Stephen Ambrose 1936-
(Full name Stephen Edward Ambrose) American historian, biographer, and editor.
The following entry presents an overview of Ambrose's career through 2000.
For nearly forty years, Ambrose has been the author of several major historical and biographical works that focus on significant events in American history. He has written multivolume biographies of United States presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, popular narrative studies of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the opening of the American West, and vivid accounts of World War II combat. Ambrose has also amassed the world's largest collection of oral histories related to a single battle, the D-Day invasion, which he used as source material to write D-Day, June 6, 1944 (1994). Ambrose's military expertise came to the attention of director Steven Spielberg, who relied on Ambrose as a historical advisor for the acclaimed film Saving Private Ryan, the plot of which was partially drawn from Ambrose's writing about the Normandy invasion. Often praised for his balanced perspective and the narrative skill with which he presents individuals and historical events, Ambrose is among the most widely read professional historians in the United States.
Born in Decatur, Illinois, Ambrose was the son of family physician Stephen Hedges Ambrose and Rosepha Ambrose. Early in Ambrose's life, the family moved to Whitewater, Wisconsin, where he attended high school. He matriculated at the University of Wisconsin as a pre-med student, but after he enrolled in a history class, Ambrose became so enthralled with the subject matter that he changed his major. He received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1957, the same year that he married Judith Dorlester. Ambrose received a master's degree from Louisiana State University in 1958, but returned to the University of Wisconsin for his doctoral work, which he completed in 1963. From 1960 to 1964 he served as an assistant professor at Louisiana State University in New Orleans and wrote his first book, Halleck (1962). This admittedly minor work was to have great implications for Ambrose's career, as one of its few readers was former President Eisenhower, who was so impressed by Ambrose's historical approach that he hired the then-28-year-old Ambrose to edit his papers. Ultimately, Ambrose became Eisenhower's official biographer. Ambrose has since spent thirty years researching the former president, leading to the completion of at least fifteen works about Eisenhower himself, his family, and events in which he played a pivotal role. Ambrose worked as an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University from 1964 through 1969. While at Johns Hopkins, he published three more works of history, Upton and the Army (1964), Duty, Honor, and Country (1966), and Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945 (1967). In 1966, Ambrose's wife died and one year later, he married Moira Buckley. After leaving Johns Hopkins in 1969, he spent a year as the Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the U.S. Naval War College and another year at Kansas State University as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of War and Peace. During his career, Ambrose took advantage of several visiting professorships throughout the United States and Ireland. The bulk of his academic career, however, has centered around his alma mater, Louisiana State University (now known as the University of New Orleans), where he taught from 1971 through 1995 and currently remains as a professor emeritus. He founded the Eisenhower Center at the University as well as the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. In addition to authoring more than twenty-five books, Ambrose remains a frequent contributor to both scholarly and popular historical journals and newspapers. He currently lives in Helena, Montana.
Ambrose has spent the majority of his career concentrating on the history of the United States, with particular interests in World War II, Eisenhower and Nixon, and the exploration of the American West. His work has been heavily influenced by his strong personal belief in the merits of democratic society and his great respect for the individuals who defended the United States against totalitarian regimes. His World War II histories include Pegasus Bridge (1984), Band of Brothers (1992), Eisenhower and the German POWs (1992), D-Day, June 6, 1944, Citizen Soldiers (1997), and The Victors (1998). Band of Brothers is a personal story of war seen through the eyes of the men of E Company, 101st Airborne Division, who were responsible for holding Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and for capturing Berchtesgaden, Hitler's mountain hideaway. Eisenhower and the German POWs, co-edited with Gunter Bischof, cites abundant historical evidence to refute the assertions of author James Bacque that President Eisenhower was responsible for the deaths of perhaps one million German POWs in the waning days of World War II. D-Day, June 6, 1944 approaches military history unconventionally, by focusing on the experiences of common Allied soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and second lieutenants rather than generals or political leaders. In Ambrose's opinion, the creativity of these foot soldiers and platoon commanders was essential to the Allies' victory over the Germans. The text of D-Day is drawn from more than 1,000 oral histories of soldiers present at Normandy on the day of the invasion. Citizen Soldiers also recounts the experiences of ordinary soldiers, from June 7, 1944, through the surrender of Germany. This work reiterates Ambrose's thesis that it was the basic decency, moral determination, and flexible thinking of young American men that led to the Allied victory.
Ambrose's acclaimed biographies include a two-volume work about Eisenhower—Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 (1983) and Eisenhower: The President (1984)—and a three-volume work on Nixon—Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (1987), Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 (1989), and Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990 (1991). Ambrose portrays Eisenhower as one of the greatest figures of the twentieth century, a man born to lead and a chief executive who, contrary to some contemporary opinions, held his hand firmly at the helm throughout his two terms in office. While researching the Eisenhower administration, Ambrose also became fascinated with one of the most villified political figures in American history—Richard Nixon, who served as Eisenhower's vice-president before ascending to the presidency himself. Ambrose was drawn to Nixon not out of admiration, but through curiosity about what went wrong during his presidential administration. The resulting three volumes constitute a perceptive portrait of a man who is considered one of the most complex political figures in U.S. history.
Ambrose's historical works about the American West—Crazy Horse and Custer (1975), Undaunted Courage (1996), and Nothing Like It in the World (2000)—are vivid narratives that portray the different kinds of personalities who overcame the many physical obstacles to America's westward expansion. Undaunted Courage, perhaps one of Ambrose's most highly regarded works, attempts to restore the reputation of Meriwether Lewis, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition that was originally conceived by Thomas Jefferson. The work recounts the importance of Lewis's shared leadership with William Clark, the friendship between the two men, Lewis's excellence as a natural scientist, and his tragic demise. In Nothing Like It in the World, Ambrose celebrates the legions of anonymous workers who performed the backbreaking labor needed to build the transcontinental railway and describes the engineering, building, and financing decisions that occupied the men leading the effort. Ambrose's historical expertise has also drawn the attention of the producers and directors of various television documentaries and motion pictures. In 2001, the pay cable network HBO (Home Box Office) and director Steven Spielberg produced a ten-hour television mini-series adaptation of Ambrose's Band of Brothers.
