Steven Ambrose

#1
I've read a few of his books now and am starting to get a bit pi55ed off with him. I know the guy is American however his entire attitude of America won the war and that's that is pants. He concentrates on pointing out American good points and pointing out British/Commonwealth failings. Fcuking Septics!!
 
#2
I`ll agree totally with you old chap, read a few of his books and found the same thing, I wouldn`t read another one of his books if it were given to me :x
 
#3
plant_life said:
I've read a few of his books now and am starting to get a bit pi55ed off with him. I know the guy is American however his entire attitude of America won the war and that's that is pants. He concentrates on pointing out American good points and pointing out British/Commonwealth failings. Fcuking Septics!!
He was on telly the other day, going on about Russia and America winning the war. Didn't like to include the Brits as we contributed only 25% of the manpower (I assume that's on the Western Europe and Italian fronts). Fails to mention Johnny come lately being nearly three years late, again. I've still not got round to reading pegasus Bridge again. Last time I read it was about 20 years ago, so I can't really comment on his attitude to brits in his books.
 
#4
He's doing well then, seeing as he's actually dead.......

His books are excellent in one way. He (was) a 'popular historian', serving up history for the masses. There's no doubt that Saving Private Ryan (he had a major part in the screenplay and used the details gained from the vets he'd interviewed over the years) and Band of Brothers contributed enormously to the respect my grandfather's generation were and are held in. The Veteran's Administration recognised this and publically thanked him for it. He was relatively rare in that he focussed almost entirely on what the individuals went through and gave the worm's eye view. This is what makes him a hero to anyone who's gone to war and come through it.

However, I have to agree, you have to take a huge pinch of salt with his books, unless they're solely about British forces, in which case they are unbiased - like 'Pegasus Bridge'. Anything requiring balance between USA and others - forget it. His hero worship of Eisenhower borders on the blind. Sure Eisenhower was an astute political commander who kept the coalition together, despite Montgomery's and Patton's egotisms. Unfortunately Ambrose doesn't recognise what Ike recognised in himself - Eisenhower wasn't a battlefield commander. All judgements are subjective, but Ambrose seems to take it to the extreme.

So my verdict is 'very readable, but don't use it as an authoritative history'
 
#5
My guess is that Ambroise isn't a very good WW2 historian. He is an american and does the US Civil war very well. His best WW2 stuff is documenting the stories of a few veterans, amnd he draws on the ones he met via the US veterans network. Thats his unique strength.

His book on D Day is woefully ignorant of the British. The British and Canadian beaches are in a couple of very thin chapters, and what he says is incorrect in many details.

He treats the Ox and Bucks very well in "Pegasus Bridge" -but only, I suspect, because he met John Frost while visiting Normandy with the band of Brothers and became intrigued with the story.

In some ways he has done more to publicise the Ox and Bucks contribution than either the RGJ or the Airborne forces historians. E.G. You can buy all sorts of airborne and para souveniers at the Pegasus Bridge museum, (including US airborne!) but nothing much on the Ox and Bucks - except Ambrose's book. Yet the Ox and Bucks and the old 52nd have a claim to great military prowess over two centuries. They faced the old guard at Waterloo and stopped the Prussian guards at Nonnebusch on 11 Nov 1914. On top of that they perform one of the most successful coup de main operations ever. So why haven't the RGJ put their stamp all over the place and flogged their PRI stuff there? Or do they downplay the red jacketed parts of their heritage? ;)
 
#6
scalieback said:
He was on telly the other day, going on about Russia and America winning the war. Didn't like to include the Brits as we contributed only 25% of the manpower (I assume that's on the Western Europe and Italian fronts). Fails to mention Johnny come lately being nearly three years late, again. I've still not got round to reading pegasus Bridge again. Last time I read it was about 20 years ago, so I can't really comment on his attitude to brits in his books.
It must have been a repeat as he died in 2002. :twisted:

Ambrose wasn't a historian he was a hack. He presented to to public, history that they wanted to hear i.e: one sided history with popular nationalist overtones. I think it's lucky he died when he did as his reputation was about to be torn to shreads.I don't know if any one recalls but it seems that Ambrose was a bit of a plageriser and that his researchers may have written large sections of his books. It all started when a weekly standard writer discovered that Ambrose or his researcher (as he claimed in his defence) had plagerised the work of historian Thomas Childers.
Linked is the slate article on Ambrose's plagerism and his dubious work methods.
Slate Article
 
#7
Just read pegasus bridge very good only dig about brits in it was about small arms and with sten gun,piat fair comment
bren gun ?thats another debate .
 
