Citizen soldiers : the U.S. Army from the Normandy beaches to the Bulge to the surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945

by Stephen E. Ambrose

Paper Book, 1997




New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, c1997.


From the Number One bestselling author of BAND OF BROTHERS comes the story of the ordinary soldiers in Northwest Europe from the day after D-Day until the triumphant end of the war.

User reviews

LibraryThing member DanTarlin
Really a sequel to "D Day", this books starts on June 7 1944 and covers the history of the European theater of WW II until the German surrender. It's told, though, from the perspective of the soldiers themselves more than from the command level. Ambrose's thesis is pretty clear from early on: the heroism and initiative of regular GIs was a huge factor in the victory over Germany. And wow, he really does leave the reader feeling what it's like buried in a foxhole in the winter of 1944-45, which sounds all different kinds of awful.

Ambrose covers the commanders too, and we get a little feel for Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and Montgomery and some of their petty (and not so petty) differences. But the real focus is on the guys on the front lines.

As with D Day, my biggest problem is that the maps are inadequate and it's really hard to follow the overall strategic situation unless you have an extensive knowledge in your head of European geography, which I don't. Then again, the point is that these strategic details are less important than the stories told by the junior officers and enlisted men on the lines. Fair enough.

Truly the "Greatest Generation".
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LibraryThing member beslagsmed
After doing a battle staff ride to the area, I bought and read the book. If you ever want to know how the normal,ordinary men of the time went forth and did the almost impossible task, read this book. It is very vivid in describing the events. First hand account have been used to tell this story. Ambrose tells how men had to think on their feet to do a job and get it done.
A must read for all those in the military.
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LibraryThing member DrBrewhaha
An excellent account of the overall story of American, and some German soldiers, from Normandy to the Rhine. Ambrose outlines the large campaigns and tries to add personal detail by recounting how individual soldiers experienced the events. He demonstrates how the success of the war rested largely on the NCO's rather than the Pattons, Montogomerys, and Eisenhowers of the war. A great narrative that allows the reader to get a small feeling for what happened during the closing year of the war. Looking forward to reading Ambrose's other works.… (more)
LibraryThing member apelph
Highly entertaining and well written presentation of the experiences of individual US infantry in the ETO from D-day through VE day. I really enjoy these books that give personal accounts of soldiers that allows you to feel what it was like to be there, and this is one of the best written in this category that I have read.
LibraryThing member MarjorieB
This was one of the best books I have read/heard in a long time. The narrator was excellent and the story was engaging. The entire story was told through anecdotes interlaced into the history of the war. There was interesting information about WWII generals including Eisenhour, Patton, Bradley, and Montgomery (UK) as well as the German generals and their interactions that made this book well worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member linedog1848
I have read a great many war narratives, old and new, long and short, and this one was possibly the best, most personal war book I've ever read. Better than Black Hawk Down. Better than Band of Brothers. Better than The Coldest Winter. . .

I especially liked the way the book treated the approach to the borders of the Reich. The story of the stall of the advance, the long winter, the pointless, fruitless loss and death in the Hurtgen--the period between Normandy and the Bulge--didn't so much change the way I thought about the course of the war as it just expanded it in depth. Particularly, Citizen Soldiers was unmatched in presenting how this long autumn and winter 1944-1945 affected the individual soldiers not so much just then, but in the final push into Germany.

This book was a fast read, and engaging, but really gave the reader the sense of the slowness of time in miserable conditions.

I'll just stop, because I could continue for a while, but one final note. I've been in the airborne infantry, and I've been in the Army Reserve as a CS troop.

As such, the term, "Citizen Soldier" has been tainted by my experience of the term used today to describe the reserve soldier. They are people to be admired, but cannot compare to the discipline and training of the professional soldiery. For this reason, I avoided this book for a long time because I let my prejudices of the term in the title influence my expectations. Make no mistake, it is aptly named, but its title is its title, not the borrowed phrase.

