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am 30. Januar 2003
In seiner ihm eigenen packenden Art zeichnet Ambrose den Weg der US-Armee in Europa 1944/45 nach. Dabei wird weniger Wert auf den genauen Ablauf der Ereignisse im "größeren Rahmen" gelegt, sondern vielmehr das Erleben des Einzelnen GIs, der sich kurz vorher noch nicht vorstellen konnte, tausende Kilometer von der Heimat entfernt zu kämpfen. Die Transformation von einfachen Bürgern in trainierte und tapfere Soldaten gelingt dabei sehr plasatisch. Mir besonders gefallen hat das eigene, dem US-Sanitätsdienst gewidmete Kapitel, in dem den in allen Armeen oft zu Unrecht verlachten "Medics" ein bleibendes Denkmal gesetzt wird.
Alles in allem: fesselnd geschriebene Geschichte, die eine Übersetzung ins Deutsche dringend verdient hätte.
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am 21. September 2004
I read "Band Of Brothers" a few months ago and even though i found it brilliant and much more insightful than the (likewise brilliant) TV Mini-Series, i wondered indeed if it lacked a little description on the real "ugly" sides of World War II. It seems, Steven E. Ambrose spared his experience on that topic for this book.
As contradictive as the title "Citizen Soldiers" seems to be, it is a leading theme in the book: Volunteering soldiers from a democracy against german soldiers in a dictatorship. Both sides come to word and Ambrose did an incredible job of putting interviews in a comprehensive order troughout the whole book, and still abstain to judge the actions of either. This is left to the reader and thus involves him even more.
Most of the time Ambrose gives insights into the life of (american and german) infantry soldiers and some anecdotes often brought me to laugh, depressed me and sometimes made me hold my breath. Where "Band Of Brothers" lacked reality - this book brings you right back into it. It infuriates you, when Ambrose analyzes the tactical decisions of the involved british and american generals and brings you to wonder, what physical and mental distress the general soldiers must have endured.
The included two-sided maps are terrific for a better understanding of the geography and military movements. The book also contains 46 pages of excellent photograpic material.
I can only recommend to read this book.
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am 26. November 1998
Although the book is an interesting read, Ambrose should be considered a technician - not an artist. I found it hard to get past the fact that Ambrose repeats himself again and again and again and again and again. How many times does he need to mention the marvels of American industrial power?
In my opinion, Ambrose is a nothing more than a high school editor who happens to write about subjects that sell. I'm also unhappy that Ambrose contributes to the collective ignorance about other WWII theaters. Accomplished historians have written about more than one subject. Ambrose maximizes his "return-on-research" by writing printing several books about the same subject matter! Clearly, the Ambrosian perspective is limited to the European Theater of Operations.
This is unfortunate given the fact that, in the Pacific, the Japanese never surrendered and never took prisoners. The Germans were school girls compared to the Japanese. Ambrose portrays the Germans as "fanatics." Obviously he has never read anything about the fighting in the Pacific.
If you want to read about Americans in battle. Read William Manchester's "Goodbye Darkness." This is a first hand account of the war in the Pacific theater. Unlike Ambrose, Manchester is an artist and a soldier.
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am 15. November 1997
Having sat enthralled through Ambrose's D-Day book, I eagerly snapped up "Citizen Soldiers" without browsing through it. When I did sit down to read it, I thought that although the text flowed well, it was filled with factual errors that indicated a hurried job of indepth research which so characterized his previous works on D-Day, Company E 506th PIR and Pegasus Bridge. My overall impression was that Ambrose's publisher hoped to capitalize on his reputation when they printed this book. Some interesting vignettes and previously unpublished first person accounts, but much more could have been done with this subject.