Ambrose's work has been hailed by many critics for its balance, its even-handed approach to men and events, and its engaging narrative presentation. Ambrose's biographies of Eisenhower and Nixon are widely regarded as definitive works on their subjects. Some reviewers have noted that Ambrose's willingness to criticize Eisenhower (his personal hero) and to express admiration for Nixon (a disgraced president) testifies to his judicious and objective historical approach. While his military histories of World War II, notably D-Day and Citizen Soldiers, have attracted considerable praise, some critics maintain that Ambrose tends to romanticize war, overlooking the reality of atrocity on all sides. Other reviewers have faulted Ambrose for not being sufficiently sensitive to political correctness. Also, because Ambrose is unabashedly patriotic and often reveres historical figures, some critics find his works long on adulation but short on analysis. However, it has been noted that Ambrose was unafraid to assail Eisenhower's handling of Joseph McCarthy and the growing civil rights struggle, despite his deep admiration for the man. Ambrose has been criticized for his failure to rely on primary sources, even when they are available, and for sometimes glossing over or omitting key points of history. Ambrose's books are written primarily for a popular audience rather than a scholarly one, and Ambrose has lamented the trend in contemporary historical writing toward focusing on theory rather than narrative.
Halleck: Lincoln's Chief of Staff (history) 1962
Upton and the Army (history) 1964
Duty, Honor, and Country: A History of West Point (history) 1966
Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe (history) 1967
The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (history) 1970
Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (history) 1971
Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors (history) 1975
Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment [with Richard H. Immerman] (nonfiction) 1981
Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 (biography) 1983
Milton S. Eisenhower: Educational Statesman [with Richard H. Immerman] (biography) 1983
Eisenhower: The President (biography) 1984
Pegasus Bridge: 6 June 1944 (history) 1984
Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (biography) 1987
Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 (biography) 1989
Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990 (biography) 1991
Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's...
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SOURCE: “The Good General,” in New Republic, October 22, 1984, pp. 43-6.
[In the following review, Keegan offers positive evaluation of Ambrose's two-volume biography of Eisenhower.]
“Eisenhower,” this magnificent biography begins [Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952], “was a great and good man,” and with that no one of generous spirit would disagree. He was also, for more than half of his life, a poor man—in childhood dirt poor. It is from that fact in his background that a European reader would begin to assess his character. For the officer class in Europe, though often strapped for cash, has never been poor in the American sense. European officers are younger sons, clergymen's sons, sons of officers who have themselves had to scrimp and save. But the scrimping has always had to do with the keeping up of appearances which the haves and have-nots of their social order both accept at face value. Europeans accord their officer class the status of gentlemen, and thereby concede them a standing in society that automatically ensures them authority in their calling.
American officers, in the early days of the Republic, may have enjoyed a comparable head start. But by the time of Eisenhower's birth in 1890, when Manifest Destiny and open emigration had transformed the American class system out of all recognition to Europeans, the social...
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SOURCE: “Unearthing the Real Ike,” in New Leader, October 29, 1984, pp. 17-18.
[In the following review of Eisenhower: The President, Parmet concludes that Ambrose's work is “by far the best and most authoritative Eisenhower biography available.”]
“Eisenhower gave the nation eight years of peace and prosperity,” declares Stephen E. Ambrose near the end of his comprehensive and approving life of our 34th Commander-in-Chief [in Eisenhower: The President.] “No other President in the 20th century could make that claim. No wonder millions of Americans felt that the country was damned lucky to have him.”
Ike's most outstanding quality, as Ambrose sees it, was his deft management of crises—from Dien Bien Phu to Little Rock to Sputnik. And contrary to a widespread impression, the White House was not run by assistants. Ike “kept all the power in his own hands,” says the author, who confesses that even he—a scholar steeped in Ikeiana for most of two decades—was impressed by “how completely Eisenhower dominated events.” American responses all over the world were his, “no one else's.” Virtually nothing uncovered contradicts the President's claim that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles “never made a serious pronouncement, agreement, or proposal without complete and exhaustive consultation with me in advance and, of course, my approval.”...
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SOURCE: “The Real Ike,” in Commentary, Vol. 79, No. 4, April, 1985, pp. 81-4.
[In the following review, Warren offers favorable evaluation of Eisenhower: The President, but concludes that many questions concerning Eisenhower's complex personality remain unanswered.]
As early impressions have given way to historical judgments, the reputation of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President has risen sharply. The release of a great mass of private papers in the past decade has inspired a number of accounts of the Eisenhower Presidency which have undermined the widely held view of Ike as a lazy, bland, uninvolved chief executive, one who remained above politics and let others run the government for him. The revisionists have established that Eisenhower most certainly was in control. He is now seen as a shrewd, even cunning, President, who, working through subordinates like John Foster Dulles and Sherman Adams, practiced a studied mode of indirect leadership that he believed made him most effective. As Richard Nixon, himself an object of Eisenhower's craft, observes in his inimitable style in Six Crises, Eisenhower “was a far more complex and devious man than most people realized, in the best sense of these words.”
We now have what is likely to be the leading biography of Eisenhower for some time, by the historian Stephen Ambrose. The first volume [Eisenhower: The...
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SOURCE: “The Man Who Would Be President,” in Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1987, pp. 1, 14.
[In the following review, Harwood offers positive assessment of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962.]
Richard Nixon marked his 74th birthday on Jan. 9, one of those bittersweet occasions, I assume, in which laughter triumphs over tears. His life invokes both. He has been a major actor in many of the searing episodes of this bloody century and has been a witness to the rest. There was nothing trivial about his victories or defeats; they were on scales more grand than most of us would imagine (or could handle) in our own lives. By the age of 47, his new biographer, Stephen Ambrose argues, “he was the most hated and feared man in America—and next to [Dwight] Eisenhower himself, the most admired and wanted.”
Today, almost 15 years after the dishonor and infamy of his resignation from the presidency, he is enjoying what one of his friends, Leonard Garment, has called “his astonishing final, final comeback.” Writes Garment in a recent issue of Commentary, “It is [now] hard to find anyone who wants to kick Richard Nixon around.” However that may be, it is doubtless true that the passage of time has made it possible to “reconsider” the man from a more detached perspective and to contemplate with less commitment and passion his obsessive quests for a place in...
