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Stephen E. Ambrose

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Title: Stephen E. Ambrose  
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Stephen E. Ambrose

Stephen E. Ambrose
Ambrose in August 2001
Born Stephen Edward Ambrose
(1936-01-10)January 10, 1936
Lovington, Illinois, U.S.
Died October 13, 2002(2002-10-13) (aged 66)
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, U.S.
Occupation Historian, Author
Spouse Moira Ambrose

Stephen Edward Ambrose (January 10, 1936 – October 13, 2002) was an American historian and biographer of U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. He was a longtime professor of history at the University of New Orleans and the author of many best selling volumes of American popular history.

Beginning late in his life and continuing after his death, however, evidence and reports have continued to surface documenting longtime patterns of plagiarism and inaccuracies in many of his published writings and other work. In response to one of the early reports, Ambrose said he was not "out there stealing other people's writings." In the wake of his death, a reviewer for the New York Times did not absolve him completely, but opined that "he certainly deserved better from some of his envious peers" and credited the historian with reaching "an important lay audience without endorsing its every prejudice or sacrificing the profession's standards of scholarship."[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Academic positions 2.1
    • Writings 2.2
    • Television, film, and other activities 2.3
    • National World War II Museum 2.4
    • Awards 2.5
  • Personal life, final years, and death 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Criticism 5
    • Plagiarism controversy 5.1
    • Factual errors and disputed characterizations 5.2
      • Pacific Railroad 5.2.1
    • The Eisenhower controversy 5.3
  • Works 6
    • Sole author 6.1
    • With others 6.2
    • Edited works 6.3
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Ambrose was born in Lovington, Illinois[2] to Rosepha Trippe Ambrose and Stephen Hedges Ambrose. His father was a physician who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Ambrose was raised in Whitewater, Wisconsin,[3] where he graduated from Whitewater High School. His family also owned a farm in Lovington, Illinois and vacation property in Marinette County, Wisconsin.[4][5] He attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was a member of Chi Psi Fraternity and played on the University of Wisconsin football team for three years.[6]

Ambrose originally wanted to major in pre-medicine, but changed his major to history after hearing the first lecture in a U.S. history class entitled "Representative Americans" in his sophomore year. The course was taught by William B. Hesseltine, whom Ambrose credits with fundamentally shaping his writing and igniting his interest in history.[7] While at Wisconsin, Ambrose was a member of the Navy and Army ROTC. He graduated with a B.A. in 1957. Ambrose received a master's degree in history from Louisiana State University in 1958, studying under T. Harry Williams.[7] Ambrose then went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1963, under William B. Hesseltine.[7][8]


Academic positions

Ambrose was a history professor from 1960 until his retirement in 1995, having spent the bulk of his time at the University of New Orleans, where he was named the Boyd Professor of History in 1989, an honor given only to faculty who attain "national or international distinction for outstanding teaching, research, or other creative achievement".[8][9] During the academic year 1969-70, he was Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the Naval War College. In 1970, while teaching at Kansas State University, Ambrose participated in heckling of Richard Nixon during a speech the president gave on the KSU campus. Given pressure from the KSU administration and having job offers elsewhere, upon finishing out the year Ambrose offered to leave and the offer was accepted.[10][11] His opposition to the Vietnam War stood in contrast to his research on "presidents and the military at a time when such topics were increasingly regarded by his colleagues as old fashioned and conservative."[12] Ambrose also taught at Louisiana State University, Johns Hopkins University, Rutgers University, U.C. Berkeley, and a number of European schools, including University College Dublin, where he taught as the Mary Ball Washington Professor of American History.[7][13]

He founded the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans in 1989[14] serving as its director until 1994. "The mission of the Eisenhower Center is the study of the causes, conduct, and consequences of American national security policy and the use of force as an instrument of policy in the twentieth century."[15] The Center's first efforts, which Ambrose initiated, involved the collection of oral histories from World War II veterans about their experiences, particularly any participation in D-Day. By the time of publication of Ambrose's D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, in 1994, the Center had collected more than 1,200 oral histories.[16] Ambrose donated $150,000 to the Center in 1998 to foster additional efforts to collect oral histories from World War II veterans.[17]