am 31. März 2000
The author of this book perhaps has come to view himself as thecurrent "specialist" on WWII history. That's fine -everyoneis indeed entitled to his/her own opinion. Though the lives of "everyday" soldiers are well protrayed in this book, the volume includes simply too many inaccuracies regarding basic historical facts to satisfy my standards. For example, the author refers several times to German Tiger and Panther tanks with an 88mm cannon; With regard to the Panther, INCORRECT: The Panther - perhaps the best medium tank produced by any nation during the war - had a high velocity, long barreled 75mm cannon, which was a far better gun tube than the US Sherman's little 75mm - the Panther NEVER had an 88mm gun. The author also tells us that Bayerlein commanded the 12th SS panzer Div., "Hitler Jugend". Incorrect. The HJ commander was Fritz Witt, who was killed by a direct hit on his command center by a large caliber naval shell just after the invasion. Kurt "Panzer" Meyer took command after Witt's death - NO Bayerlein. Also, in his portrayal of the "Battle of the Bulge" - the Germans' Ardennes offensive, the author reviews Kampfgruppe Peiper ("KG" - Battle Group Peiper), which was the German lead attack formation during the offensive led by the dashing young Obersturmbannfuehrer (LTC) Jochen Peiper. This KG was indeed the strongest of several KG formations used by the Germans in teh attack, but it in no way had the personnel figure in the vicinity of 22,000 which the author suggests. This figure in fact, is closer to the personnel figure for the ENTIRE 1.SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte" - of which KG Peiper was but a small part. The KG on its own, had closer to 4500 men - BIG difference (see the very accurate book "The Devil's Adjutant") for the American defending forces! Had the Germans attacked with a Battle Group of the size the author suggests, the Americans would have been easily thrust aside - the "Bulge" would have burst.
Although "Citizen Soldiers" is interesting, as a former US Army ARMOR officer myself, the sometimes significant inaccuracies that appear throughout this book color my impressions of the whole in a negative shade. END
am 11. Januar 2000
Whether you loved the film "Saving Private Ryan" or hated it, there is no doubt that it had a major cultural impact in reviving public interest in WWII. As a huge military history buff, I have not seen such a wonderful cornucopia of new and re-released books on a single subject, WWII, since the big Civil War craze that followed the success of Ken Burns' documentary.
Like that Civil War craze, the current popular interest in WWII has seen the release of some truly great books, some mediocre ones, and just plain wasted pulp. "Citizen Soldiers" fits somewhere in between great and mediocre. It is well-written, has some terrific stories, and provides a nice introduction to people who are new to the field of military history.
The problem with the book is Ambrose. Ambrose has become the unofficial "WWII expert" in American popular culture. His name will be seen on the forwards of new WWII books. His face and pleasant voice used for documentaries or interviews. He has, in fact, become the WWII equivilent to the Civil War craze's Shelby Foote. Ambrose is a good writer; but an average historian. "Citizen Soldiers" is nothing more than a collection of secondary source material and the recollections of old veterans. Interesting reading to be sure; but lazily researched history. Also Ambrose's jingoism and hero worship(especially of Eisenhower which is seen in virtually all of his WWII books) can get a little tiresome, especially knowing that he is a professional historian and not a novelist turned amateur historian like Foote. If a reader really wants to know what it was like to be a combat soldier in the ETO check out "Company Commander" by Charles MacDonald or "The Clay Pigeons of St. Lo" by Glover Johns. Both of these books were written by combat veterans less than five years after the war. Also both were used heavily as source material for "Citizen Soldiers." Johns' book is, unfortunatly, out of print, but available through many libraries. MacDonald's book, though, was just recently reprinted- thank you, Steven Speilberg.
am 6. Januar 2000
William Tecumseh Sherman was quite right- war is hell. The soldiers who went to Europe in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany lived it- climbing the beaches of Normandy, across the fields of France, through the bitter snows of the Ardennes, all the way into the heart of Germany. Stephen Ambrose "Citizen Soldiers" is the story of those soldiers who won the war and freed Western Europe from Nazi tyranny. Beginning on the day after D-Day, June 7th, 1944, and continuing until the German surrender on May 7th, 1945, Ambrose gives the story of the war across Europe from the perspective of the foot soldier, not the great collection of generals immortalized after the war. This is a brilliant book this reader could not put down.
The war to end all wars was anything but a triumphant march across western Europe. It was a bloody conflict in which American soldiers, many boys fresh off the farm or out of the city who had seen a shot fired in anger before, had to learn how to fight for the first time. Mistakes were many. Friendly fire was a common occurrence. Frostbite caused as many casualties as German rifle fire. American officers, eager to engage their German opponents and leading their men from remote headquarters miles away from the action, often launched foolish or unusually aggressive attacks that resulted in tremendous casualties. This mindset often clashed with that of British officers, whose care and concern for the well-being of their men was born out of the terrible cost suffered by the British Army in the fields of France during World War I.