The citizen soldiers of this title are not those of the modern army propaganda team, but rather those of whom Tyrtaeus spoke:

"For no man ever proves himself a good man in war
unless he can endure to face the blood and the slaughter,
go close against the enemy and fight with his hands.
Here is courage, mankind's finest possession, here is
the noblest prize that a young man can endeavor to win,
and it is a good thing his polis and all the people share with him
when a man plants his feet and stands in the foremost spears
relentlessly, all thought of foul flight completely forgotten,
and has trained his heart to be steadfast and to endure,
and with words encourages the man who is stationed beside him.
Here is a man who proves himself to be valiant in war.
With a sudden rush he turns to fight the rugged battalions
of the enemy, and sustains the beating waves of assault.
And he who so falls among the champions and loses his sweet life,
so blessing with honor his polis, his father, and all his people,
with wounds in his chest, where the spear that he was facing has transfixed
that massive guard of his shield, and gone through his breastplate as well,
why, such a man is lamented alike by the young and the elders,
and all his polis goes into mourning and grieves for his loss.
His tomb is pointed out with pride, and so are his children,
and his children's children, and afterward all the race that is his.
His shining glory is never forgotten, his name is remembered,
and he bcomes an immortal, though he lies under the ground,
when one who was a brave man has been killed by the furious War God
standing his ground and fighting hard for his children and land."
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LibraryThing member Patbilly
This book gave me a real education of the GI's experiences during WWII in the European Theater of Operations. The only thing I found lacking was the descriptions of those in tanks. We read of all other specalties but this. My Dad was one man in the tanks (and shot out of 3), but sadly, now that I'm interested, he is no longer living. He never talked of the war, except for his joyful time hosted by hospitable Belgians.

I wish this book could be read by every high school or college student so the real history of the heroes of our nation might be learned, and maybe appreciated. One cannot read this without admiring the moral high ground most of these heroes took to uphold our countrymen's virtues.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Stephen Ambrose has the uncanny ability to take you back in time. His words pick you up and carry you hook, line and sinker, back to June 7, 1944 and forward through the great and terrible World War II. However, Citizen Soldiers is not a dry account of strategic war manuevers. It is not a blah blah blah play by play of how Germany's armies moved along the western/eastern slope while the Allies pushed further north or south. Those things did happen but Citizen Solders is more than that. It's as if you have been dropped in the middle of hand to hand skirmishes or have the ability to eavesdrop on Hitler's frequent phone arguments with a subordinate. You get to know people, places and events as if you are talking to the soldiers themselves, dodging bullets in the snow-covered country side, and witnesses skirmishes first hand. For once, the photographs and maps included do not make the storytelling vivid, they only enhance the words.… (more)
LibraryThing member MrDickie
A very interesting history of World War II in Europe as told through personal accounts of men who shared their recollections. Eye opening in some chapters and moving in others.
LibraryThing member Karlstar
This book covers some very well covered territory - the US Army in Europe from D-Day to the end of the war in Europe. It appears to be very well researched and quite thorough. However, having recently read David Atkinson, Jeff Shaara and Cornelius Ryan books that cover the same period, I felt it suffered by comparison. The Atkinson book is more thorough, better written and just as well researched. The Shaara book is much better getting across the personalities of both the leaders and the individual troops. For what its worth, while I thought this was good, you'd better off reading one of the others if you are already somewhat familiar with the material. At times I felt Ambrose veers off into personal opinion in areas where it wasn't warranted. Still, as a history of the US Army in 1944-1945, this is a worthy history. It brings up some subjects that aren't covered as well by the others, particularly some supply issues and equipment issues. This may be an unfair comparison as the Rick Atkinson book just came out in 2014, but I preferred Atkinson.… (more)
LibraryThing member tbrennan1
Oral history of American soldiers from D-Day to the surrender of Germany. I enjoy Ambrose but I found this book should have gripped me more which was a disappointment. Overall an enjoyable read and as a historian Stephen Ambrose is not afraid to criticise Montgomery and Bradley while praising Eisenhower. A good testament to the bravery of the ordinary foot-soldier.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jenni01
I loved the book. I thought it was a good view of the common soldiers lot in WWII.
LibraryThing member ecw0647
Ambrose, an incredibly prolific and readable historian, focuses in this book on the soldiers who made up the ETO (European Theater of Operations). It’s at first somewhat difficult to categorize. His analysis of the men who made up the army could almost be called cheer-leading of the most nauseating kind. But after he settles in, the reality becomes more apparent. They weren’t all great guys and upstanding citizens. He points out that some thirty percent of supplies coming into ports after the invasion of Europe were stolen for resale on the black market. The picture of Milo in Catch-22 is not the grossest exaggeration. Racial problems were endemic at all levels, but Ambrose reserves his harshest judgment for the upper echelon commanders who remained clean, dry, and well-fed in the rear while front-line troops were asked to take objectives that often made little sense at great cost. Thousands of GI’s were lost to trench foot and frostbite during the winter because the boots they were issued were inadequate. Those in the rear got the good rubber-covered boots. The response of the brass was to insist that soldiers change their socks regularly, and threatened to court-martial anyone diagnosed with trench foot. The replacement system designed by Eisenhower’s staff sent inadequately trained men to the front where they often died needlessly. Had they been trained as units, with experienced sergeants and sent into battle as units fewer would have died, suggests Ambrose. British general Montgomery was clearly more interested in self-promotion than in becoming part of the team,, and Ambrose cites one example where Montgomery’s demands for more overall command had to be personally put down by Eisenhower. George Patton was obsessed with spit-and-polish. In one instance some officers just coming from the muddy front had been ordered to Third Army headquarters to get some badly needed maps. They were held up at the entrance to Third Army territory because Patton had issued orders to his MP’s that anyone entering had to maintain proper uniform standards of cleanliness, etc. It took the officers hours to get cleared and cleaned-up before they could get what they needed, holding up the offensive.
Soldiers soon learned that war was not all they expected. As others, like Paul Fussell and Gerald Lindeman (who explored the role of the American fighting man) have noted, war has been seriously overglamorized. Soldiers were psychologically unprepared for battle and the stress broke many of them down. Often they refused to take prisoners, shooting all Germans in the way whether under white flag or not. The war fundamentally altered the lives of those who survived the front lines. Americans, having never been bombed, cannot appreciate the horror of interminable artillery shelling and constant fear and deprivation.
Ambrose clearly admires what these soldiers for what they endured. In the end, the reason for fighting the war is exemplified by the tragic comments of a severely wounded German lieutenant who desperately needed a blood transfusion. Just as it was to be administered, the German insisted the medic certify there was no Jewish blood mixed in with the blood he was about to receive. The medic obviously could not, but pointed out that without the plasma he would die. The German died refusing to be transfused. They should have given it to him anyway.
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LibraryThing member Patbilly
This book gave me a real education of the GI's experiences during WWII in the European Theater of Operations. The only thing I found lacking was the descriptions of those in tanks. We read of all other specalties but this. My Dad was one man in the tanks (and shot out of 3), but sadly, now that I'm interested, he is no longer living. He never talked of the war, except for his joyful time hosted by hospitable Belgians.