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SOURCE: “Resurrecting Poor Richard,” in New Leader, May 4-18, 1987, pp. 23-5.
[In the following review, Parmet offers positive assessment of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962.]
In the aftermath of his Presidency, the consensus view of Richard M. Nixon was nowhere more sharply put than in Jonathan Schell's The Time of Illusion. What characterized the Californian's politics, we were told, was the pursuit of a deliberate policy of “positive polarization.” Now, a decade after Schell's analysis, we are reminded that this singular propensity was displayed well before Nixon became Chief Executive. By the time he reached the age of 47, he had “polarized the public more than any other man of his era.” He was “the most hated and feared man in America—and next to Eisenhower himself, the most admired and wanted.”
The first half of historian Stephen E. Ambrose's projected two-volume biography [Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962], though, focuses on Nixon's personal ordeal, which is no less striking than the talent and political conditions that combined to produce the dominant figure of America's first three postwar decades. The account is a fascinating one, amply bolstered by factual details and shrewd insights. Ambrose is not discouraged by the familiarity of much of his material; he even manages to enliven the oft-told story of the Milhous...
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SOURCE: A review of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 21, 1987, p. 12.
[In the following review of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, Hoff-Wilson finds weaknesses in Ambrose's reliance on dubious primary sources and his lack of original analysis.]
On the face of it, Stephen E. Ambrose has written a balanced, descriptive account [in Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962] of the life of Richard Milhous Nixon from birth in 1913 to premature retirement from politics in 1962. Yet, underneath the polished prose and paced narrative, Ambrose's first volume of a projected two-volume biography of the 37th President of the United States makes perplexing reading, for two reasons.
First, instead of analysis, we are offered description or, worse, tantalizing one-liners. In connection with the death of Nixon's oldest brother, Ambrose asserts that Nixon “felt sorry for himself not Harold … [and] was to never again give his love and admiration … for fear of the pain of separation.” Later, in reference to Nixon's close loss to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and win over Hubert Humphrey in 1968, we learn that his 1946 campaign against Rep. Jerry Voorhis in California “marked the beginning of what would become a lifelong obsession with percentages.” Another one-liner occurs when Ambrose insists that...
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SOURCE: “A Classical Hero with Blue Jowls,” in Spectator, July 4, 1987, pp. 32-3.
[In the following review of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, Charmley praises Ambrose's study of Nixon as “a superb biography which comes as near to explaining its subject as any biographer can hope for.”]
In an era when appearances count for so much in politics, especially the American brand, Richard Nixon was bound to have a hard time of it; those blue jowls and that ski-slope nose ensured that whatever else he was, he was not telegenic. The famous 1960 debates between him and Kennedy saw a confrontation not between age and youth (the two men were almost of an age), but rather between the old politics, based upon hard work in the country, and the new politics, based upon meretricious performances on the television screen: Nixon's personality was always too complex to lend itself to successful exposure in that most transient medium. His own memoirs were a startlingly successful attempt to fix his character in print, and now, with the first volume of Professor Ambrose's Nixon, we have a superb biography which comes as near to explaining its subject as any biographer can hope for.
Aptly subtitled ‘the education of a politician,’ the book triumphantly succeeds in elucidating the mainsprings of Nixon's character and then in describing how it evolved during his early...
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SOURCE: “He's the One,” in New Republic, July 6, 1987, pp. 30-4.
[In the following review of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, Blumenthal writes that Ambrose's “old-fashioned sort of biography” serves as a “standard” point of reference for Nixon studies, but Ambrose's “professionally ‘balanced’ approach to an unbalanced subject does not penetrate deep enough.”]
The night of John F. Kennedy's inauguration, after the oratory about the torch being passed, the loser toured the mostly deserted Washington streets. Until the bewitching hour of midnight, Richard Nixon still commanded his official vice presidential car. He ordered his chauffeur at last to take him to the Capitol. He marched alone past the Senate chamber, down a corridor to the vast and empty Rotunda, and on to a balcony, where he gazed at the darkened horizon. Nixon had virtually willed himself to within a few thousand votes of the presidency. And in this portentous scene of departure, his will was almost palpable. Yet the story did not end here; his lonely leave-taking became the prelude to a return—and worse.
Stephen E. Ambrose's book [Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962] is an old-fashioned sort of biography. The author, a historian at the University of New Orleans who has written the definitive two-volume biography of Eisenhower, seeks balance, not irony....
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SOURCE: “The Best Man,” in New York Review of Books, July 16, 1987, pp. 10-3.
[In the following review of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, Brinkley finds shortcomings in Ambrose's unwillingness to offer speculative analysis of Nixon's psychological profile. However, Brinkley concludes that, while offering no new information, Ambrose's biography relates “a familiar story with uncommon balance, skill, and grace—and with a fullness and detail that no previous work can match.”]
Stephen Ambrose began his distinguished biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower with open admiration for his subject. Eisenhower, he writes, was “a great and good man … one of the outstanding leaders of the Western world of this century.”1 He offers no comparable evaluation of Richard Nixon in this first of two volumes on the life of the thirty-seventh president; indeed, there is no preface or foreword of any kind. Ambrose opens the book, almost abruptly, with a discussion of Nixon's ancestors. He ends, equally unceremoniously, with the defeated candidate driving home from his “last press conference” in 1962. Yet even without saying so, Ambrose has produced a study of Nixon [in Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962] that is in many ways as powerfully “revisionist” as his earlier study of Eisenhower. Other biographers have scrutinized Nixon's youth and early career...
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SOURCE: “The Vocation of Politics,” in Commentary, Vol. 84, No. 2, August, 1987, pp. 78-80.
[In the following review of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, Neuhaus commends Ambrose's “exhaustive” and even-handed scholarship, but contends that he is not successful in recasting Nixon as a more admirable figure.]
During his 1962 bid for the California governorship, Richard Nixon was not helped by the remark of the master of ceremonies at one of his fund-raising dinners: “Too many people are saying, ‘I don't like Nixon, but I don't know why.’”
