Band of brothers

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The Shakespearean phrase "band of brothers" has been expressed with growing frequency in connection with John Forbes Kerry's campaign for the U.S. presidential election, 2004.

For contrast, note how Ken Adelman and other political commentators make an analogy between President Bush and Henry V.


Harold Meyerson, writing for the February 2, 2004, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, says that Kerry, in his New Hampshire primary victory speech had "delivered a stinging populist attack on the president and managed to identify himself with his Vietnam vet comrades who surrounded him onstage. ... 'I depended on the same band of brothers I depended on some 30 years ago,' ... thanking Max Cleland and a bunch of guys wearing the insignias of their old units for delivering in New Hampshire as they had in Iowa. 'We're a little older, a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for our country!' ... Almost instantaneously," Meyerson opines, "Kerry deployed both his offense and defense." [1]

Mary Lynn Jones wrote in her article "Kerry and His Merry 'Band of Brothers'", published by AlterNet February 19, 2004, the "fabled moment of the 2004 presidential campaign came when James Rassmann appeared at an Iowa rally in January to thank John Kerry for saving his life in Vietnam 35 years ago. An emotional Rassmann described an injured Kerry who put his own life at risk – 'he could have been shot and killed' – to turn his boat around and pull him out of the water. Even though he's a longtime Republican, Rassmann said, he plans to vote for his Kerry this fall. 'I'd be very, very surprised if anything he told you was not the truth,' he declared with conviction." [2]

Jones adds, "According to pollster John Zogby, Kerry's campaign is hoping there are a lot more Rassmanns out there – that is, Republican veterans who want to send one of their own to the White House this fall. 'It's a group that can clearly be picked off,' he says. While veterans usually respond to Republican appeals to family values and patriotism, Kerry is making significant inroads into that support. 'The Vietnam veterans are a brotherhood – all veterans are a brotherhood – and this is a brother,' Zogby adds. 'If [the Bush campaign] is not worried, then somebody is not paying attention.'" [3]

As reported in the February 26, 2004, issue of the New York Times by Sheryl Gay Stohlberg, former Georgia Senator and fellow Vietnam veteran Max Cleland "is apparently on a mission, collecting what he calls a band of brothers along the way to help Senator Kerry of Massachusetts defeat President George W. Bush." [4]


On April 3, 2003, at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Georgia, Kerry used the phrase in a speech: "We were part of a special band of brothers in the U.S. Senate, Max Cleland, Bob Kerrey at one point, John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Chuck Robb, myself, and I'll tell you seriously that those of you who have served in the military, in particularly those of you who've been in combat that share this sentiment with me, it's as close as men who don't throw the word around easily can get to loving another man in the most connected, personal, and extraordinary way...." [5]

The idea that Kerry and Cleland considered themselves members of a band of brothers in the Senate was expressed in an August 16, 2000 CNN interview conducted by Larry King with them. [6]

Cleland: "We have six fellow Vietnam veterans in the Senate. And we are a band of brothers -- what, four Democrats and two Republicans. But we pulled together when the going gets tough. And we're [a] very special group, I think."
Kerry: "I think there's a special bond of friendship that crosses party lines."

"Band of Brothers" is the title for both the book written by Stephen Ambrose and the "ten-part miniseries [based on the book] by Hollywood moguls Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg" (theatrical release January 1, 2001). The tagline for the movie reads "They depended on each other. And the world depended on them." The story is not about Vietnam but, rather, is about "Easy Company of the US Army Airbourne Paratrooper division and their mission in WWII France during Operation Overlord." [7][8]

The phrase originally came from Shakespeare's Henry V, where it is spoken by Henry just before Agincourt:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so lowly,
This day shall enoble his rank.
And gentlemen in England, now abed,
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here...

Since Shakespeare, "Band of Brothers" has become a stock, somewhat clichéd, term for a group of men brought together by combat service.

Band members

For those more interested in John Kerry's "Band of Brothers", the delcotimes.com reported on 07/28/2004 that they are:

  • Wade Sanders -- Sanders served in Vietnam in the Navy as the skipper of PCF-98. He is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
  • David Alston -- Rev. Alston is from Columbia, SC and served in Vietnam in the Navy as a Gunners Mate on PCF-94 with Senator Kerry.
  • Gene Thorson -- Thorson is from Ames, Iowa and served in Vietnam in the Navy as a Engineman on PCF-94 with Senator Kerry.
  • Del Sandusky -- Sandusky is from Dunedin, FL and served in Vietnam in the Navy as the senior enlisted man on PCF-94 with Senator Kerry.
  • Fred Short -- Short is from North Little Rock, AR and served in Vietnam in the Navy as a Gunners Mate on PCF-94 with Senator Kerry.
  • Mike Medeiros -- Medeiros is from San Leandros, California and served in Vietnam in the Navy on PCF-94 with Senator Kerry.
  • Pat Runyon -- Runyon lives in Eaton, OH. He served in Vietnam aboard PCF-71, and briefly under Senator Kerry. He served from 1967- 1969.
  • Jim Wasser -- Wasser is from St. Anne, IL and served in Vietnam in the Navy as a Radarman on PCF-44 with Senator Kerry.
  • Drew Whitlow -- Whitlow is from Huntsville, AR and served in Vietnam in the Navy as a Boatswain Mate on PCF-44 with Senator Kerry.
  • Bill Zaladonis -- Zaladonis is from Sanford, FL and served in Vietnam in the Navy on PCF-44 with Senator Kerry.
  • Steve Hatch -- Hatch is from Niagara Falls, NY and served in Vietnam in the Navy on PCF-44 with Senator Kerry.
  • Skip Barker -- Barker is from Selma, AL and served in Vietnam in the Navy with Senator Kerry. Barker was the skipper of PCF-31.
  • Jim Rassmann -- Rassmann is from Florence, OR and served in Vietnam as a Special Forces Officer in the Army.

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