PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new book focuses on the story of a World War II soldier from Oregon who forged a unique friendship decades after the war ended.
Some consider this story to be a sequel to Band of Brothers, a WWII series on HBO. You may know the name and story of Don Malarkey, one of the featured paratroopers in the series — but you may not know his whole story.
“He drank to make the vision of the war go away,” Don’s daughter, Marianne McNally said. “That was my childhood, that my dad would drink.”
McNally says for a long time, her dad believed he was going to hell for killing German soldiers. But his biographer, Bob Welch, says everything changed for the Astoria native the night he met Fritz Engelbert — a German soldier who was part of the Hitler Youth.
“For 60 years, this brewed and swirled in the eddy of their souls and suddenly they had an opportunity to forgive each other and that’s what happened,” Welch explained.’
Don and some other members of the Easy Company were invited to Germany to meet with current American soldiers after Band of Brothers aired. Some old German soldiers were also invited — including Fritz.
One of the Americans apparently made a joke aimed at fritz and it didn’t go over well.
“Fritz got up to leave, this was his worst nightmare,” Welch said. “He’s the only german among all of these Hollywood hero soldiers and he’s offended — that’s when Don stands up and says, ‘A toast to my friend Fritz Englebert,’ and so he welcomes the enemy into the fold and that’s where everything changes.”
Fritz and Don hit it off, even seeing each other two more times in person before they both died.
Welch exchanged hundreds of emails with Fritz’s children to get their dad’s story. In Welch’s book “Saving My Enemy,” the stories of both men are featured, highlighting their differences and their friendship.
“You don’t have to agree with somebody, you might not even like somebody — but at some point, we have to talk to each other,” Welch said.
Don’s daughter said there is nothing she could ask for more than to have them die in peace.
According to Welch, there has already been interest in turning this book into a series or movie. For now, find his book online here.
You can listen to the full interview with Welch as part of our Writers’ Bloc podcast.