winters’ death, I cried, stood up and saluted. When I heard of Sobel’s death, no such emotion was stirred in me. A good drill sergeant does not a military strategist make. That is why he was pulled from the opportunity of leading men in action, but sent to train chaplains and medics at Chilton-Foley. His character has nothing to do with his ability and Band of Brothers reflected the facts that are a matter of military record quite well. I don’t dislike the man; I never knew him. But, I cannot now say, oh well, they exaggerated for the sake of portraying an antagonist. They didn’t need an antagonist, it was WWI for pete’s sake. Hitler and his forces were enough. The episode “Why we fight” was enough. They didn’t need to exaggerate his pettiness in my opinion. Ambrose’s book was based on the reports of the men that served under him, again, a matter of record and fact, not exaggerated characterization. Bless them all, but they survived not because of his abilities to train them, but because he was absent when it counted. What about the other survivors who didn’t train under Sobel? Do they owe him their lives? Of course they do not owe him. Many survived who had nothing to do with his style of training. Yes, he trained a great group of paratroopers, but that does not make him a hero. It made him a good drill instructor. Many of the facts portrayed in the series happened. The “can of peaches” scene happened. His propensity to consistently deny those under him the chance to rest and take advantage of their rightfully earned leave time is a matter of record. No exaggeration was necessary and this is coming from someone who dislikes Schwimmer with a passion. Schwimmer attended Northwestern U near Chicago and so received breaks into the business of show that other actors did not receive. I dislike the actor far more than the man he portrayed. But, that is neither here nor there. He was a bad leader and would have gotten many of them killed if he were allowed to lead them into actual battle. They survived because of his absence, not because of the training. They all received the same training from a number of ranking officers. Sobel wasn’t exclusively responsible for training those men, but he was responsible for all those points which are a matter of military record forevermore.

  • scarlette6

    The man was basically abandoned by his family and the son’s explanation is horrible.

    • Tomasina Covell

      You’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

      • scarlette6

        And what does that mean?

  • Scott M Sykes

    What it sounds like is that Mr. Herbert Sobel learned that there were times to be mean and tough and when to show grace and mercy. Its a shame that he felt it was his duty to punish his soldiers during their training instead of giving them that time to actually spend together to unwind with themselves and him. I was appreciative to the strictness of the training I received through basic, a.i.t. and even during our FTXs but it was also the time to unwind and relax that I remember best with my fellow soldiers, both airborne and non-airborne.
    The fact that the family grew distant shows that there was a break down in communications somewhere along the line between father and siblings (something my own father, mother and father experienced) and that was a root that went deep to which my grandmother owes getting to know her son before he died of cancer to God.
    Life is a funny thing and what happens to us can either make us into better people or ones who isolate ourselves (whether it be emotional and/or physical) from others and our loved ones. The fact that Mr. Sobel took his own life without trying to reach out to someone shows that.

  • Scotty

    It revolts me when people speak poorly of someone behind their back. I’ve noticed in life, that in those situations, a group will tent to “pile on”, rather than defend a person. A person should have the right to face accusations of character and confront them, especially when only one side of a person is shown. Clearly, Sobel had some problems, but the unit he trained was the most successful unit in WWII. I’m glad his son chose to defend him, but I’m sad that the poor man spent nearly 17 years alone and blind. How lonely he must have been. I hope Captain Sobel has found peace.

  • Clark Burdine

    Hmmm…he deserved a better family than he got…. I’m certain Michael makes himself look better than he was….typical liberal.

  • Scooter McHeadshot

    Assuming the HBO portrayal of Sobel is accurate, he did EXACTLY what he was supposed to do. In fact what he did was almost identical to what I went through in USMC recruit training in the early 90s. Constantly changing orders to keep you off balance, telling you that you are a failure even when you do something right, just to keep you guessing and to make you try harder. Letting you over-eat and then making you PT til you puke, teaching you never to put yourself in a position where you can’t do your job. He seems to have been a failure at tactics and field work, but there is no doubt he did the right thing when it came to hardening his men to help them survive the ordeals they would face in the future. E company was lucky to have him in training, and even luckier to get rid of him before the shooting started.

  • Michael Dante

    Sounds like his kids are the real bastards, they did leave him to rot in a VA, he was a loving father but you abandoned him to go get high with a bunch of hippie fruitcakes in California(land of fruits and nuts)?