#9
stabtastic said:
He's doing well then, seeing as he's actually dead.......

His books are excellent in one way. He (was) a 'popular historian', serving up history for the masses. There's no doubt that Saving Private Ryan (he had a major part in the screenplay and used the details gained from the vets he'd interviewed over the years) and Band of Brothers contributed enormously to the respect my grandfather's generation were and are held in. The Veteran's Administration recognised this and publically thanked him for it. He was relatively rare in that he focussed almost entirely on what the individuals went through and gave the worm's eye view. This is what makes him a hero to anyone who's gone to war and come through it.

However, I have to agree, you have to take a huge pinch of salt with his books, unless they're solely about British forces, in which case they are unbiased - like 'Pegasus Bridge'. Anything requiring balance between USA and others - forget it. His hero worship of Eisenhower borders on the blind. Sure Eisenhower was an astute political commander who kept the coalition together, despite Montgomery's and Patton's egotisms. Unfortunately Ambrose doesn't recognise what Ike recognised in himself - Eisenhower wasn't a battlefield commander. All judgements are subjective, but Ambrose seems to take it to the extreme.

So my verdict is 'very readable, but don't use it as an authoritative history'
Quite sad to hear he has passed on as he did indeed contribute a great deal in helping to show recent generations what their Grandfathers etc. endured in WWII, I have read his D-Day Book and he certainly had a talent for undermining the British Part in the Normandy Landings, failing to actually grasp the fact that the Britsih faced a similar line of defence on their beaches as the Americans did at Omaha Beach, however as the British Army had Battlefield experience against the Gerries they did the right things landing on the beaches with direct tank support having tanks that actually landed on the beaches instead of being dropped 2 miles out to 'swim' ashore; the Brits also put to use all the recent Engineer Inventions, armoured breaching vehicles, gap and wire crossing, flails etc. and when they landed just maybe their vastly superior fighting skills, experience and knowledge in face of the enemy made their fight look a whole lot easier than the awful time the Americans had at Omaha; bearing in mind Omaha and the Normandy Landings were their Baptism of Fire against already battle hardened German Forces, Stephen Ambrose has shown a lot of naievity and ignorance (not to mention National Arrogance) towards the battle hardened, vastly more experienced Brits on the day!

I believe Eisenhower was selected as overall Allied Commander due to the tactical intellect he had shown against the other 300+ potential candidates, however his theories and tactics were as an armchair commander and not proven in battle? were they not?

It does cheese you off when you hear constantly how 'America' won the War almost entirely on their own!!!
 
#11
I forgot that the Americans decided that they knew better than the UK forces who landed at Dieppe. Who needs tanks, bridge layers, ardvarrks, avres etc? Obviously they did. I don't think Ambrose mentioned this rather large fcuk up on the septics part.
 
#12
RedMistUK said:
Quite sad to hear he has passed on as he did indeed contribute a great deal in helping to show recent generations what their Grandfathers etc. endured in WWII, I have read his D-Day Book and he certainly had a talent for undermining the British Part in the Normandy Landings, failing to actually grasp the fact that the Britsih faced a similar line of defence on their beaches as the Americans did at Omaha Beach, however as the British Army had Battlefield experience against the Gerries they did the right things landing on the beaches with direct tank support having tanks that actually landed on the beaches instead of being dropped 2 miles out to 'swim' ashore; the Brits also put to use all the recent Engineer Inventions, armoured breaching vehicles, gap and wire crossing, flails etc. and when they landed just maybe their vastly superior fighting skills, experience and knowledge in face of the enemy made their fight look a whole lot easier than the awful time the Americans had at Omaha; bearing in mind Omaha and the Normandy Landings were their Baptism of Fire against already battle hardened German Forces
I broadly agree, but we tend to have a "pro Brit" spin on this and trot out our own untruths. until I visited Omaha beach I was convinced it was a near dissaster because the americans screwed it up.

However....

1. Omaha is a MUCH stronger position than Sword, Gold or Juno. There were only a few obvious routes and the whole beahc could be covered by anti tank guns in deflade positions covered from frontal fire by thick earth and concrete walls.
The German troop concentrations were about twice as dense as on the British beaches, and without any defenseive strongpiont manned by ost truppen. (E.g. the ost batallion facing King beach Stan Hollis etc seems to have melted away.)

2. The US thought about the Churchill AVRE and rejected it largely on logistic grounds. No army is particularly good at using someone else's kit in a hurry and the US are probably worse than us. It is possible that their role is exaggerated. AVREs would have helped the US to clear the obstacles up the heavily defended draws, but surely the tactical solution was that identified and improvised? infiltrate up the inadequately defended bluffs between the draws?

