Battle for Saigon: Tet 1968 by Keith Nolan


Battle for Saigon: Tet 1968 by Keith Nolan gives an excellent tactical description of the fighting in and around Saigon during the Tet Offensive in 1968. While many, many other books give a larger strategic sense to the whole Offensive, this book is very specific and useful to understanding what happened in South Vietnam’s capital.

This book has another strength, too, in that its accounts of small-unit leaders in combat provide great lessons for future junior military leaders–especially for company command level and below. The one big drawback is that it has no tactical maps, just one big map of Saigon at the beginning of the book. Detailed maps would have been a great help while trying to decipher the textual descriptions of the fight. The author should take note of this for future revisions of this book.

Citizen Soldiers by Stephen E. Ambrose


How Citizens Become a Soldier

The book describes how these “citizen soldiers” came to be soldiers, and what they did once they were. There is some overlap with his other titles about World War II. The book follows the battles right after the allies left the beaches of Normandy, all the way through France into German territory.

Details World War Two in Europe

This lengthy volume details the war in Europe. It tells how Americans were critical to that victory. It gives the story through the eyes of those who participated in the various units. I enjoy this title and the stories the former GI’s share.

“Citizen Soldiers“ is the name for the draftees, national guard, and army reserve soldiers, the non-regular army soldiers, which were so necessary to field an army of the size that was needed in World War II. Ambrose clearly shows that both the regular army and the citizen soldiers were required for victory.

D-Day June 6 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose

Over 1400 Interviews

The late Stephen E. Ambrose used over 1400 interviews for his history of the D-Day invasion. This “oral history” approach brings the reader into the heart of the battle through eye-witness testimony. The tales of the front line infantryman sweeps the reader up into their personal histories. The story is told from the individual and small unit level often failing to describe larger unit actions or explaining how the individual actions fit into the total picture. Let is shared of what happened on the Canadian and British beachheads. Historical controversies are often given minimal coverage. These are simply good stories of many individual experiences.

American Achievement in Normandy

The book is not a textbook for lessons on strategic decision making or to answer big-picture questions. Ambrose touches on these larger issues in a general focus, but that is not his focus. This is a book about the American achievement in Normandy. The individual courage and independence of the American small unit leaders is a big story of this book. Ambrose is right on target as he tells the story of their braveness and toughness.

The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose

The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose is essentially a cut and paste compilation of D-DAY, Citizen Soldiers, Eisenhower, Band of Brothers, and The Wild Blue.

If you have read any of Stephen Ambrose’s works on World War II, then this one is not worth the time. It has so much material covered in his lengthier works.

It is better to read D-DAY, Citizen Soldiers, Eisenhower, Band of Brothers, and The Wild Blue and to skip this book altogether.

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

Easy Company

Band of Brothers is the story of a US Army Infantry Rifle Company (Airborne). It’s the story of Easy Company, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, US Army.

The book begins in the summer of 1942 telling the story of the men going through initial basic training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. It continues as they earn their “jump wings” covering time at Benning, with additional training at Mackall, Bragg, Shanks.

The story continues with deployment and training in England as the company prepares for the invasion and undergoes changes in leadership.

The book draws on hours of interviews with survivors as well as the soldiers’ journals and letters. Dr. Stephen Ambrose tells the stories, many time in the men’s own words.

D-Day to the End of the War

The book takes the reader through D-Day, back to England, to Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and on to the end of the war and the Eagle’s Nest. It recounts occupation duty and concludes looking at the survivor’s post-war careers.

I read Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose in August 1996, years before it was made into an HBO mini-series. This is one of the most read and popular books in the last twenty years due to the HBO mini-series based on the book. The History Channel also periodically shows the mini-series.

The book is better than the mini-series. It tells the story of Easy Company 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment that ultimately became part of the 101st Airborne Division. I enjoyed the book because of the focus on the people in the unit. It has reached cult-like status.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (Lewis & Clark Expedition) by Stephen E. Ambrose

Narrative Style

The narrative style of Ambrose takes what could be a dry lecture and makes it extremely interesting. The book reads like the best selling novel. The book gives a nice background on Captain Meriwether Lewis.

As the story unfolds, it shows how Lewis’s background prepared him for the journey and how it provided the relationship he had with Jefferson to lead to his selection for the journey. Lewis was Jefferson’s personal secretary when selected to lead the voyage that would take him up the Missouri River, to wintering with the Indians, to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, and back.

Lewis experienced hardships and saw wonderful sights. The sites included herds of buffalo and Indian tribes with no previous contact with white men. He and his partner, Captain William Clark, made the first maps of the trans-Mississippi West, provided data on the flora and fauna of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and most importantly established the American claim to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

The book shows how Lewis is financially underwritten by a variety of characters. This list includes Jefferson, Clark, numerous Indian chiefs, and Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the expedition, along with the French-Indian hunter Drouillard, the great naturalists of Philadelphia, the French and Spanish fur traders of St. Louis, John Quincy Adams, and many more leading political, scientific, and military figures of the turn of the century.

National Unity

This is a book about a hero and national unity. This is a book also about a tragedy. When Lewis returned to Washington in the fall of 1806, he was a national hero.

Lewis greatest failure was he did not get his journals and notes organized and published. The scholarly value of those would have been great. Publishing them in a timely manner would have made Lewis financially independent.

Instead, Lewis took to drink, drugs, engaged in land speculation, piled up debts he could not pay, made jealous political enemies, experienced severe depression (probably from the drugs), and ultimately took his own life.

The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany by Stephen E. Ambrose

Controversial

“The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany” by Stephen E. Ambrose is controversial because some scholars point out Ambrose has lifted the work of other authors without placing said work inside “quotation” marks. That is a tragic error. Is it an error of omission or commission? I do not know. I do know it is ethically wrong.

The Story of the Late US Senator George McGovern

The book tells the story of former US Presidential candidate and US Senator George McGovern. It tells of McGovern’s upbringing, his journey to college, the outbreak of World War II, his falling in love and marriage, his joining the US Army Air Corps, his training as a pilot, and his combat deployment and action where he was based out of Italy bombing the Axis war machine.

Nonfiction Narrative Style

It is written in Ambrose’s wonderful narrative style. It is highly readable and entertaining.