Ambrose's earliest works concerned the Civil War. He wrote biographies of the generals Emory Upton and Henry Halleck, the first of which was based on his dissertation.[18]

Early in his career, Ambrose was mentored by Cornelius Ryan’s The Last Battle, which had depicted Eisenhower as politically naîve, when at the end of World War II he allowed Soviet forces to take Berlin, thus shaping the Cold War that followed.[21] Ambrose expanded this into a book, Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe (1967).[22] Ambrose was aided in the book's writing by comments and notes provided by Eisenhower, who read a draft of the book.[23]

In 1964 Ambrose was commissioned to write the official biography of the former president and five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower.[22] This resulted in a book on Eisenhower's war years, The Supreme Commader(1970) and a two-volume full biography (published 1983 and 1984), which are considered "the standard" on the subject.[24] Regarding the first volume, Gordon Harrison, writing for the New York Times, proclaimed, "It is Mr. Ambrose's special triumph that he has been able to fight through the memoranda, the directive, plans, reports, and official self-serving pieties of the World War II establishment to uncover the idiosyncratic people at its center.[25] Ambrose also wrote a three-volume biography of Richard Nixon. Although Ambrose was a strong critic of Nixon, the biography is considered fair and just regarding Nixon's presidency.[26]

A visit to a reunion of Easy Company veterans in 1988 prompted Ambrose to collect their stories, turning them into Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. (B-24 crew that flew numerous missions over Germany. His other major works include Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Nothing Like It in the World about the construction of the Pacific Railroad. His final book, This Vast Land, a historical novel about the Lewis & Clark expedition written for young readers, was published posthumously in 2003.

Ambrose's most popular single work was Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (1996), which stayed on the New York Times best seller list for a combined, hardcover and paperback, 126 weeks.[30] Ambrose consolidated research on the Corps of Discovery's expedition conducted in the previous thirty years and "synthesized it skillfully to enrich our understanding and appreciation of this grand epic," according to Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., who reviewed the book for the New York Times.[31] Ken Burns, who produced and directed a PBS documentary on Lewis & Clark declared that Ambrose "takes one of the great, but also one of the most superficially considered, stories in American history and breathes fresh life into it."[32]

In addition to twenty-seven self-authored books, Ambrose co-authored, edited, and contributed to many more and was a frequent contributor to magazines such as American Heritage.[33] He, also, reviewed the works of other historians in the Journal of Southern History, Military Affairs, American Historical Review, Journal of American History, and Foreign Affairs. He served as a contributing editor to MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, also.[34]

Television, film, and other activities

Ambrose appeared as a historian in the 1974 ITV television series, The World at War, which detailed the history of World War II.

He served as the historical consultant for the movie Saving Private Ryan.[35] Tom Hanks, who starred in the movie, said he "pored over D-Day" and Band of Brothers in researching his role.[36] Hanks also credited Ambrose's books with providing extensive detail, particularly regarding D-Day landings.[37]

The HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers (2001), for which he was an executive producer, helped sustain the fresh interest in World War II that had been stimulated by the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994 and the 60th anniversary in 2004.[35] Ambrose served as executive producer for Price for Peace, a documentary concerning the war in the Pacific theater during World War II, and for Moments of Truth, a TV documentary containing interviews with World War II veterans.[38]

In addition, Ambrose served as a commentator for Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, a documentary by Ken Burns.[35] He provided commentary in twenty made-for TV documentaries, covering diverse topics, such as World War II, Lewis & Clark, and America's prominence in the 20th century.[38] He also appeared as a guest on numerous TV programs or stations, including the "Charlie Rose Show," C-Span programming,[39] CNN programming, NBC's "Today Show," CNBC's "Hardball,"[34] and various programming on The History Channel and the National Geographic Channel.[35] Ambrose's association with National Geographic stemmed, in part, from his designation as an Explorer-in-Residence by the Society.[35]