People are still saying that. On the other hand, many say that they do not just not like Nixon, they hate him—and they think they know why. During the same 1962 race, the pollster Samuel Lubell found “an almost unbelievable personal bitterness toward Nixon among many California voters.” Toward very few contemporary politicians (Senator Edward Kennedy comes to mind) is there a widespread animosity intense and nasty enough to warrant the word hatred. Richard Nixon has known what it means to be hated since his first, and successful, race for Congress against Jerry Voorhis in 1946.
Now, thirteen years after he resigned from the Presidency in disgrace, we are told that Nixon is back. His rehabilitation, if that is what it is, will likely be advanced by this first volume of Stephen Ambrose's...
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SOURCE: “Richard Nixon Revisited,” in Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 64, No. 3, Summer, 1988, pp. 525-34.
[In the following excerpted review essay, Strong offers positive evaluation of Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, but concludes that many questions about Nixon's personal motivations remain unanswerable.]
Winston Churchill, in one of his many memorable observations, once described a Russian action on the international scene as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” If you were to add a few more qualifying phrases and a few more synonyms suggesting bewilderment, you might come close to describing the problem Americans have in understanding our 37th president. There are multiple riddles, mysteries, and enigmas about Richard Milhous Nixon that his many biographers, critics, defenders, and political opponents have been unable fully to explain. Two new books—a biography of his pre-presidential career by the historian Stephen Ambrose [Nixon: The Education of a Politician: 1913-1962] and a collection of conversations with more than 20 of his closest associates and observers, edited by the director of the White Burkett Miller Center, Kenneth W. Thompson—go a long way to improving our public portrait of Nixon as a person and as a politician. These books do not provide a full-fledged revisionist account of Richard Nixon and are not intended to do so. They do,...
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SOURCE: “Nixon Before the Fall,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 15, 1989, pp. 1, 9.
[In the following excerpted review, Dallek concludes that Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 adds little to existing information about Nixon and, furthermore, includes contradictory assessment of Nixon's foreign policy skills.]
Like the mythological Egyptian bird that consumed itself by fire and rose renewed from its ashes, Richard Nixon is a latter-day phoenix. Defeated by John F. Kennedy for the presidency in 1960 and by Pat Brown for the California governorship in 1962, Nixon told a press conference: “You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more.”
As so often in his career, his words masked the reality of his actions. He at once began working toward the comeback that culminated in his two victorious campaigns for the White House in 1968 and 1972. Resigning the presidency in 1974 rather than face impeachment and conviction for Watergate crimes. Nixon began his final battle: the vindication by history. Making the case for himself in his 1978 memoirs, he has worked to convince Americans of his greatness as a foreign-policy leader and to obscure the truth of Watergate and other improprieties by blocking release of documents and tapes that might further blight his reputation.
His current campaign enjoys some success. A November, 1988, Louis Harris...
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SOURCE: A review of Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952, and Eisenhower: The President, in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. XX, No. 3, Summer, 1990, pp. 623-26.
[In the following review, Wilz offers positive evaluation of Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952 and Eisenhower: The President.]
Three years after leaving the White House, in 1964, former-President Eisenhower put through a phone call to Stephen Ambrose, a twenty-eight-year-old assistant professor of history at Louisiana State University. Impressed by Ambrose's recent biography of the Civil War general Henry Halleck, Ike wanted Ambrose to assist in the project, just getting under way at Johns Hopkins University, of publishing Eisenhower's private papers. Flabbergasted, Ambrose acceded to the great man's wishes, and over the next five years, during which he had numerous private conversations with Eisenhower, assisted in editing the first five volumes of the Eisenhower papers. He also began to assemble information for a full-dress biography of the onetime general and president, and in 1983–1984 his enterprise came to fruition. The result was the two-volume biography that is the subject of the present review.
Ambrose is an unabashed admirer of Eisenhower. He sets out the overarching theme of his work on the opening page of Chapter One [in...
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SOURCE: “The Rediscovery of Richard Nixon,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 24, 1991, pp. 4, 11.
[In the following review of Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990, Phillips commends Ambrose's “thorough and even-handed” approach, but finds fault in the book's inaccurate political history and lack of comparative analysis between Nixon and other U.S. presidents accused of unethical dealings.]
In both tenacity and perspicacity, Richard Nixon's political re-emergence over the last 14 years has proven as extraordinary as his earlier success at hauling himself back from defeat in the 1962 California gubernatorial race and going on to win the presidency (on his second try) in 1968. Historians and journalists are only just beginning to deal with the forces and circumstances involved.
In “Why Americans Hate Politics,” political writer E.J. Dionne calls Nixon the man who could have made a more moderate Republicanism work. In “One of Us,” New York Times columnist Tom Wicker writes that Nixon's strength emerged from a political communion with middle-class values and Middle America, a communion that inspired many voters to support him as “one of us.”
The other Republican President who began a watershed, Abraham Lincoln, shared this appeal. But the Republicans lost it in the Gilded Age and again in the late 1920s—and may be doing so again...
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SOURCE: “The High Cost of Watergate,” in New Leader, December 30, 1991, pp. 16-17.
[In the following review, O'Neill offers praise for Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990.]
The first line of Stephen E. Ambrose's smashing conclusion to his biography of Richard M. Nixon [Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990] says it all: “This is the political story of the century.”
In volume one Ambrose described Nixon's rapid rise from small-town lawyer to the Vice Presidency, his narrow loss to John F. Kennedy, and then his humiliating defeat by Edmund G. “Pat” Brown for the governorship of California in 1962. That would have finished any other politician, and at the time everyone except Nixon believed he was through. But no sooner was his “final” press conference at an end than he began planning his future.
In volume two Ambrose showed how over the next few years Nixon positioned himself to become the inevitable GOP candidate for President in 1968, how he narrowly scraped by that year, and how he went on to win re-election with 60.7 per cent of the vote in 1972—the third widest margin in history. Yet Nixon derived no pleasure from his triumph because the Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress and he knew they were out to get him. They would succeed, too, as a result of the crimes and deceptions that we know collectively as Watergate, though not...
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SOURCE: “By Hook or By Crook,” in Spectator, February 1, 1992, p. 32.
[In the following review, Howard offers positive assessment of Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990.]
