Monday, 26 April 2010

Stephen Ambrose - Massive Fraud?

As far as Historians go, Stephen E. Ambrose, who passed away in 2002, appeared to be the cream of the crop. He had an informative, yet evocative writing style. He was a personal favourite of mine, before Band Of Brothers was even a TV idea. Works such as Citizen Soldiers and The Wild Blue, brought the realities of World War Two in to perspective. Brought them off of the page, and to life. Had a personal feeling, that most other WW2 non-fiction lacks. It's difficult to describe exactly why they were some of my favourite books, when I was in my teens and still naive to many of the key battles of the War.

Now, the writer has been posthumously de-faced, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. I'm not even sure how much truth there really is to the story. About 80% of me believes these stories may have been fabricated. I mean, how can somebody lie about spending, literally, hundreds of hours with a President, and get away with it for so many years? Somebody...a bodyguard, accomplice, whatever, would have spoken up years ago, announcing Ambrose as a fraud. How convenient that this should come out, "accidentally", long after his death.

For anybody interested, here is an article and some BG info on Ambrose:

I'm not about to cry conspiracy on this, but it just seems very unusual. Apparently, some passages in "The Wild Blue" were also plagiarised, but he claimed that he merely failed to name a source and to place the passages in quotations. Fair enough, I say. We're all human. We make mistakes. Even great writers make mistakes.

As well as questions over how much time he actually spent with the former President Eisenhower before his death, and how much material he fabricated, there's also questions concerning who made first contact between the two; Eisenhower claiming Ambrose, and Ambrose vice versa.

I haven't actually read any of S.Ambrose' works on Eisenhower, and I don't intend to in the immediate future. All I know is that his books were a great source of interest and education to me in a time when I needed it. They will continue to be, despite this mess. Stephen E. Ambrose was a man dedicated to the cause; savouring the words of a great generation for others to learn from them and admire them. I respect him for that. In fact, I may go and re-read Citizen Soldiers.

I do wonder how this will affect his son, Hugh Ambrose, project consultant on the new miniseries "The Pacific".

1 comment:

  1. Ambrose riddled his works with mistakes: He needlessly insulted American pilots and British landfing boat crews and refused retractions; he had Meriwether Lewis committing suicide when most experts say Lewis was murdered; his book about Custer shows he knew nothing about Indians, though he pretended to; and when James Bacque in "Other Losses" broke the ice on an aspect of the Morgenthau Plan that caused the deaths of a huge number of German POWs, Ambrose ridiculed him, though Bacque was at least partially borne out by American and German witnesses. Ambrose also re-wrote the once-excellent "American Heritage History of World War II" to declare that FDR had no advance warning of Pearl Harbor. The FBI tried to warn him several times. FDR finally said "this means war" when he read a decoded Japanese diplomatic message the day before the attack -- and failed to notify the fleet. Ambrose was a propagandist, not a historian.