  • Lucas Hankins

    Sobel? A true testament… Not a sole from the BoB attended the funeral. A further travesty, Major Winters passed in an assisted living home. I would have been honored to have quite my job to wait on him on his farm in PA.

  • Marlo M See

    This was a really interesting article. After watching the series I always wondered what happened to him. He was hard on his men. However, he never ordered them to do anything that he didn’t do himself. He went through every training exercise that they went through. In my opinion he cared more about making them into the best group of fighting men in the military than he was with whether or not they like him.

    As for his later years: People who suffer from depression tend to be privet and try to hid their struggle from those around them. Especially people who grew up in his era. We will never know why he attempted suicide. Suicides are always hard to understand since they are seldom rational.

    I also don’t judge his children from growing distant from him. Part of becoming an independent person is being independent from your parents. Every family dynamic is different and handle the natural evolution of individual growth differently… With that said, I think I’ll go now and call my grandpa.

  • Bob Koep

    Just found this article. Thank you for writing it, as a history major/ fan i appreciate anything I can find.
    Any direction you can send me for similar reading please do!
    Bob

  • ThomasFrancisBeckett

    Well, all I can think is why did that bitch shoot her husband. But thinking on it, she must have had her reasons. That his son couldn’t figure out why his mother shot his father because she was having an affair only means that the bitch hid it well. So well that he is blind to it this day

  • Jerry Avalos

    Sobel was not deserving of what happened to him up to the very end, tragic, very tragic. He didn’t get a funeral.

  • RobertNorwood

    Your evidence?

  • RobertNorwood

    Your evidence?

  • RobertNorwood

    It would seem Sobel was a very complex individual and as an officer did not recognise or was unable to instill within his men that he was on their side. At a certain point the discipline and methods went from strict and tough to demeaning and cruel. Once a leader enters that territory, once the men feel he thinks of them as dogs they will stop working for him. Men will accept certain failings in a leader and support him, help pull him along with everyone else if the need arose. Sobel was clearly a good man inside, unfortunately he couldn’t see at which point his treatment of the men transformed their pride to a sense of being not good enough, nothing they did would be good enough. Some of this also took place in full view of the other companies, the battalion – that’s a killer.
    It’s sad how things turned out in the end. I get it. I’ve had a lot of Jewish friends during my life and some families can be positively stubborn, brutal, if they perceive you’ve become “less Jewish”, drifted from traditions that go very, very, far back in time.
    His depiction in the series is perhaps well deserved but given the complex nature of the man his side of the story should have been told along with the others.

  • Michael Chapman

    I am from Toccoa Georgia. I have walked all over the area that once was Camp Toccoa and have walked up to the top of Currahee Mt. I have great pride in knowing men that begin their airborne training here took it to Hitler. When the book came out I read it and today I own the DVDs of the miniseries. However I made a decision to not judge Capt Sobel. I will leave that up to God and the men that served under him. What I will judge however is the horrible conditions at the VA CLC’s across the country. Just having to stay at one for as long as he did was bad. A friend of mine father died at a VA hospital in 2015. Every time they came to visit him he was out in the hall and his head was down. The family finally got him moved from the CLC to another area where he later died. Some of the men that fought in WW2 are still today in these CLCs. What a horrible way to treat the men that saved our butts.

  • Paul Yarish

    I am surprised that so many people express astonishment or indignation that Herbert Sobel was portrayed negatively by HBO in Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers was based on a 1992 book of the same name by historian Stephen Ambrose. The book was based on many interviews with surviving Easy Company members, of which there were many more in 1992 than there are today. To a man, they all described Sobel as a despised petty tyrant who, despite his shortcomings in leadership and basic soldiering skills, whipped his unit into one of the best companies in the 506th. Ambrose merely wrote what the Easy Company survivors told him, and HBO merely portrayed Sobel as he was described in Ambrose’s book. Many of these same survivors wrote books of their own and were consistent in their negative opinion of Sobel.

    No human being is all one thing, good or bad. I have no doubt that Sobel was a loving father and husband. I also have no doubt that he probably was the petty martinet that his men described with such consistency. At least as far as his military career is concerned, I can’t imagine a better authority than the men who served under him.

  • MaximusX67

    Honestly, the sad truth about the man who was Herbert Sobel was that he was quite obviously a much disliked character. Say what you will about his effectiveness as a drill sergeant, it would appear that his men became hardened and ‘well trained’ in SPITE of him – not because of him. I think the subordinate officers and NCO’s kept that group tight during their training sessions.

