Top positive review
16 people found this helpful
In my view, an honest account.
on 3 June 2003
This is simply a great book. As usual, Ambrose writes from the personal testimony of the men who were there. It's difficult therefore to criticise or argue with any of the subject matter - it is how they felt during events so we have to respect that fact. We can only imagine what it was like to be on the Western Front in WW2, reading this is as close as we'll get to understanding how it really felt.
I have to admit my ignorance about the campaign, I was well read on the air war in the West but not the conflict on the ground. The impression I had was that there were a few intense battles (Ardennes and D-Day for example) but in general the war on the ground was a simple affair. I was shocked however to see the attrition rates of units, 200% over the 12 months fighting in some cases. This simply beggars belief and the personal insights of the combatants did on occasion bring a lump to my throat.
I take the point of others, Ambrose writes from a very 'America'-centric viewpoint. This is inevitable as the interviews he used are with American veterans. In addition however I'm British, and there are no doubt many who would read my views and be offended (for which I apologise), but we have to accept that the war was won by the Americans and Russians. They were no better soldiers than us, but we could not match their numbers or industrial output. The Brits should be (and are) justly proud that they stopped the Germans expanding any further West than France, but we would never have pushed them back without help. On occasion Ambrose (and his witnesses) reflect these facts but I don't think that warrants critisism and I certainly don't take offence.
Another very interesting point is the acknowledgement by Ambrose of the completely different culture and ethos in the US and British Army. The US were very much shoot first, ask questions later and reliant on an individual's initiative. The British relied upon planning and discipline over and above all else. Both codes have their advantages and disadvantages, and I think that Ambrose does make that point. His account of Patton and Montgomery's different approaches to crossing the Rhine illustrate this perfectly. What makes this even more interesting is the current debate surrounding friendly fire incidents in the Gulf conflict - the same fundamental differences of approach resulting in the US being far more likely to transgress.
Anyway, all I can do is recommend this book and extend my gratitude and respect to the veterens who contributed and to Ambrose for his work.