One of the more particularly stunning parts of "Citizen Soldiers" is a chart on pages 280-283 which break down the casualties each U.S. Infantry and Armored Division suffered as a percentage of their original total when the Division entered combat. The three U.S. Divisions that entered the war on D-Day- the 1st, 4th and 29th Infantry Divisions -suffered 206%, 252%, and 204% casualties through the course of the European campaign. Think about that for a moment. In all three the original members of the division were killed, wounded or captured, then their replacements were all killed, wounded or captured, which necessitated a second group of replacements to fill out the division. Though casualties were not as dramatic for most of the other U.S. Divisions involved in Europe, many lost over 100% of their original members. If you were a rifleman in one of the divisions that landed in Normandy on June 6th, 1944 or began the war shortly thereafter, the chances that you made it out of the war unscathed were virtually nil.
Rarely do simple numbers convey such startling conclusions.
Ambrose has done an excellent job collecting interesting stories that were representative of the millions of soldiers who went to Europe to fight and sometimes die so that the world may be free. Anyone who reads Citizen Soldiers will be impressed not only by the terrible sacrifices made by American GIs, but by their courage and their heroism in the face of such a terrible ordeal. This is an outstanding book.
am 9. Juli 1999
This is a typical Ambrose collection of highly personable and entertaining stories that have unfortunatley been wrapped up into a misguided and subjective analysis of american armed forces during WWII. Ambrose consistently and erroneously concludes that the pluck and spirit of individual soldiers, along with "democratized" military culture and superior leadership, was the sole factor contributing to Nazi Germany's defeat in the ETO during WWII. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The average 1944 German army infantry company, with no tactical or strategic air support, little or no mechanization, inadequate supplies and being undermanned was still able to outfight its American couterpart on a consistent basis. The Americans had inferior armour and anit-tank weapons. The quality of their commanders, particularly at the regimental and divisional level demonstrated a lack of imagination and boldness in the attack, rarely deviating from plans or following up initial tactical successes. They also lacked the ability to operate large scale combined arms formations with skill and flexibility, allowing the germans to mount defensive actions and counter-attacks with a shocking degree of success. So how did the Germans lose? Simple. The stupidity of Hitler and the diminished capacity of the German general staff to resist him was foremost. Had Hitler allowed Rundstedt and Rommel to engage the panzer divisions from the 15th Army in the early hours of the invasion as his generals had begged him to, the American and all other allied beachheads would have been crushed, period! We would be talking today about the great defeat at Normandy. There are numerous others examples of Hitler's stupidity that lead to irreparable german military disasters in the ETO after the beahhead was secured, such as Falaise. Secondly, the massive allied tactical air superiority played a a huge role in defeating German forces, along with the degraded state of German army manpower (especially noncommisioned officer leadership) after four brutally long years of war with the Soviet Union. If the American armies in Normandy in 1944 had to face the German armies from the eastern front circa 1942 or 1943 when the Luftwaffe was still a force to be reckoned with, the Americans would have been slaughtered piece meal. We should thank the Russians every Memorial day for their sacrifice of 25-30 million casualties and the destruction of Germany's best units and most of their tactical airpower before we had to face them. Finally, the Americans employed the strategy of blunt force attrition to defeat the Germans. We had such an enormous quantity of materiale which could be expended without threat of scarcity that we simply overwhelmed superior German military skills by throwing massive amounts of equipment into battle without consideration for losses. All of this information is plainly documented in most of the more objectively researched and written historical accounts of the WWII ETO, so I'm not quite sure why Ambrose chooses to ignore these facts. Anyways, enjoy the individual soldier stories, and look to other books if you're intersted in accurate accounts of military history.
