Non-Fiction-- Abdu-Jabbar to Stephen Ambrose
Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem. Brothers in Arms (Broadway, Reprint edition, 2005).
Brothers in Arms recounts the extraordinary story of the 761st, the first all-black armored unit to see combat in World War II. Trained essentially as a public relations gesture to maintain the support of the black community for the war, the battalion was never intended to see battle. In fact, General Patton originally opposed their deployment, claiming African Americans couldn’t think quickly enough to operate tanks in combat conditions. But the Allies were so desperate for trained tank personnel in the summer of 1944, following heavy casualties in the fields of France, that the battalion was called up.
While most combat troops fought on the front for a week or two before being rotated back, the men of the 761st served for more than six months, fighting heroically under Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge and in the Allies’ final drive across France and Germany. Despite a casualty rate that approached 50 percent and an extreme shortage of personnel and equipment, the 761st would ultimately help liberate some thirty towns and villages, as well as the Gunskirchen Lager concentration camp. The racism that shadowed them during the war and the prejudice they faced upon their return home is an indelible part of their story. What shines through most of all, however, are the lasting bonds that united them as soldiers and brothers, the bravery they exhibited on the battlefield, and the quiet dignity and patriotism that defined their lives.
Aciman, Andre. False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory (Picador USA, 2001).
In these fourteen essays Andre Aciman, one of the most poignant stylists of his generation, dissects the experience of loss, moving from his forced departure from Alexandria as a teenager, though his brief stay in Europe and finally to the home he's made (and half invented) on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Ackerman, Diane. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story (W.W. Norton, 2007).
When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes. With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
Alexander, Larry. Biggest Brother: The Life Of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led The Band of Brothers (NAL Hardcover, 2005).
The commander of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was the subject of Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers, the HBO miniseries made from it, and now this biography from a Pennsylvania journalist. Much of the book covers the same ground as the preceding work (Winters's command from Normandy through the Battle of the Bulge), but it also covers his youth in rural Pennsylvania, the Depression-era hardships he survived and the old-fashioned work ethic that stood him in good stead when he was drafted in 1941. Promotion eventually brought Winters to the rank of major and command of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th, and he was urged to stay in the army after WWII and again during Korea. But he settled down as a successful seller of livestock feed, raised a family and at the end of the book is still alive at 87. This straightforward study of the best sort of small-unit leader—fair, judiciously rewarding merit or the lack thereof, able to deal with a wide variety of people, leading from in front—is for the dedicated only.
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (Vintage, 1996).
One of the most controversial issues absorbing America today: Was it necessary to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? In this exhaustive, thoroughly documented study of the events of that time, Gar Alperovitz makes plain why the United States did not need to deploy the bomb.
Altner, Helmut. Berlin Dance of Death (Casemate, 2005).
This is one of the most vivid accounts of destruction and hopelessness we have ever seen. It is a 17-year-old German conscript's experiences in the defense of Berlin during the spring of 1945—the last desperate days of Berlin—annotated and illustrated to show his part in the overall picture. Altner's account covers in detail recruit training on the front line after only ten days in barracks, the execution of deserters and action against the Red Army and turncoat German 'Seydlitz' Troops. He tells of the retreat back to Berlin with full kit, escaping capture time after time and the annihilation of nearly all his company in just one action. He gives detailed descriptions of house to house fighting in the Spandau sector of Berlin, the battle for the Olympic Stadium, the sacrifice of Hitler Youths, fighting in the city's subway tunnels and the disastrous attempt at a breakout to the west, culminating in his final capture.
Ambrose, Hugh. The Pacific (NAL, 2010).
Between America's retreat from China in late November 1941 and the moment General MacArthur's airplane touched down on the Japanese mainland in August of 1945, five men connected by happenstance fought the key battles of the war against Japan. From the debacle in Bataan, to the miracle at Midway and the relentless vortex of Guadalcanal, their solemn oaths to their country later led one to the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot and the others to the coral strongholds of Peleliu, the black terraces of Iwo Jima and the killing fields of Okinawa, until at last the survivors enjoyed a triumphant, yet uneasy, return home.
