Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Ambrose issues: Now, questions on how much he actually interviewed Eisenhower

Stephen Ambrose was a nice guy, and he did a great job on Band of Brothers, but he appears repeatedly to have been less than accurate in his work. According to the new issue of the New Yorker, he wildly overstated the nature and depth of his interaction with Eisenhower, on whom he built his ...

ohio-state.edu
ohio-state.edu
ohio-state.edu

Stephen Ambrose was a nice guy, and he did a great job on Band of Brothers, but he appears repeatedly to have been less than accurate in his work. According to the new issue of the New Yorker, he wildly overstated the nature and depth of his interaction with Eisenhower, on whom he built his academic career:

Access to Eisenhower in his retirement years was tightly controlled and his activities were documented by his staff, particularly by his executive assistant, Brigadier General Robert L. Schulz, who kept meticulous records of his boss's schedule and telephone calls (now part of the Abilene archive). These records show that Eisenhower saw Ambrose only three times, for a total of less than five hours. The two men were never alone together. The footnotes to Ambrose's first big Eisenhower book, The Supreme Commander, published in 1970, cite nine interview dates; seven of these conflict with the record.

I am sorry to read it. But with history, truth and accuracy has to come before everything else. Nor is this the first time Ambrose's scholarship has been challenged persuasively.

Stephen Ambrose was a nice guy, and he did a great job on Band of Brothers, but he appears repeatedly to have been less than accurate in his work. According to the new issue of the New Yorker, he wildly overstated the nature and depth of his interaction with Eisenhower, on whom he built his academic career:

Access to Eisenhower in his retirement years was tightly controlled and his activities were documented by his staff, particularly by his executive assistant, Brigadier General Robert L. Schulz, who kept meticulous records of his boss’s schedule and telephone calls (now part of the Abilene archive). These records show that Eisenhower saw Ambrose only three times, for a total of less than five hours. The two men were never alone together. The footnotes to Ambrose’s first big Eisenhower book, The Supreme Commander, published in 1970, cite nine interview dates; seven of these conflict with the record.

I am sorry to read it. But with history, truth and accuracy has to come before everything else. Nor is this the first time Ambrose’s scholarship has been challenged persuasively.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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