am 6. November 1998
By John Rafferty, Age:16 of PA A. Book Stephen E. Ambrose, "Citizen Soldier.", (Simon and Schuster; New York), 1997, pp. 528. B. Author Stephen Ambrose was born in 1936, in the town of Whitewater, Wisconsin. After he earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin, he taught at several colleges and universities in the U. S. and Europe from 1960 to 1995. He retired from teaching in 1995, and currently lives in Mississippi and Montana. He has had a passion for history since he was young. At the age of 12 he began listening to World War II stories directly from newly-returned war veterans. Ambrose has written 19 books, all biographies or historical works "requiring research so extensive that it seems it must represent the toil of at least four lifetimes" . He is the founder, director, and president of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies and the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. The Eisenhower Center is a non-profit institute, which studies and preserves American history and leadership from many perspectives, including social history, foreign policy, literature, and popular culture. The National D-Day Museum will open on June 6, 2000, which is also the date of the opening of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. The museum will exhibit the Higgins Landing Craft and artifacts from Utah and Omaha Beaches. Ambrose's credentials as an historian make him well qualified to write this book. His extensive studies and writings on Eisenhower (as general and as president) and other key figures in World War II and his interviews with thousands of war veterans qualify Ambrose for writing a book about the experiences of soldiers in World War II. Stephen Ambrose has recently worked as chief historian with Hollywood film director Steven Spielberg for the movie "Saving Private Ryan", which Ambrose calls "the best war film ever made". C. Thesis and Scope of Work Stephen Ambrose has not attempted to give an in depth narration or analysis of World War II in his book Citizen Soldier. Instead, Ambrose has written a masterfully crafted book about the day-to-day life of the ordinary soldier, which focuses on how teamwork amongst the soldiers was the only means of success during the War. Ambrose says "the U.S. Army had....bound these men together into a team that featured initiative at the bottom and cold-blooded determination and competency at the top." Instead of detailing the intricate battle plans and maneuvers developed by the commanding officers, Ambrose takes the war to a personal level, by describing the war from a soldier's point of view. In order to relay to the reader what the GIs felt, what they went through, and how they worked together as a team, Ambrose has drawn from interviews and memoirs to show the reader the war from a soldier's perspective. It is only through this manner that Ambrose can successfully lead the reader to appreciate the hardships and difficulties that these men had to endure. In one instance Ambrose tells of the importance of cooperation to surviving a long winter's night in a cold, wet foxhole. Ambrose says, "What was unendurable, the GIs endured...the conditions were often so deplorable that [the men] had nothing else to go on, but [their] own morale...'you're sitting there in a foxhole rubbing your buddy's feet, and he's rubbing yours so you don't get trench foot.'" Ambrose says that "foxhole buddies" were "closer than brothers... they would die for one another." Ambrose states as his thesis: "That unit cohesion, team work, and the development of a sense of family in the squad and platoon, are the qualities most World War II veterans point to when asked how they survived and won." Ambrose says of Eisenhower that "His insistence on teamwork was the key to victory." Through this book, Ambrose offers a new perspective to many regarding World War II. He skillfully puts the reader on the front lines of battle and makes them anxious to turn the page to see whether or not they will survive the next barrage of shells or fire from enemy tanks. He helps the reader realize the importance of every one of the brave men who fought in World War II. As he introduces each soldier, whether a private, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, or major, he does so in such a way that the reader gets to know each one. The reader follows the soldier's experience in a particular battle or related experience, and then feels as if he as lost a good friend if the soldier meets his unfortunate death. Ambrose does a very good job of not showing an obvious bias in his work Citizen Soldier. Ambrose shows the heroic deeds and faults of both sides. He relates the story of a German soldier who refused a blood transfusion for fear of it possibly containing Jewish blood, and another of an American GI who shot a group of unarmed Germans that were coming forward to surrender. Relating such disheartening deeds as these forty years ago would have been viewed as contemptuous by the American public, but Ambrose is dedicated to portraying events as they really were. Ambrose chose not to cover the entirety of World War II in Citizen Soldier. Rather, he has chosen to recount what he feels to be the most important months of the war; from June 1944, to May 1945. The story begins at 0510 hours on June 7, 1944, where his previous book, "D-Day," left off, and closes at 0245 hours on May 7, 1945 as soldiers learn of Germany's surrender. He fills over 400 pages with personal