In addition to his academic work and publishing, Ambrose operated a historical tour business, acting as a tour guide to European locales of World War II.[18] Also, he served on the board of directors for American Rivers and was a member of the Lewis and Clerk Bicentennial Council.[40]

National World War II Museum

Ambrose's work for the Eisenhower Center, specifically his work with D-Day veterans, inspired him to found the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans. Ambrose initiated fundraising by donating $500,000.[41] "He dreamt of a museum that reflected his deep regard for our nation's citizen soldiers, the workers on the Home Front and the sacrifices and hardships they endured to achieve victory.[42] He secured large contributions from the federal government, state of Louisiana, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and many smaller donations from former students, who answered a plea made by Ambrose in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.[43] In 2003, Congress designated the museum as "America's National World War II Museum," acknowledging an expanded scope and mission for the museum. "The Stephen E. Ambrose Memorial Fund continues to support the development of the museum's Center for Study of the American Spirit, its educational programs and oral history and publication initiatives."[42]


In 1998, he received the

  • The Real War : Stephen Ambrose's GIs are plaster saints engaged in a sanctified crusade
  • PBS biography of Ambrose
  • Stephen Ambrose at the Internet Movie Database
  • WorldCat search of works by Stephen Ambrose
  • Stephen E. Ambrose at
  • Interview with Stephen Ambrose (1998)
  • Obituary in The Independent
  • Obituary at website of the American Historical Association
  • Eisenhower and My Father, Stephen Ambrose by Hugh Ambrose
  • Commentary dated December 19, 2000 contributed by G. J. "Chris" Graves, Edson T. Strobridge, and Charles N. Sweet regarding Stephen E. Ambrose's book "Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad 1863 - 1869."
  • , June 5, 1994.D-Day: June 6, 1944 interview with Ambrose on Booknotes
  • interview with Ambrose, November 5, 2000In Depth