‘He went out the same way he came in, no class'—that was John Kennedy's comment on his rival the day after Richard Nixon lost the presidential election to him in 1960. Many would say the same about Nixon's last demeaning exit from the White House 14 years later. For most of this third volume of his epic biography of the only US President ever to be forced to resign, Stephen E. Ambrose seems to belong to their company. The story of Nixon's deceit and dissimulation over Watergate has not lost its ability to chill and, although Ambrose tries hard to tell it dispassionately, the meticulously researched case he builds up ensures that the final result is totally devastating. When, beleaguered and embattled, the 37th President eventually announces at a Florida press conference, ‘People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook—well, I am not a crook', it is hard to resist the conclusion that he was at least being consistent. He was lying to the end.
In that sense, Ambrose's book [Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990] certainly does nothing to restore Nixon's reputation. But by devoting the last quarter of his narrative to his subject's pertinacious climb-back to respectability, the author...
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SOURCE: “The Man Who Came Back,” in Contemporary Review, Vol. 261, No. 1518, July, 1992, pp. 45-6.
[In the following review, Wright offers praise for Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990.]
Despite the high drama of a now-familiar story, and despite the daunting detail, this is a remarkably fair study. Indeed, Ambrose comes gradually to like Nixon [in Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990]. ‘That is not easy to do, as he doesn't really want to be liked.’ What he admires—and what he conveys—is that Nixon never gives up, and is always true to himself.
The main strength of the book lies in its variety: beginning in the triumph in the Presidential election of November 1972 to the slow two-year agony, from the (foolish, unnecessary and unauthorised) Watergate break-in until the resignation of August 1974; the roll-call of the now near-fictional characters, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean and Mitchell, Colson and the Cubans; Nixon's awareness that ‘It will be each man for himself, and one will not be afraid to rat on the others’; and, afterwards, the long and solitary anguish of his own night of the soul, in retirement in California. He was aware that he had made bitter enemies over his twenty-five years in Federal politics, and that they had been unforgiving. Hatred of Nixon became and long remained a national obsession. But the qualities that had ministered to his own...
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SOURCE: A review of Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990, in Historian, Vol. 55, No. 2, Winter, 1993, pp. 372-73.
[In the following review, Giglio offers positive assessment of Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990.]
Bryce Harlow once compared Richard Nixon to a cork: “Push him down and he pops right back up” (583). The enduring resiliency of Nixon is one of the central themes of Ruin and Recovery, the concluding segment of Stephen E. Ambrose's three-volume biography. He covers the “peace with honor” settlement in Vietnam, the Yom Kippur War, Nixon's fascination with China, détente with the Soviet Union, the Watergate crisis, Nixon's exile, and his recovery.
On domestic matters, Ambrose rightly focuses on the national obsession with Watergate, which, of course, cost Nixon his presidency. Largely through the use of White House tapes, Ambrose documents Nixon's complicity in the cover-up and his abuse of power. Like other scholars, he portrays Nixon as a flawed personality who deceived his colleagues, his family, and himself. Yet he argues that other contemporary presidents also relied on dirty tricks, used the IRS to punish political enemies, wiretapped, taped conversations in the Oval Office, and other assorted abuses of power, including using the presidency for personal gain. More than anything, the forced disclosures of the White House tapes contributed to Nixon's...
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SOURCE: A review of Eisenhower and the German POWs, in History, Vol. 79, No. 255, February, 1994, p. 186.
[In the following review, Kentleton offers positive assessment of Eisenhower and the German POWs.]
In 1989 James Bacque in Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners of War at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II alleged that Eisenhower as commander of the American army of occupation deliberately withheld food and shelter from captured German forces, causing the death of between 800,000 and one million prisoners of war through starvation and disease. Furthermore, this crime, carried out by the American and French armies, had been subsequently covered up with the connivance of professional historians. To investigate these grave charges, the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans organized a conference in 1990; this volume records its proceedings. In the turmoil of war-torn Europe, with food scarce, transport disrupted, shipping needed for the Pacific and a huge influx of refugees, POWs became DEFs (‘disarmed enemy forces’), thereby avoiding the obligations of the Geneva Convention which the allies simply could not honour, if required to feed five million German prisoners a ration equal to their own soldiers. The camps were rudimentary, often a field with no shelter, a string of barbed-wire and a handful of guards. The Rhine...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Eisenhower and the German POWs, in Journal of American History, Vol. 80, No. 4, March, 1994, p. 1526.
[In the following review, Ziemke concludes that Eisenhower and the German POWs does not adequately explain the deaths of German POWs in Allied prison camps.]
World War II as specialty has an occupational hazard: It attracts the attention of persons who create sensational hypotheses for which they lack validating evidence. In 1987, I received a call from a James Bacque, who said he believed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly a million, German POWs in American hands after the German surrender. Had I come across information that would substantiate such a charge? If not, did I know where it was to be found? I told him I had none and most seriously doubted that any existed.
In 1989, a book appeared bearing the title Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II. The author, James Bacque, accused Eisenhower of having surreptitiously—by means of “winks and nods”—created a “lethal” DEF (disarmed enemy forces) status that denied the Germans their POW rights and subjected a million of them to death by starvation and neglect. To prove his case, Bacque assumed that “other losses,” a term military...
(The entire section is 641 words.)
SOURCE: “D-Day: New Book Pays Tribute to the Heroism of Individual Soldiers,” in Chronicle of Higher Education, May 18, 1994, pp. A8-9, A14.
[In the following essay, Jaschik discusses Ambrose's scholarly interests, his use of oral history to compose D-Day, June 6, 1944, and critical reaction to his portrayal of the Normandy invasion in this work.]
Stephen E. Ambrose has revered the veterans of World War II since he was 10 years old. The war had just ended, and former GI's who lived in his neighborhood in Whitewater, Wis., played basketball on his family's driveway.
“I just thought they were giants, both physically and because I knew enough of what they had done during the war,” says Mr. Ambrose. “There would be guys out there with terrible scars, terrible stories. I thought they were giants then and I still do.”
Mr. Ambrose, professor of history at the University of New Orleans, pays tribute to some of his heroes in D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II.