3. The US DID land tanks directly on shore. ONE of two battalions was dropped too far out. The other landed on the beach - after the leadign assault wave and many afvs were knocked out. (if you don't beleive me check the famous Capa photos). Here is where the Funnies might have made a big difference, doubling the number of AFVs engaging the defences and maybe enabling the US to have overwhelmed defences at one of the draws. (Incidentaly one of the german sitreps received by HQ 352 Div reports three tanks attacking up the draw from Vierville at about 8 am. Some tanks tried to carry pout the exisiting plan, but obviously not enough or with enough support)

4. Omaha was a great success. At a cost of 2,000 casualties the allies landed 35,000 troops and achieved a beachhead. Compare this with other infantry v machinegun battles like Vimy ridge or anywhere on the Somme. It was touch and go for about two hours -until the Germans ran out of artillery ammunition and committed their reserved against the Brits. it was probably never in doubt except in bradelys' mind.
 
#13
plant_life said:
I forgot that the Americans decided that they knew better than the UK forces who landed at Dieppe. Who needs tanks, bridge layers, ardvarrks, avres etc? Obviously they did. I don't think Ambrose mentioned this rather large fcuk up on the septics part.
Ye-es.... I wouldn't go about extolling the virtues of our little incursion at Dieppe, if I were you. It's right up there with other things that 'seemed a good idea at the time'. Although you're right about the use of 'funnies'. Still, back to the Ambrose thing: did a major service to all veterans, but obviously secretly in love with Eisenhower: he was Smithers, Ike was Mr Burns.....
 
#14
If I remember rightly, Ambrose worked for Eisenhower at his institute in the 1960's. CSE History lesson number one, always look for possible bias in peoples work.
 
#15
My sister (devoted civvy, knows as much about the military as Ken Livingstone's old CND section chief - she dated a PTI ffs, no shame...) just got back from a work trip to Tennessee. I spoke to her on the phone yesterday, she casually let slip that she found out there was a military base nearby, named Fort Campbell. I never knew she had read Band of Brothers, or even seen the series, but off her own back she connected the 101st with the base, and then phoned them up to ask if they had a museum she could visit, then spent a day begging a ride from anyone who could take her up there. She was succesful and made the 2 hour trip because she wanted, in her own words:
"to pay some respect to the guys from Easy Company and the 506th"

Not something I expected to hear from my baby sister, who probably still thinks airborne is spelt with a 'u' and is something ducks do in winter.

Ambrose may not have always been an academically sound historian, but he motivated a hitherto unknowing English girl who just travelled 4500 miles to make a detour to say thanks to a bunch of blokes who made the opposite, and often one-way, journey for her benefit.

I guarantee that the first stories that got us all interested in military history weren't written or compiled by erudite historians, but by popular ones. For me it was a couple of books by Paul Brickhill and one edited by Terry Norman. Ambrose played his role well and shouted the names of a number of exceptional men who earnt the right to get their names shouted.

My sis is still getting a chinese burn for not knowing Britain even HAD an Airborne formation steeped in no lesser glory than their american counterparts, let alone that her own sh@gging brother served in it's modern iterations. I'm taking her to the ABF museum asap.
 
#16
Pteranadon said:
RedMistUK said:
Quite sad to hear he has passed on as he did indeed contribute a great deal in helping to show recent generations what their Grandfathers etc. endured in WWII, I have read his D-Day Book and he certainly had a talent for undermining the British Part in the Normandy Landings, failing to actually grasp the fact that the Britsih faced a similar line of defence on their beaches as the Americans did at Omaha Beach, however as the British Army had Battlefield experience against the Gerries they did the right things landing on the beaches with direct tank support having tanks that actually landed on the beaches instead of being dropped 2 miles out to 'swim' ashore; the Brits also put to use all the recent Engineer Inventions, armoured breaching vehicles, gap and wire crossing, flails etc. and when they landed just maybe their vastly superior fighting skills, experience and knowledge in face of the enemy made their fight look a whole lot easier than the awful time the Americans had at Omaha; bearing in mind Omaha and the Normandy Landings were their Baptism of Fire against already battle hardened German Forces
I broadly agree, but we tend to have a "pro Brit" spin on this and trot out our own untruths. until I visited Omaha beach I was convinced it was a near dissaster because the americans screwed it up.

However....