External links

  1. ^ William R. Everdell, "Personal history: How Stephen Ambrose turned himself into America's most prominent chronicler of World War II, " New York Times Book Review, November 17, 2002, p. 51
  2. ^ "Biography and Video Interview of Stephen Ambrose at Academy of Achievement". Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  3. ^ a b c Richard Goldstein, "Stephen Ambrose, Historian Who Fueled New Interest in World War II, Dies at 66," New York Times, October 14, 2002, accessed May 27, 2010.
  4. ^ Neil H. Shively (September 19, 1996). "A Class Act: Stephen Ambrose's History Lectures Enthrall Kids and War Veterans Alike.". The Capital Times, Madison, WI. 
  5. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. Comrades: Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals. Simon & Schuster, 2000, p. 132.
  6. ^ Historian Stephen Ambrose dies CNN, October 14, 2002.
  7. ^ a b c d Stephen E. Ambrose bio by Stephen Ambrose.
  8. ^ a b Christian A. Hale, "Stephen Ambrose Dies," Perspectives, December, 2002.
  9. ^ "Boyd Professors," Louisiana State System [1]. retrieved March 4, 2014
  10. ^ a b Interview with Stephen Ambrose May 22, 1998, Academy of Achievement, Washington, D.C.
  11. ^ Alan Brinkley, "The Best Man", New York Times Review of Books, July 16, 1987.
  12. ^ Jaime Holguin, "Historian Stephen Ambrose Dead at 66," CBS News, October 13, 2002 [2]
  13. ^ The Mary Ball Washington Professorship of American History
  14. ^ Eisenhower Center D-Day Collection, Special Collections, University of New Orleans [3]
  15. ^ Eisenhower Center for American Studies, University of New Orleans
  16. ^ Raleigh Trevelyan, "Telling It Like It Was," May 29, 1994, New York Times, p. BR1 [4]
  17. ^ Stephen Ambrose, "Writer Pleas for Local D-Day Museum Support," New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 7, 1998
  18. ^ a b c M. R. D. Foote, ,"Band of Brothers"Stephen Ambrose: Historian and author of The Independent, October 14, 2002, accessed May 27, 2010.
  19. ^ Art Jester. Ambrose Installs New Faith in Some Old Heroes. Lexington Herald-Leader. November 9, 1997.
  20. ^ Gwendolyn Thompkins. Ambrose to Leave Historic Legacy: UNO Prof in Colin Powell’s Camp. Times-Picayune. April 30, 1995.
  21. ^ Stephen E. Ambrose, "Refighting the Last Battle: The Pitfalls of Popular History," by Stephen E. Ambrose, Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 49, no. 4 (Summer 1966), pp. 294-301.
  22. ^ a b c Timothy D. Rives, "Ambrose and Eisenhower: A View from the Stacks in Abilene," History News Network, May 17, 2010.
  23. ^ a b c d Timothy Rives, "Ambrose and Eisenhower: A View from the Stacks in Abilene," History News Network [5]
  24. ^ Jim Newton, "Books & Ideas: Stephen Ambrose's troubling Eisenhower record," Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2010, accessed May 26, 2010. "His work on Eisenhower is penetrating and readable, lively, balanced and insightful. Indeed, these efforts have long stood alongside Fred Greenstein's The Hidden-Hand Presidency as the standards against which other Eisenhower scholarship is judged."
  25. ^ Gordon Harrison, "the Making of a General and How It Came About," New York Times, October 4, 1970 [6]
  26. ^ Neuhaus, Richard J. (book review)"Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913-1962, by Stephen E. Ambrose", Commentary Magazine, August 1987. "Nixon is competently, sometimes brightly, written, and one gets the impression that Ambrose is striving, above all, to be assiduously fair."
  27. ^ Steve Minniear, "Book reviews,"D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose/The Year of D-Day: The 1944 Diary of Admiral Sir Bertram I. Ramsay edited by Robert W. Love, Jr. and John Major/D-Day 1944 edited by Theodore A. Wilson/and others, The Journal of Military History, vol. 60, no. 1 (Jan. 1996), p. 186
  28. ^ Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Books of the Times; Putting a Human Face on One Shattering Day," New York Times, June 6, 1994, p. 613 [7]
  29. ^ "Best Seller," New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1998, p. BR38 and BR40.
  30. ^ "Best Seller," New York Times Book Review, March 23, 1997, p. BR26, and "Best Seller," New York Times Book Review, January 17, 1999, p. BR32
  31. ^ Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., "Giants in the Earth," New York Times, March 10, 1996, p. BR9 [8]
  32. ^ Simon & Schuster, Books Retrieved March 6, 2014
  33. ^ "List of essays by Stephen Ambrose". Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  34. ^ a b Nicholas Confessore, "Selling Private Ryan," The American Prospect, September 24-October 8, 2001, p. 21-27.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h Historian Steven Ambrose Dead at 66, National Geographic News, October 15, 2002.
  36. ^ Mark Bowden, "Tom Hanks, The 'Men's Journal' Interview," Men's Journal, November 2004, p. 2 [9]
  37. ^ Roger Ebert, "Tom Hanks Recalls 'Private Ryan' Shoot," July 23, 1998
  38. ^ a b "Stephen Ambrose,"IMDb
  39. ^ a b c Rayner, Richard (April 26, 2010). "Channelling Ike". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  40. ^ Biography, Stephen Ambrose, Book Reporter
  41. ^ Stephen Ambrose, "Writer Pleas for Local D-Day Museum Support," New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 7, 1998
  42. ^ a b National WW II Museum, "About the Founder,"
  43. ^ James Varney, "$64,000 Given to Museum by Locals, Ambrose Needs $2 Million More," New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 30, 1998
  44. ^ Theodore Roosevelt Association, The Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal Recipients.
  45. ^ Tribute to Stephen E. Ambrose,, October 16, 2002 Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  46. ^ "Stephen E. Ambrose, Ph.D.". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved August 12, 2011. 
  47. ^ , December 4, 2006Inside Higher EdRalph Luker, "Sit in My Chair,"
  48. ^ Endowed Chairs and Professorships, University of New Orleans
  49. ^ "Rutgers' Stephen Ambrose Oral History Award Goes to Michael Beschloss," Rutgers Today, May 14, 2013 [10]
  50. ^ Williams, Robert Chadwell. The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History Armonk NY: M E Sharpe Inc (2003) ISBN 0-7656-1093-0 pp 88-89
  51. ^ a b c David D. Kirkpatrick, "As Historian's Fame Grows, So Does Attention to Sources," New York Times, January 11, 2002, accessed May 27, 2010.
  52. ^ Writing History PBS News Hour discussion of plagiarism by historians, January 28, 2002.
  53. ^ a b c "How the Ambrose Story Developed," History News Network, June 2002.
  54. ^ Mark Lewis, "Ambrose Problems Date Back To Ph.D. Thesis," Forbes, May 10, 2002.
  55. ^ Barrows, Matthew "Area Historians Rail Against Inaccuracies in Book". The Sacramento Bee, January 1, 2001
  56. ^ Graves, G.J., Strobridge, E.T., & Sweet, C.N.The Sins of Stephen E. Ambrose The Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum (, December 19, 2000
  57. ^ Stobridge E. (2002). Stephen Ambrose: Off the Rails. History News Network.
  58. ^ Grove, Lloyd "The Reliable Source" The Washington Post, January 11, 2001
  59. ^ Walter Nugent, by Stephen E. Ambrose,Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869Review: The Journal of American History, vol. 88, no. 2 (Sep. 2001), p. 657.
  60. ^ Don L. Hofsommer, untitled review, Technology and Culture, vol. 43, no. 1 (Jan. 2002), pp. 169-170.
  61. ^ Goldman, Russell (April 27, 2010). "Did Historian Stephen Ambrose Lie About Interviews with President Dwight D. Eisenhower?". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-05-11. 
  62. ^ Rayner, Richard. "Uncovering Stephen Ambrose’s fake Eisenhower interviews". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-07-30. 
  63. ^ Hugh Ambrose, "Eisenhower and My Father, Stephen Ambrose," History News Network, May 20, 2010 [11]