The book will be released next month to mark the 50th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France. It argues that the victories in Normandy were less a result of good planning and military superiority than of American values of independent thought and the heroism of individual soldiers. Because the Allied, and particularly American, soldiers were able to...
(The entire section is 2275 words.)
SOURCE: “Operation Overlord from the Inside,” in New Leader, June 6-20, 1994, pp. 12-13.
[In the following review, O'Neill offers praise for D-Day, June 6, 1944.]
Cornelius Ryan's classic The Longest Day, though still a wonderful read, came out in 1959 when much vital information about Operation Overlord remained classified or was otherwise unavailable. Thus a need existed that many historians were eager to fill, and early this spring books began pouring off the presses to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the momentous event.
There are at least two reasons why D-Day, June 6, 1944 stands out in what is now a crowded field. Its first advantage is the author himself, Stephen Ambrose, one of the best and most widely read of contemporary military historians and biographers. He brings to his new work the narrative drive, thorough research and muscular prose he is justly famous for. Second, as the director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, Ambrose has been able to draw on some 1,400 oral histories and written memoirs contributed by D-Day veterans. This important collection, the largest number of firsthand accounts of a single battle in existence, has made it possible for him to fill his story with details and observations that could only come from men who had been there.
Ambrose begins by setting the stage in 10 chapters that...
(The entire section is 1488 words.)
SOURCE: “The Culprits of Market-Garden,” in Times Literary Supplement, December 30, 1994, p. 27.
[In the following excerpt, d'Este concludes that D-Day, June 6, 1944 is “enormously readable and will undoubtedly become a standard work of its genre,” despite its overemphasis on the American role in the Normandy invasion.]
The summer of 1994 marked the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversaries of two famous and very different battles of the Second World War. On June 6, the world's attention was focused on Normandy, where in 1944 the turning point of the war occurred when Allied forces launched their long-awaited cross-Channel invasion on Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah beaches.
There is a dramatic contrast between D-Day and September 17, 1944, the date the Allies launched Operation Market-Garden, the greatest airborne and glider operation in history, and a bold strategic gamble aimed at ending the war in the same year by gaining an Allied bridgehead north of the Rhine. D-Day was characterized in these pages (TLS, June 10) as “a necessary day”, a prerequisite that had to be successfully carried out if the Allies were to defeat Nazi Germany and end the war. Arnhem may best be remembered as “a tragic day”, which began so promisingly but ended, as Martin Middlebrook, the author of Arnhem 1944, writes, as “the last major battle lost by the British...
(The entire section is 661 words.)
SOURCE: A review of D-Day, June 6, 1944, in American Historical Review, Vol. 100, No. 3, June, 1995, pp. 872-73.
[In the following review, Wilt offers positive evaluation of D-Day, June 6, 1944, though finds shortcomings in Ambrose's overstated comparison of Eisenhower and Erwin Rommel, his generalizations about the Atlantic Wall debacle, and his predominant focus on the American role in the battle.]
Stephen E. Ambrose's book on D-Day [D-Day, June 6, 1944] has scaled the heights: a selection of the Book-of-the-Month and History Book clubs, nine weeks on the best-seller list, the most heralded of the works commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of that fateful day. A well-known historian in his own right, Ambrose acknowledges his many debts in writing the book, from Forrest Pogue, the noted American military historian, who was actually interviewing wounded men offshore on June 6, 1944, to Cornelius Ryan, whose The Longest Day (1959) became a classic in the use of first-hand accounts to depict the Normandy assault. Ambrose's outstanding work continues that tradition, for at its heart are 1,380 oral histories that, as director, he and others at the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans undertook and gathered from other sources to describe the battle.
Ambrose's intent is to provide a popular, up-to-date version of the invasion and to have it serve as an inspiring...
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SOURCE: “Where the Wild Things Were,” in Washington Post Book World, February 11, 1996, pp. 3, 7.
[In the following review, Harden offers positive assessment of Undaunted Courage.]
Feeling unmoved? Sensing perhaps that you live in uninteresting times? Weary of politicians who define vision as kicking AIDS victims out of the military? If so, historian Stephen Ambrose has a tonic for you.
Undaunted Courage is about a time when America was young, the federal government was bold and the president knew what he was doing. President Thomas Jefferson executed the Louisiana Purchase for a song, doubled the territory of the country overnight and in 1803 dispatched a handsome 30-year-old Virginian to do nothing less than fill in the blanks of our collective future.
Meriwether Lewis, a tobacco grower with an indifferent education, could not remember how to spell his widowed mother's married name. But he could command men, sweet-talk Indians and put a bullet on the mark at a distance of 220 yards. Most important for history, he could, after 12 hours in a canoe, sit down by the campfire and write closely observed and movingly poetic notes about a world that white men had never seen. He explored rivers, mapped mountains and sewed up the West between the Mississippi and the Pacific—and, on his way back home to a hero's welcome in Washington, managed to get himself shot in...
(The entire section is 885 words.)
SOURCE: “The Epic Journey of Capt. Lewis: A Young Man's Life on an Incredible Expedition,” in Chicago Tribune Books, March 3, 1996, p. 1.
[In the following review, Theroux offers positive assessment of Undaunted Courage.]
On July 4, 1803, the nation's 27th birthday, the very same day Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States, Capt. Meriwether Lewis was making final preparations for the greatest exploring expedition in the history of this country. President Thomas Jefferson had selected his personal secretary and fellow Virginian to travel up the Mississippi and Missouri, cross over the Rockies, go down the Columbia and reach the sky-blue Pacific. “The object of your mission is single,” stated the president, “the direct water communication from sea to sea formed by the bed of the Missouri & perhaps the Oregon.” Jefferson also wanted Lewis and his party to explore the new land, as well as extend commerce, collect specimens for science and establish an American claim on Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
It was to be a legendary 2 1/2-year trek, and although at the end Lewis’ partner, Capt. William Clark, would write, “Ocian in view! O! the joy,” it fell out that no Northwest Passage existed—there was no all-water route across country, or anything remotely resembling it. Ultimately, the complicated Lewis considered the expedition a failure, fell into depression and in...
(The entire section is 1197 words.)
