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The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II Hardcover – November 2, 1998
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The Victors is like a compilation of Stephen E. Ambrose's greatest hits, drawing heavily from his biography of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and several military histories that recount the events of the Allied push across the European continent in 1944 and 1945 from the frontline trooper's perspective. The narrative is vintage Ambrose, full of engaging yet workmanlike prose that conveys the epic scope of its subject while paying careful attention to the details of the often inglorious lives of the GIs. Eisenhower looms large over this book, but it's the ordinary soldiers and their experiences who give the story real life. Readers who have already dipped into the Ambrose library may find sections of The Victors redundant, but for those who want an adept overview of what Ike and his men accomplished, this is a great place to start. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
Ambrose has established himself as both a major biographer of Dwight Eisenhower and the definitive chronicler of America's combat soldiers in the D-Day campaign of 1944-45. But after Citizen Soldiers, he'd sworn off war and given away his WWII books. Then his editor convinced him to do "a book on Ike and the GIs, drawing on my previous writings"Asuch as Citizen Soldiers, D-Day and The Supreme Commander. "Alice Mayhew made me do it," Ambrose writes here. Readers familiar with Ambrose's work will find familiar set pieces, familiar anecdotes, even familiar phrases, but this is more than a clip job. It stands on its own as the story of the GIs who fought their way from Normandy's beaches and hedgerows across Europe. Few were prepared for combat against a Wehrmacht that was dangerous even in decline, and both enlisted men and officers learned through hard-earned experience. While admiring Eisenhower's character and generally affirming his performance as supreme Allied commander, Ambrose is sharply critical of such costly slugging matches as the one in the Huertgen Forest, which continued during the fall and winter of 1944 on orders from senior officers unaware of conditions in the front lines and unable to develop an alternative to frontal assault. But by the final thrust into Germany in the spring of 1945, the U.S. Army's fighting power was second to none. Once more, Ambrose does what few others do as wellAvividly portray the sacrifices and achievements of democracy's army.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book, in one volume, provides an excellent overview of the Allied role in the European theater in the final year of WW II.
"At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn't want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful."
As a historian of World war II, Stephen Ambrose has two great accomplishments. First, there was his superb biography of Eisenhower, based in large part on extensive interviews with Ike. Second, there is the vast number of interviews he has conducted with ordinary GIs. Those interviews were the basis of Citizen Soldiers, D Day, and Band of Brothers.
Victors consists almost entirely of material recycled from Ambrose's earlier works. Having read all of those books (I am a big fan), nothing in Victors stuck out as new. Instead, this is at least the fourth time I've heard the story of Easy Company. Having bought the book in an airport bookstore (sorry Mr. Bezos), I spent the plane ride getting madder and madder as I realized how redundant this book is. The publisher really needs a less misleading cover. So if you've read two or more of Ambrose's World War II books, don't waste your time or money.
If you only want to read one Ambrose book, I would recommend Victors. Unlike his Eisenhower biography, Victors gives you a real sense of what life was like for GIs. Unlike Citizen Soldiers, you get a better sense of what Eisenhower was like. Best of both worlds.
Some quibbles: First, if we think of the Allied Armies in Europe as a large bureaucracy (as Ambrose does in spots), Victors gives you a distorted picture. You get a lot of information about Eisenhower and lot of information about GIs and junior officers. But we learn almost nothing about the middle of the bureaucracy--the generals and colonels. Imagine somebody who wrote a book about General Motors that talked about the CEO and the factory workers, but never said a peep about the middle management. Would that make sense?
Second, the Eisenhower--Montgomery conflict gets less attention than it deserves. In part this may be because Ambrose spends so little time on Bradley and Patton, who also fought with Montgomery. But given that the alliance almost fell apart because of the American commanders' conflicts with Montgomery, it is a major omission.
Third, the important contributions of the Russian Army to victory in Europe are ignored. You could make a plausible case that any book called "The Victors" ought to be subtitled Zhukov and his Boys. It would not denigrate the great accomplishments of Eisenhower and the soldiers who served under him to recognize that the Red Army both took and inflicted more casualties than the U.S. army. indeed, Eisenhower himself reportedly said that D Day could not have occured if the Russians hadn't tied down 5 million german troops.
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It is, first, well-written from a literary perspective, with a clear, simple format that gets the information across.Read more