  • Institutions in Modern America: Innovation in Structure and Process, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press (1967)
  • with James A. Barber, The Military and American Society: Essays and Readings, New York, NY: The Free Press (1972) ISBN 0-375-50910-0
  • with Gunter Bischoff, Eisenhower and the German POWs: Facts Against Falsehood, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press (1992) ISBN 0-8071-1758-7
  • with Gunter Bischoff, Eisenhower" A Centenary Assessment, Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press (1995) ISBN 0-8071-1942-3
  • American Heritage New History of World War II(original text by C.L. Sulzberger), New York, NY: Viking Press (1997) ISBN 0-670-87474-4

Edited works

  • with Richard H. Immerman, Milton S. Eisenhower, Educational Statesman, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press (1983) ISBN 0-8018-2988-7
  • with Douglas Brinkley, Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy since 1938, New York: Penguin Books (1997) ISBN 0-14-026831-6
  • with Sam Abell, Lewis and Clark: Voyage of Discovery, Washington DC: National Geographic Society, (1998, 2002) ISBN 0-7922-7084-3
  • with Douglas Brinkley, Witness to America (1999) ISBN 978-0-06-271611-8; 2010: ISBN 0-06-199028-0
  • with Douglas Brinkley, The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today (2002), ISBN 0-7922-6913-6