SOURCE: “The Writingest Explorers,” in New York Review of Books, April 4, 1996, pp. 18-21.
[In the following review, Wood offers favorable evaluation of Undaunted Courage.]
The Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–1806 is the greatest adventure of exploration in American history. The astronauts of the 1960s knew more about the surface of the moon they were to land on than Lewis and Clark knew about the northwest part of the Louisiana territory they were sent to explore by President Thomas Jefferson. And Lewis and Clark and their party were out of touch with their fellow Americans back home for long periods of time—weeks, months, years—longer certainly than the minutes when the astronauts were unable to communicate with Earth. Besides, the Lewis and Clark expedition had little of the technology that makes even space travel today seem routine. The members of the expedition had only boats, horses, and their legs—all of which makes the expedition seem within the capacity of ordinary campers and hikers in our own time.
Indeed, Lewis and Clark's exploit is more alive for us at the end of the twentieth century than it was for Henry Adams a century ago. Whereas Adams could write nine volumes on the history of the Jefferson and Madison administrations and scarcely mention Lewis and Clark, we today cannot reexperience the adventure often enough. Maybe it is because we have now...
(The entire section is 4236 words.)
SOURCE: “The Blank Page, the Final Frontier,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 7, 1996, p. 3.
[In the following review of Undaunted Courage, Limerick finds shortcomings in Ambrose's military perspective and uncritical admiration of Lewis and Clark.]
Imagine that you are a student and that the registrar's computer has been playing tricks with your course enrollment. You thought you were signed up to take the standard American history course, but the computer has placed you instead in a history class for ROTC cadets.
Things become puzzling when your instructor's lively stories keep returning to the same theme: the proper behavior and philosophy of a good company commander. Although unexpected and often quite interesting, this preoccupation does not strike you as doing full justice to the rich meanings of American history.
In similar ways, Stephen E. Ambrose's Undaunted Courage is a story on a big scale with meanings squeezed into a framework built on a considerably smaller scale.
There is no question that this is a good and readable story. Meriwether Lewis was an extremely interesting man and writer, and any book with the license to quote him at length carries a competitive advantage. Born on Aug. 18, 1774, on a Virginia plantation neighboring that of Thomas Jefferson, Lewis hunted, learned nature lore and served in the militia....
(The entire section is 1348 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Eisenhower: A Centenary Assessment, in Journal of American History, Vol. 83, No. 1, June, 1996, pp. 277-78.
[In the following review, Boyle concludes that Eisenhower: A Centenary Assessment is “a useful addition to scholarship on Eisenhower.”]
In 1990, on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower's birth, the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, which is dedicated to the study of the life and times of General and President Eisenhower, sponsored a year-long series of lectures on his career. The lectures, revised for publication and edited by the center's director and associate director, Stephen E. Ambrose and Günter Bischof, constitute the volume under review. Publication of a centenary assessment five years after the centenary suggests an undue lapse of time between the delivery of the lectures and their publication. Nevertheless, the book is a useful contribution to the ongoing reassessment of Eisenhower.
Andrew J. Goodpaster, Eisenhower's staff secretary during most of his presidency, offers a judicious foreword, which is, not surprisingly, very favorable to Eisenhower. Goodpaster argues that the absence of apocalyptic events in the 1950s and the achievement of solid economic growth and social cohesion for the majority of Americans were largely due to Eisenhower's leadership style of good preparation,...
(The entire section is 765 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Undaunted Courage, in Journal of American History, Vol. 83, No. 3, December, 1996, pp. 1007-8.
[In the following review of Undaunted Courage, Furtwangler concludes that Ambrose fails to capture the literary and larger philosophical dimensions of the book's subject.]
This book has had widespread success, including weeks as a national best seller. For thousands of new readers, it may ease the way into the great Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803–1806. It consolidates dozens of studies from the past thirty years to tell the story in short, accessible chapters with full explication.
Nevertheless, the overarching design of this study leaves much to be desired. The full title promises to unite three difficult subjects, but they remain separate and baffling. Meriwether Lewis remains an enigmatic figure, a brilliant explorer on the trail but an inexplicably shattered man after his return who finally took his own life. Thomas Jefferson remains the inscrutable American scholar-statesman, a patron and mentor to Lewis in one mood, a cold and official taskmaster in another. The American West has long been a meeting place and battleground for people from every continent. Its “opening” exploration involves dozens of ill-assorted characters and plenty of bitter conflict. But here that event emerges as a triumph of Jeffersonian intelligence and determination....
(The entire section is 527 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Undaunted Courage, in Historian, Vol. 60, No. 1, Fall, 1997, pp. 123-24.
[In the following review, Emmerich offers generally positive assessment of Undaunted Courage.]
This work is the story of two magnificent obsessions. The first, as is obvious from the title, is the epic of love of exploration that drew Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson into the partnership that ultimately opened the trans-Mississippi West to European American settlement. The other obsession, revealed more clearly with the turn of each page, is that of the author. Captivated by Lewis and his remarkable journey, Ambrose has spent the last twenty years leading family, friends, and students down most of the same paths and waterways that the expedition followed. Every mile walked along the Lolo Trail, every riffle canoed on the Missouri River, and every starry night spent deep in the Bitteroot Mountains brought the author that much closer to the heart and the spirit of the man he reveres as “the greatest of all American explorers” (475).
Ambrose blends natural history, political history, and biography in Undaunted Courage, giving readers a sophisticated narrative that references every extant source on Lewis and Clark. As well as any biographer can know a subject, the author knows Meriwether Lewis, and he wants his readers to share his appreciation of this remarkable man....
(The entire section is 539 words.)
SOURCE: “The Search for American Heroes,” in Yale Review, Vol. 85, No. 4, October, 1997, pp. 146-50.
[In the following review, Lamar offers favorable evaluation of Undaunted Courage, praising Ambrose's narrative skill and successful effort to humanize Meriwether Lewis.]