    To look to the character of this man, look at his later years in combination with what his earlier years as leader of men revealed. Firstly, he shot himself in the head in a suicide attempt. Being a miserable person with nobody around you that cares for you, or, with so very few and one is blinded to their compassion for them, you can see how this guy shot himself in the head. Additionally, the fact that he died, alone, of malnutrition while in the care of others is your next clue to who this person was. While unacceptable to let anyone die like this, if he was an unconscionable, mean, despised man while in their care you can understand how he would fall into the state where he would die in such a way …. nobody wanted to take care of him any longer. Thirdly, while in the care of the VA for all that time it would appear that nobody ever came to visit him or check on his well being … nobody bothered to prevent his treatment and malnutrition at the hospital. In conjunction with that, and lastly, nobody bothered to have any sort of service or proper burial of him once he died. How can there be any ‘misconceptions’ or ‘other sides’ to the story that was Herbert Sobel?

    His men despised him. His care takers despised him. His FAMILY despised him. Regardless of what anyone, including his son, may say about him now – he was very much a difficult, mean, tyrannical man and probably a narcissistic sociopath. His life milestones seem to all add up to the fact that this was not a good man. Not a nice man. Not a pleasant man. This was a man who overreached, and pouted while acting out revenge when he didn’t get his way.

  • MaximusX67

    Honestly, the sad truth about the man who was Herbert Sobel was that he was quite obviously a much disliked character. Say what you will about his effectiveness as a drill sergeant, it would appear that his men became hardened and ‘well trained’ in SPITE of him – not because of him. I think the subordinate officers and NCO’s kept that group tight during their training sessions.

    To look to the character of this man, look at his later years in combination with what his earlier years as leader of men revealed. Firstly, he shot himself in the head in a suicide attempt. Being a miserable person with nobody around you that cares for you, or, with so very few and one is blinded to their compassion for them, you can see how this guy shot himself in the head. Additionally, the fact that he died, alone, of malnutrition while in the care of others is your next clue to who this person was. While unacceptable to let anyone die like this, if he was an unconscionable, mean, despised man while in their care you can understand how he would fall into the state where he would die in such a way …. nobody wanted to take care of him any longer. Thirdly, while in the care of the VA for all that time it would appear that nobody ever came to visit him or check on his well being … nobody bothered to prevent his treatment and malnutrition at the hospital. In conjunction with that, and lastly, nobody bothered to have any sort of service or proper burial of him once he died. How can there be any ‘misconceptions’ or ‘other sides’ to the story that was Herbert Sobel?

    His men despised him. His care takers despised him. His FAMILY despised him. Regardless of what anyone, including his son, may say about him now – he was very much a difficult, mean, tyrannical man and probably a narcissistic sociopath. His life milestones seem to all add up to the fact that this was not a good man. Not a nice man. Not a pleasant man. This was a man who overreached, and pouted while acting out revenge when he didn’t get his way.

  • MaximusX67

    The pettiness of Sobel is disgusting. Simple examples are punishing Winters whenever Sobel screws up OR Winters is praised. He punishes Winters for Sink promoting him to full LT by giving him kitchen detail for 2 weeks. Then tries to get the men upset with Winters by telling Winters to fucking serve spaghetti on a day Sobel intended to run them (yet tells Winters they wont be running and to serve that meal).

    In England, when his stupid ass cuts the fence and is shown to be an idiot in the field he tries to punish Winters to make it seem as if Winters is a bad officer – when nothing is further from the truth.

    Such a small, petty man. That’s why he died a long lonely miserable death!

    • MaximusX67

      So happy Winters surpassed him in rank! The scene where he tells Sobel to salute him – his RANK, is priceless.

  • Don

    I’m glad I found this article and I enjoyed reading and learning a little bit more about this man. Its upsetting though to read some of the comments people have made on this article as if they knew this man and his family personally. I hope after his passing he has finally found peace in whatever afterlife he may or may not have believed existed.

  • Don

    I’m glad I found this article and I enjoyed reading and learning a little bit more about this man. Its upsetting though to read some of the comments people have made on this article as if they knew this man and his family personally. I hope after his passing he has finally found peace in whatever afterlife he may or may not have believed existed.

  • Tina

    Very sad to read, regardless of what he may have been like in a negative way, he was a significant part of a special group of men. He deserved better.

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HI, I'M MARCUS BROTHERTON,

the bestselling author or coauthor of more than 25 books. Welcome to my blog. Thoreau pointed out how too many people lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help people lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well.