I wish this book could be read by every high school or college student so the real history of the heroes of our nation might be learned, and maybe appreciated. One cannot read this without admiring the moral high ground most of these heroes took to uphold our countrymen's virtues.
… (more)
LibraryThing member wenestvedt
Oh how I love primary sources. This book certainly deserves reading by people interested in World War II, by people curious about their forebears' generation, and by people who love letters and interviews.

While Ambrose was later attacked for sloppy scholarship, that shouldn't detract from the power of the first person narratives in this book. Ambrose spreads out context like a cloth and then lays out these brief jewels of real emotion and exprience. (Man, am I gushing: anyway, it's a good read.)

Readers -- especially those just starting their study of WWII in Europe -- may benefit from having another book handy to explain the sequence of events of the war and to provide a good map.
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LibraryThing member seoulful
Here is author, Stephen Ambrose, at his best, utilizing extensive interviews of the actual Allied combatants involved in the battles leading to the liberation of Continental Europe in WWII. This time (in contrast to his other major WWII history, D-Day) there is an added dimension with the inclusion of stories of German combatants taken from interviews by Ambrose's son and the son of the German Panzer commander, Hans von Luck. We follow the progress of the war through the eyes of these individuals on both sides. Ambrose brings to the book all the wealth of his historical research background in giving the needed context for the individual accounts. A highly readable history.… (more)
LibraryThing member jdiament
Citizen Soldiers is a wonderful book. Ambrose is a master of combining the epic with the minuscule, offering a broad description of the US march from Normandy to Germany as well as a multitude of personal stories of heroism throughout the battles. A gripping book that's tough to put down.
LibraryThing member mfassold
Ambrose is the master of telling the story of the everyday soldier. I don't care even a little that he lifted a line here and there. The absolute master of bringing the microcasms of war to life.
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
An account of individual efforts and personal stories of US infabtry during WWII in Europe.
LibraryThing member Bill_Masom
Like all of Ambrose's WWII history, it is magnificent. This book is not about battles in general, but about the men who fought the battles, the guys in the foxholes.

Terrific, simply terrific.
LibraryThing member DickMemhard
Normandy to Berlin. Excellent as always by Ambrose


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