Stephen E. Ambrose, the author of The New York Times bestseller D-Day and the biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, has always been in search of American heroes. In Undaunted Courage he goes back in time to write about one of the country's first official explorer-heroes, Meriwether Lewis of the famous Lewis and Clark Overland Expedition of 1804–6. Unlike other accounts of Lewis and Clark, however, Ambrose with good reason not only rescues Meriwether Lewis from two centuries of obscurity but presents him as a fascinating, complex, strong, contradictory individual. He also portrays Thomas Jefferson as a more shrewd, highly political, and tough figure than we usually encounter in American texts. For Ambrose, Jefferson was a practical politician standing midway between the opposite categories of dreamer and schemer.
It could almost be said that Ambrose has rescued Lewis from a conspiracy of silence imposed by several generations of historians. Henry Adams more or less dismissed both Lewis and Clark as frontier types who could not have been any good as scientific explorers...
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SOURCE: “Fighting Words,” in National Review, December 21, 1998, pp. 60-2.
[In the following review, Bunting offers positive assessment of The Victors and Ambrose's focus on the military experiences of individual soldiers.]
For whom is serious history written? The American academy has long answered: for other university scholars. On occasion, works of academic scholarship become popular: one can think of any number of such books. But in the eyes of university colleagues, their authors as a consequence soon become suspect—quietly derided, yet envied. Historians vulgarly praised as “good writers” are similarly fretted over. Propulsive narrative, pellucid prose, epigrammatical assertion or conclusion, vivid exemplification: such things virtually guarantee the wary regard of other professional historians.
There is a sub-species of history writing that particularly excites academic contempt. This is the history of men at war: not of ministers of war or defense secretaries, but of military leaders and ordinary soldiers. That military history should occupy the lowest caste in the history profession is unsurprising. The fact of organized slaughter in the service of state policy is deeply offensive to the liberal dream of human perfectibility, a reminder that mankind at the close of the twentieth century remains in the end no more advanced, as Richard Eberhardt wrote, than in...
(The entire section is 1234 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Citizen Soldiers, in Journal of American History, Vol. 86, No. 1, June, 1999, pp. 295-6.
[In the following review excerpt of Citizen Soldiers, Dean takes issue with Ambrose's tendency to conflate heroism and cruelty in his portrayal of World War II as a “good war.”]
World War II, despite the fact that it left over four hundred thousand Americans dead and hundreds of thousands of other veterans maimed in body or mind, has until recently persisted in the American imagination as a “good war,” one that was fought for a necessary and noble cause, and one in which American fighting men did their duty overseas and then came home to appreciative civilians and jubilant parades, which eased their reentry into civilian life. However, in the wake of the Vietnam War, we have become acutely aware of the physical and psychological travails of American veterans, and historians have begun to take a closer look at the life of the common soldier and have thereby reexamined the idea of World War II as the classic “good war.” Stephen E. Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers and Gerald F. Linderman's The World within War are part of this reevaluative process.
In Citizen Soldiers, Ambrose takes a broad look at the American campaign in western Europe by considering every level of the war effort, from the strategy discussions of generals to the tactics...
(The entire section is 590 words.)
SOURCE: “Linking a Nation: Stephen Ambrose's Story of the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad,” in Chicago Tribune Books, September 3, 2000, p. 5.
[In the following review, Weinberg offers favorable assessment of Nothing Like It in the World.]
When I was young, the building of the interstate highway system transformed the U.S. The obstacles were huge, but road crews working heavy machinery got the job done. The time spent driving between major cities was cut in half.
Amazing as the building of the interstate highway system was, something far more amazing had occurred a century earlier—the building of a transcontinental railroad, with no heavy machinery to do the heavy lifting. How tens of thousands of laborers managed to build a serviceable railroad across rivers, through mountains and into deserts with little more than shovels, axes and dynamite boggles the mind.
Stephen Ambrose's new book makes the how of it understandable, but no less mind-boggling. With publication of this book, a lot of minds will be boggled, because when Ambrose writes, a lot of people read. Perhaps no Ph.D. historian has ever reached so many readers. Nothing Like It in the World, about the building of a railroad that made the U.S. accessible from east to west, deserves to be a best seller, much like Ambrose's books about the Lewis and Clark expedition (Undaunted...
(The entire section is 1173 words.)
SOURCE: “Railroaded History,” in Washington Post Book World, September 18, 2000, p. C3.
[In the following review of Nothing Like It in the World, Limerick criticizes Ambrose's uncritical generalizations about the American transcontinental railroad and his sentimental view of its construction.]
Stephen Ambrose has grown weary of negativity. Finding in the first transcontinental railroad a prime opportunity to reroute U.S. history back to its proper track of pride, he offers Americans a journey to an appealing destination. Nothing Like It in the World gives readers a ride back to an era when people felt good about American history, inspired by the nation's leaders and proud of their triumphs.
Unity is the point and punch line of this book: Just as the Civil War united North and South, the building of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads united East and West. “Next to winning the Civil War and abolishing slavery,” Ambrose declares in his opening sentence, “building the first transcontinental railroad … was the greatest achievement of the American people in the nineteenth century.” “Most of all,” he says, “it could not have been done without teamwork.”
In repeated declarations, Ambrose casts the fighting of the Civil War and the building of the railroad as parallel and similar enterprises in the cementing of national unity. In...
(The entire section is 978 words.)
Apple, R. W. “Beyond Damnation or Defense.” New York Times Book Review (12 November 1989): 1.
Review of Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972.
Barrett, Laurence I. “Martyr or Machiavelli?” Time (6 November 1989): 100.
Review of Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972.
Betty, Mary Lou. “The Fifties and Ike.” Humanities 18, No. 5 (September-October 1997): 8.
Ambrose discusses the Eisenhower era and his relationship with the former president.
Bliven, Naomi. “Ike.” New Yorker (1 July 1985): 95-7.
Bliven offers a favorable evaluation of Eisenhower: The President.
Blumenthal, Sidney. “The Primal Republican.” New York Times Book Review (24 November 1991): 3.
Review of Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990.
d'Este, Carlo. “Put Out More Flags.” New York Times Book Review (21 December 1997): 10.
Review of Citizen Soldiers.
Hymel, Kevin. Review of Comrades, by Stephen Ambrose. Military History 17, No. 1 (April 2000): 68.
Offers positive assessment of Comrades.
Jones, Malcolm Jr. “From Sea to Shining Sea.” Newsweek (19 February 1996):...
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