accounts, biographical information, and battle descriptions pertaining to these 11 months of the war. Why Ambrose chose to cover the last 11 months of the war is not discussed. However, it is likely that he considered these months to be the most difficult, the ones that clearly showed the importance of teamwork and unit cohesion. Ambrose says that Citizen Soldier "is not a book about generals. It is about the GIs, the junior officers and enlisted men of ETO [European Theater of Operations ] ¾who they were, how they fought, why they fought, what they endured, and how they triumphed." Section 3 of the book is titled "Life In ETO." It provides a detailed account of the conditions under which the GIs fought. Ambrose includes in the introduction to this section, what he thought to be the main themes that run from June 1944 to May 1945: "What is was like to spend the night in a foxhole, the praise of the GIs for the Army's Medical Corps, the terrors and triumphs of the men who fought the war in the skies; the cost paid by those who did their duty because of the ones who didn't; and the experience of being a POW." D. Style and Organization Although Stephen Ambrose has not stated the audience for which he writes, his writing style and jargon suggest that he is writing for a general audience. He makes it a point to explain precisely what he means when referring to a military term or abbreviation that might otherwise confuse the common reader. For example, when Ambrose mentions the ASTP, he spends more than a paragraph explaining that this "Army Specialized Training Program" was a pet project of Secretary of War Henry Stimson that put bright young men through college, if they would join the Army after graduation. Ambrose has written this book in such a way that a person with little or no previous knowledge of World War II can appreciate it. Although veterans might be able to relate to this book in a more meaningful way than others, everyone would benefit from reading this book. I believe that Ambrose has definitely achieved connection with the "general audience." The book is arranged in a chronological sequence from June 7, 1944 to May 7. 1945. The only exception to this is Part Three: "Life in the ETO" which follows a sequence of time within each chapter. This section is more topical than narrative. This approach works well, however. In the midst of all the fighting and battle images evoked in the readers' mind by Ambrose's vivid imagery, Section 3 provides a break in the action with the description of the day-to-day lives of these men: who they were, how they acted, what they thought, what their fears were, how they overcame these difficulties, and how all these factors led to their ultimate victory. The story, as Ambrose relates it, flows well as a narrative. Ambrose's excellent writing style leaves the reader with a thorough understanding of the material in the book. I can honestly say that I was able to understand about 98% of this book, leaving the remaining 2% accounted for by careless reading on my own part. As non-fiction books often present a difficulty for me, I was surprised to find how much of Citizen Soldier I was able to retain and appreciate. I believe that it was mostly Ambrose's writing style that allowed me to comprehend what he had to say so well. His writing moves along at a nice pace, and his thoughts flow smoothly from one idea to the next. He introduces the reader to a particular soldier in about one sentence, and then spends the next paragraph describing the experience of that particular GI or junior officer.
am 14. Oktober 1998
This well-written book is easy to read and well worth reading from several aspects.
First, of course, is the detailed and highly anecdotal recounting of what it was like to be a front-line American soldier in Europe during WWII, while reminding the reader that the only way to truly know what it was like is to have actually been there.
He goes beyond this with cogent accounts of the soldiers' training, leadership, tactics and strategy -- how each battle and campaign fit into the big picture. He gives praise and criticism where he feels it is due -- sometimes both to the same person (Patton and Montgomery, for examples). Ambrose always explains his reasoning -- WHY something was right, or wrong.
The interested reader can draw lessons in management from the many accounts of effective and ineffective leadership.
Sadly, Ambrose recounts everything that was ineffective about the "Replacement Depot" system of putting poorly-trained soldiers into combat "cold" on an individual basis. Yet this is what the Army did in Vietnam also.
Through the individual, Ambrose also steps back and looks at societies as a whole. Americans came as liberators of Europe, but African American U.S. soldiers back home could not eat in public diners, while captured German POWS could.
As another reviewer notes, while the jacket blurb says "Ambrose shows that free men fight better than slaves," that is NOT the point of this book -- and is not something Ambrose argues.
Ambrose's conclusion: In the words of a GI, "We were miserable and cold and exhausted most of the time, we were all scared to death.... But we were young and strong then, possessed of the marvelous resilience of youth, and for all the misery and fear and the hating every moment of it the war was a great, if always terrifying, adventure. Not a man among us would want to go through it again, but we are all proud of having been so severely tested and found adequate...."