With others

  • Halleck: Lincoln's Chief of Staff, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press (1962)
  • Upton and the Army, Louisiana State University Press (1964)
  • Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (1966)
  • Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe. New York:: W.W. Norton. 1967.  
  • The Supreme Commander: the War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, New York: Doubleday (1970)
  • Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, New York: Doubleday (1975) ISBN 0-385-09666-6
  • Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment, New York: Doubleday (1981) ISBN 0-385-14493-8
  • Eisenhower Volume 1: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890-1952, New York: Simon & Schuster (1983) ISBN 0-671-44069-1
  • Eisenhower Volume 2: The President, New York: Simon & Schuster (1984) ISBN 0-671-49901-7
  • Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944, New York: Simon & Schuster (1985) ISBN 0-671-52374-0
  • Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, New York: Simon & Schuster (1987) ISBN 0-671-52836-X
  • Eisenhower: Soldier and President, New York: Simon & Schuster (1990) ISBN 0-671-70107-X
  • Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972, New York: Simon & Schuster (1990) ISBN 0-671-52837-8
  • Nixon: Ruin and recovery, 1973-1990, New York: Simon & Schuster (1991) ISBN 0-671-69188-0
  • Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest (1992) ISBN 0-671-76922-7
  • D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, New York, Simon & Schuster (1994) ISBN 0-671-88403-4
  • Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, New York: Simon & Schuster (1996) ISBN 0-684-81107-3
  • Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 - May 7, 1945, New York: Simon & Schuster (1997) ISBN 0-684-81525-7
  • Americans at War, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi (1997) ISBN 1-57806-026-5
  • The Victors: Eisenhower and his Boys - The Men of World War II, New York: Simon & Schuster (1998) ISBN 0-684-85628-X
  • Comrades: Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals, New York: Simon & Schuster (1999) ISBN 0-684-86718-4
  • Nothing Like it in the World: The Men who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869, New York: Simon & Schuster (2000) ISBN 0-684-84609-8
  • The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys who Flew the B-24s over Germany, New York: Simon & Schuster (2001) ISBN 0-7432-0339-9
  • To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian, New York: Simon & Schuster (2002) ISBN 0-7432-0275-9
  • This Vast Land, New York: Simon & Schuster, (2003) ISBN 0-689-86448-5

Sole author


After Eisenhower's death in 1969, Ambrose made repeated claims to have had a unique and extraordinarily close relationship with him over the final five years of the former President's life. In an extensive 1998 interview, before a group of high school students, Ambrose stated that he spent "a lot of time with Ike, really a lot, hundreds and hundreds of hours." Ambrose claimed he interviewed Eisenhower on a wide range of subjects, and that he had been with him "on a daily basis for a couple years" before his death "doing interviews and talking about his life."[10] The former president's diary and telephone records show that the pair met only three times, for a total of less than five hours.[22][39] Rives has stated that interview dates Ambrose cites in his 1970 book, The Supreme Commander, cannot be reconciled with Eisenhower's personal schedule, but Rives discovered, upon further investigation, a "hidden" relationship between the two men. Eisenhower enlisted Ambrose in his efforts to preserve his legacy and counteract criticisms of his presidency, particularly those charging that Eisenhower's actions at the end of World War II produced the Cold War. Ambrose wrote a review and book supporting the former general, with Eisenhower providing direction and comments during the process. Rives could not square the questionable interview dates cited by Ambrose in later works, but uncovered a relationship with Eisenhower that was "too complicated" to be described by Ambrose's critics.[23]

In the introduction to Ambrose's biography of Eisenhower, he claims that the former president approached him after having read his previous biography of Henry Halleck, but Tim Rives, Deputy Director of the Eisenhower Presidential Center, says it was Ambrose who contacted Eisenhower and suggested the project,[39][61] as shown by a letter from Ambrose found in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.[62] In his response, Eisenhower stated that "the confidence I have derived from your work by reading your two books—especially the one on Halleck—give reasons why I should be ready to help out so far as I can."[23][63] The Halleck biography "still sits on a shelf" at the Eisenhower National Historic site in Gettysburg.[23]

