Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cannonball Read 2 #50: Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose

The full title of this book is Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany. It's a well-written, well-researched book detailing the experiences of the men on the ground in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) during WW2.

Stephen Ambrose has once again created a book crammed full of facts and first-person experiences, much like his Band of Brothers. This book is less specific, in that Band of Brothers followed just one unit, while Citizen Soldiers is more of an overview of the entire ETO. He explains the troop movements and what was going on at the top, but most of the story comes directly from the enlisted men who were there, explaining what their day-to-day lives were like, and what kind of conditions they were surviving in.

There are chapters dedicated to many different types of soldiers and types of units. There are chapters about the Air Force, detailing what it was like to be a pilot or a gunner, as well as about the effect the American Air Force had on the war. There are also chapters on medics, mechanics, and other rear-echelon personnel. Ambrose includes a chapter on the service of African Americans, but it is fairly short. This book has a lot of fascinating information about things like how supplies got to the front, and how this enabled the allied forces to continue their push through Europe.

The book is well-researched, and Ambrose has interviewed many soldiers of the time, including British, Canadian, Russian, and even German in order to get as many perspectives as possible. Although it is a lot less focused and therefore slightly more confusing than Band of Brothers, it is an extremely informative and interesting book that should be read by anyone with an interest in World War 2.

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