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on April 10, 2001
Ambrose is not only a great historian, he's a great storyteller. This is a fine book for anyone wishing to sample Ambrose's ability before exploring his larger studies. To the initiated, his long-term followers, this collection of historical essays provides a quick but insightful review of topics ranging from Custer, to Mac Arthur to The Bomb. His remarks on My Lai are possibly the most levelheaded view of that sad event this reader has encountered.
Ambrose has a unique ability to weave traditional research, oral histories and the big picture into a compelling story. His written accounts are as riveting as his classes or his personal presentations. His craftsmanship as a master storyteller is as evident in these short pieces as it is in his larger works.
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VINE VOICEon September 16, 2005
"Americans At War" is another of Stephen Ambrose's works in which he focuses on topics and heroes which have formed the bases of prior books. Through them he tells the story saga of the American scenes on Mars' stage. Although he occassionally gets down to the common soldier, sailor and airman, this book deals largely with the leaders, consistent with Ambrose's belief that nothing is inevitable. Things happen because people make them happen.

This book begins with the siege of Vicksburg, focusing largely on Ulysses S Grant. It continues with a very unflattering consideration of George Armstrong Custer. The sections on Dwight Eisenhower's relationship with George Patton and his role in the establishment of NATO make interesting reading. Ike is depicted as playing an indispensable role in laying a firm foundation for NATO, a role which I had not previously appreciated. The story of Douglas MacArthur also holds the readers interest.

I found the section on atrocities to be particularly interesting. Ambrose skillfully contrasts those, such as Lt. Calley, who broke under pressure, with others, such as Meriwether Lewis, who did not break.

The political leadership of FDR is examined for its failure to prepare America for World War II, before recovering in preparation for D-Day. Nixon's Christmas 1972 bombing of Hanoi is presented as being more directed at our reluctant South Vietnamese allies than our North Vietnamese enemies.

From individuals, Ambrose broadens the perspective to consider changes which World War II brought to Main Street America. His assessment of the Cold War, how it was fought, whether it was necessary, who won what and whether it was worth the cost lead the reader to make his own analysis. The conclusion on wars of the Twenty-First Century contain stimulating speculations, even though some of which were proven right and others wrong in the early phases War on Terrorism.

Throughout this fairly short book, Ambrose educates the readers and invites us to draw our own conclusions, without hesitating to share his conclusions with us. It is certainly a worthwhile read.
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on October 26, 1998
Mr. Ambrose presents a collection of essays which range from Custer & Grant in the Civil War to Patton & MacArthur in WWII to Nixon's Bombing of Hanoi. Easy to understand and enjoyable to read. A must read for anyone yearning to understand how War has shaped America and how American leaders have shaped war.
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on October 17, 1998
Americans At War is a good book with lots of personal experience as an underlying tone. Ambrose does not always agree with the policies that shaped our times. However, he offers well thought out practical analysis of that critical thinking. Ambrose is a professional historian who analysizes the most important aspects of history. For example, he dedicates an entire chapter in Americans At War to the home front. Many military historians coast over this very significant aspect of the World War II. He goes in to detail on how at the time of Pearl Harbor, the United States was significantly unprepared to wage any type of war let alone be the leader of democracy. He shows how American industry, farmers and workers came to the aid of the world. He gives much credit to the women who held families together while men where away. In the process they earned their independence and confidence. Forever chaning their place in society. The combination of personal experience, historical research and critcal thinking make this book an exceptional read.
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While this may not be some of Ambrose's best work, it is never-the-less very good stuff. As one reviewer pointed out, Ambrose is not only a pretty good historian, but he is an excellent teller of stories. That is a good combination. Ambrose writes popular historical books. This is good. With this collection of writings, and the many others of which he is responsible for, he has brought history to the general public, in a readable form, and not just let it molder in academic land. This is a collection of Ambrose's writings. It is not his more popular fist person interviews. This is not a collection of essays, rather, it is little bits of this and that, addressing America's fighting men and women throughout the years. He has done well here. Recommend this one highly.
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on June 18, 1999
Ambrose has produced some fine books about the European campaign in WWII, and widens his scope with this general collection of sketches of some of the American experience of warfare. If you like military history or fiction, read all of his fine books, as well as novels like THE THIN RED LINE, COLD BLUE SKY, and THE TRIUMPH AND THE GLORY. Pick any sentence or two from any of these books and you'll be seeing better literature than the best selling trash about vampires or cannibals.
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on June 17, 2000
Stephen E. Ambrose has been a great huistorian of 2oth Century America and a great biographer of Eisenhower and Nixon. He has a great admirer of the American GI and has written well on this subject. He has even slipped back in time to write a great classic about the Lewis Clark expedition (Undaunted Courage). In this book of short essays, however, he is not at his best. I liked his first essay on the Vicksburgh campaign in the Civil War (since I am a Civil war buff) but other authors have covered it in a more interesting manner. His other essays are about 20th century topics. Individually, his essays are pretty good (some very good, others drag) but, I really don't see the common tie that brings them together as one coherent whole. This is strictly an anthology of topics that are better covered by Ambrose in his full legnth books. I highly recommend Ambrose the author but my recommendation of this particular book is lukewarm.
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on June 24, 2000
Ambrose, even though he has been accused of triumphalism with his writing, is still a kick A-- writer about the respectful, dedicated, and sometimes flawed people that have surrounded the history of this country - but especially surrounding war. I agree with another reviewer who said that you could read this in sections because of the organization. There is so much material in the book for any student of American History. I found the chapters on MacArthur, the Bomb, and Vietnam (Nixon) to be especially enlightening. I have to say that I think the best chapter is entitled "D-Day Revisited". If it doesn't make you weep, maybe you need to read it again. As a history teacher, I plan to read some of these chapters to my classes (if i don't make them get the book).
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VINE VOICEon August 21, 2004
Ambrose was a prolific military historian and this book is a re-print of 15 articles he had published in various magazines over the years. Most are short and full of insight. The only one that I found tedious was the first one, concerning the Battle of Vicksburg in the Civil War - an irony for me considering that I love to study the Civil War.

The articles about Eisenhower were particularly of interest to me - prior to this book I had a pretty low opinion of the man (a grandpa president who played golf throughout his 8 years of presidency) but Ambrose portrayed him in a different light and now I want to read more about him.

Very readable, very informative book. Well-written history is always a pleasure.
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VINE VOICEon November 27, 2001
A reader using this book will have an opportunity to read about different aspects of war as seen from American conflicts that include the Civil War, the World Wars, Vietnam, etc. They are shorter in scope than Ambrose's usual longer efforts that have gained him so much distinction, but each serves its purpose in explaining some aspect of war that took place and could stand further explanation. This is another of his thinner "compilation" efforts, but contains more new material than does Comrades. It is very interesting to read, but its shorter nature does not allow readers to answer all of the questions they may have.
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