1. Omaha is a MUCH stronger position than Sword, Gold or Juno. There were only a few obvious routes and the whole beahc could be covered by anti tank guns in deflade positions covered from frontal fire by thick earth and concrete walls.
The German troop concentrations were about twice as dense as on the British beaches, and without any defenseive strongpiont manned by ost truppen. (E.g. the ost batallion facing King beach Stan Hollis etc seems to have melted away.)

2. The US thought about the Churchill AVRE and rejected it largely on logistic grounds. No army is particularly good at using someone else's kit in a hurry and the US are probably worse than us. It is possible that their role is exaggerated. AVREs would have helped the US to clear the obstacles up the heavily defended draws, but surely the tactical solution was that identified and improvised? infiltrate up the inadequately defended bluffs between the draws?

3. The US DID land tanks directly on shore. ONE of two battalions was dropped too far out. The other landed on the beach - after the leadign assault wave and many afvs were knocked out. (if you don't beleive me check the famous Capa photos). Here is where the Funnies might have made a big difference, doubling the number of AFVs engaging the defences and maybe enabling the US to have overwhelmed defences at one of the draws. (Incidentaly one of the german sitreps received by HQ 352 Div reports three tanks attacking up the draw from Vierville at about 8 am. Some tanks tried to carry pout the exisiting plan, but obviously not enough or with enough support)

4. Omaha was a great success. At a cost of 2,000 casualties the allies landed 35,000 troops and achieved a beachhead. Compare this with other infantry v machinegun battles like Vimy ridge or anywhere on the Somme. It was touch and go for about two hours -until the Germans ran out of artillery ammunition and committed their reserved against the Brits. it was probably never in doubt except in bradelys' mind.
Pteranadon,

Thanks for that, no one is doubting the Americans obvious' savage fight on Omaha and they certainly did an awesome thing by taking the beach head, what I was referring to, which you haven't mentioned, was that the British Army (a large percentage of them anyway) were battle hardened, experienced soldiers and made much lighter work of getting through the defences albeit as you have pointed out less heavily defended than Omaha, Ambrose doesn't really go into this in much detail and certainly doesn't credit the Brits for being veterans compared to the Americans on D-Day. All credit to all those who took part in the Normandy Landings, all deserving the utmost respect from any author no matter how lightly or heavily defended their beaches were (they were not to know until they landed). Ambrose's books aare a classic example though of one nation being given all the credit for something it took a lot of nations to succeed together.
 
#17
RedMistUK said:
Pteranadon,

Thanks for that, no one is doubting the Americans obvious' savage fight on Omaha and they certainly did an awesome thing by taking the beach head, what I was referring to, which you haven't mentioned, was that the British Army (a large percentage of them anyway) were battle hardened, experienced soldiers and made much lighter work of getting through the defences albeit as you have pointed out less heavily defended than Omaha, Ambrose doesn't really go into this in much detail and certainly doesn't credit the Brits for being veterans compared to the Americans on D-Day. .............. Ambrose's books are a classic example though of one nation being given all the credit for something it took a lot of nations to succeed together.
Agreed; D Day is poor history and unbalanced. The "D'Isgny" version of Normandy is one sided but popular with an American readership. Americans want to read about how great their armed forces were. It’s the same as Saving Private Ryan. It’s the capitalist way to re write history.

I don't think Ambrose is the worst transgressor either.

Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory by Adrian R. Lewis is a really nasty and chauvinistic book.

Lewis argues that Omaha beach is the fault of the British! Somehow the evil Brits had persuaded a weak willed Eisenhower to use an un American doctrine based on surprise. As a consequence the assault at Omaha was at the wrong time and there was insufficient time for a thorough bombardment of the defences. In his view the US Army should have insisted on used the emerging US Pacific doctrine to blast Omaha defences for days before landing troops on the assumption that surprise would be unachievable and un necessary! (This nonsense assumes that Eisenhower, whose staff had masterminded three successful large scale assault landings, should have followed the smaller and costly Tarawa as a model. It also assumes that D Day could have worked just as well if the Germans had three days notice of the landing beaches!)

Lewis is an ex army officer, professor of history contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He should know better.

BTW,

Not all the Brits were hardened veterans. Of the assault divisions, the 50th was the only one that could be described as "battle hardened". The 3rd British had last seen action at Dunkirk and the 6th Airborne and 3rd Canadian were completely green.

Not all the Americans were raw either. The 1st US Division was probably the most experienced US formation, having landed in North Africa and Sicily and the 82nd had dropped in Sicily. The US rangers had been in occasional action since Dieppe.
 
#18
Some of the US troops had been in action before. What was the name of the battle they fought in the Africa campaign and were captured in their thousand by zee Germans?
 

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