There is a scene later in the book, in February of 1945, when the Americans had pressed into Germany, maneuvering the Germans towards surrender. The soldiers of Easy Company had survived D-Day, Operation Market Garden in Holland, and the siege of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge, and were slowly beginning to think that if they watched their asses they might actually make it out of the war alive.
Colonel Sink ordered soldiers from Easy Company to make a night patrol across German lines, with orders to capture some German soldiers for interrogation. The patrol went so well that Colonel Sink ordered a second patrol the next night. Ambrose says, "In the meantime, however, it has snowed, and turned colder. The snow was frozen on top, crunchy, noisy. The cold air had cleared out the sky, and the moon was shining. Winters thought a patrol under such circumstances was suicidal, so he decided to disobey orders." Winters had the men assigned to the patrol to wait out the colonel, who got drunk on some omnipresent looted wine, and passed out. The next morning Winters lied to the colonel and said they had made the patrol but had not captured any Germans.
This act of insubordination prompted Ambrose to explain by quoting another military author, Glenn Gray, in The Warriors:
"To be required to carry out orders in which he does not believe, given by men who are frequently far removed from the realities with which the orders deal...is the familiar lot of the combat soldier...It is a great boon of front-line positions that disobedience is frequently possible, since supervision is not very exact where danger of death is present. Many a conscientious soldier has discovered he could reinterpret military orders in his own spirit before obeying them."I guess it should be obvious that such things would happen when lives are at stake, but I'm familiar with the mentality that we will do what we deem to make the most sense, sometimes in defiance of what we've been told, when what we've been told doesn't make much sense, and the consequences of insubordination are likely to be delayed if they ever happen at all.
This book to me is a meditation on what it means to be a man. I'd previously written about Major Richard Winters, the hero of the book and the TV series. I don't know how I would act if really put to the test. I remember reading in Shelby Foote's Civil War narrative about the Battle of Shiloh, and that early on the Confederates were routing the Federals, who were caught completely by surprise. Panicked Union soldiers had fled to the river banks farthest from the action. General Grant was late arriving at the scene of battle, and as he and his staff disembarked from the river boats and headed towards the battle, deserters shouted that they were whipped, that they were done for. One of Grant's assistants started to force these men back towards the battlefield at gun point, but Grant told him to lay off, saying that fear was a contagious thing, to leave these men where they were.