The Eisenhower controversy

On January 11, 2001, Washington Post columnist Lloyd Grove reported in his column, The Reliable Source, that a co-worker had found a "serious historical error" in the same book that "a chastened Ambrose" promised to correct in future editions.[58] A number of journal reviews also sharply criticized the research and fact checking in the book. Reviewer Walter Nugent observed that it contained "annoying slips" such as mislabeled maps, inaccurate dates, geographical errors, and misidentified word origins,[59] while Don L. Hofsommer agreed that the book "confuses facts" and that "The research might best be characterized as 'once over lightly'."[60]

A front page article published in The Sacramento Bee on January 1, 2001, entitled "Area Historians Rail Against Inaccuracies in Book",[55] listed more than sixty instances identified as "significant errors, misstatements, and made-up quotes" in Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863–1869, Ambrose's non-academic popular history about the construction of the Pacific Railroad between Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska and the San Francisco Bay at Alameda/Oakland via Sacramento, California, which was published in August, 2000. The discrepancies were documented in a detailed "fact-checking" paper compiled in December, 2000 by three Western US railroad historians who are also experienced researchers, consultants, and collectors specializing in the Pacific Railroad and related topics.[53][56][57]

Pacific Railroad

Factual errors and disputed characterizations

A Forbes investigation of his work found cases of plagiarism involving passages in at least six books, with a similar pattern going all the way back to his doctoral dissertation.[54] The History News Network lists seven of Ambrose's more than 40 works—The Wild Blue, Undaunted Courage, Nothing Like It In the World, Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, Citizen Soldiers, The Supreme Commander, and Crazy Horse and Custer—contained content from twelve authors without appropriate attribution from Ambrose.[53]

I tell stories. I don't discuss my documents. I discuss the story. It almost gets to the point where, how much is the reader going to take? I am not writing a Ph.D. dissertation. I wish I had put the quotation marks in, but I didn't. I am not out there stealing other people's writings. If I am writing up a passage and it is a story I went to tell and this story fits and a part of it is from other people's writing, I just type it up that way and put it in a footnote. I just want to know where the hell it came from.[51]

Ambrose asserted that only a few sentences in all his numerous books were the work of other authors. He offered this defense:

In 2002, Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing several passages in his book, The Wild Blue.[50][51] Fred Barnes reported in The Weekly Standard that Ambrose had taken passages from Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down over Germany in World War II, by Thomas Childers, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania.[52] Ambrose had footnoted sources, but had not enclosed in quotation marks, numerous passages from Childers' book.[51][53]

Plagiarism controversy


Each year the Rutgers University Living History Society awards the Stephen E. Ambrose Oral History Award to "an author or artist who has made significant use of oral history." Past winners include Tom Brokaw, Steven Spielberg, Studs Terkel, Michael Beschloss, and Ken Burns.[49]

The Ambrose Professor of History was established at the University of New Orleans after his death. The position is reserved for a military historian.[48]

Ambrose donated $500,000, half the amount needed, to the University of Wisconsin, to endow a chair in the name of William B. Hesseltine, Ambrose's mentor. The chair's position would focus on the teaching of American military history. When the chairs became fully endowed, after Ambrose's death, it was renamed the Ambrose-Hesseltine Chair.[47]


[3] He married his first wife, Judith Dorlester, in 1957, and they had two children, Stephenie and Barry. Judith died in 1965, when Ambrose was 29. Ambrose married his second wife, Moira Buckley (1939–2009), in 1967 and adopted her three children, Andrew, Grace, and Hugh. Moira was an active assistant in his writing and academic projects. After retiring, he maintained homes in

Personal life, final years, and death

Upon Ambrose's death, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana offered a resolution in the Senate, which received unanimous consent, saluting the "excellence of Stephen Ambrose at capturing the greatness of the American spirit in words."[45]


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