In The Pacific, Hugh Ambrose focuses on the real-life stories of the five men who put their lives on the line for our country. To deepen the story revealed in the miniseries and go beyond it, the book dares to chart a great ocean of enmity known as The Pacific and the brave men who fought. Some considered war a profession, others enlisted as citizen soldiers. Each man served in a different part of the war, but their respective duties required every ounce of their courage and their strength to defeat an enemy who preferred suicide to surrender. The medals for valor which were pinned on three of them came at a shocking price-a price paid in full by all.
Ambrose, Stephen H. Band of Brothers (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
Band of Brothers is the account of the men of the remarkable Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Responsible for everything from parachuting into France early D-Day morning to the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden, these men fought, went hungry, froze, and died, taking 150 percent casualties and considering the Purple Heart a badge of office. Stephen Ambrose tells the stories, often in the men's own words, of these American heroes, drawing on hours of interviews with survivors as well as the soldiers' journals and letters.
Ambrose, Stephen H. The Victors (Simon & Schuster, 1999).
From America's preeminent military historian, Stephen E. Ambrose, comes a brilliant telling of the war in Europe, from D-Day, June 6, 1944, to the end, eleven months later, on May 7, 1945. This authoritative narrative account is drawn by the author himself from his five acclaimed books about that conflict, most particularly from the definitive and comprehensive D-Day and Citizen Soldiers, about which the great Civil War historian James McPherson wrote, "If there is a better book about the experience of GIs who fought in Europe during World War II, I have not read it. Citizen Soldiers captures the fear and exhilaration of combat, the hunger and cold and filth of the foxholes, the small intense world of the individual rifleman as well as the big picture of the European theater in a manner that grips the reader and will not let him go. No one who has not been there can understand what combat is like but Stephen Ambrose brings us closer to an understanding than any other historian has done. The Victors also includes stories of individual battles, raids, acts of courage and suffering from Pegasus Bridge, an account of the first engagement of D-Day, when a detachment of British airborne troops stormed the German defense forces and paved the way for the Allied invasion; and from Band of Brothers, an account of an American rifle company from the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment who fought, died, and conquered, from Utah Beach through the Bulge and on to Hitter's Eagle's Nest in Germany.
Ambrose, Stephen H. Citizen Soldiers (Simon & Schuster, 1998).
In this riveting account, historian Stephen Ambrose continues where he left off in his #1 bestseller D-Day. Ambrose again follows the individual characters of this noble, brutal, and tragic war, from the high command down to the ordinary soldier, drawing on hundreds of interviews to re-create the war experience with startling clarity and immediacy. From the hedgerows of Normandy to the overrunning of Germany, Ambrose tells the real story of World War II from the perspective of the men and women who fought it.
Ambrose, Stephen H. Americans at War (Berkley Trade, 1998).
Stephen E. Ambrose, one of the foremost historians of the European theater of World War II, shares his vast knowledge of that conflict as well as the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War in this compelling narrative about the American way of war. From Vicksburg to My Lai, Ambrose recounts the history of these wars with extensive coverage of the battlefields and believable portrayals of those involved, creating the perspective that the country's conflicts both reflect and shape American democratic society.
Ambrose, Stephen H. D-Day (Simon & Schuster, 1995).
Stephen E. Ambrose draws from more than 1,400 interviews with American, British, Canadian, French, and German veterans to create the preeminent chronicle of the most important day in the twentieth century. Ambrose reveals how the original plans for the invasion were abandoned, and how ordinary soldiers and officers acted on their own initiative. D-Day is above all the epic story of men at the most demanding moment of their existence, when the horrors, complexities, and triumphs of life are laid bare. Ambrose portrays the faces of courage and heroism, fear and determination—what Eisenhower called "the fury of an aroused democracy"—that shaped the victory of the citizen soldiers whom Hitler had disparaged.
Ambrose, Stephen H. Eisenhower (Simon & Schuster, New edition, 1991).
Stephen E. Ambrose draws upon extensive sources, an unprecedented degree of scholarship, and numerous interviews with Eisenhower himself to offer the fullest, richest, most objective rendering yet of the soldier who became president. He gives us a masterly account of the European war theater and Eisenhower's magnificent leadership as Allied Supreme Commander. Ambrose's recounting of Eisenhower's presidency, the first of the Cold War, brings to life a man and a country struggling with issues as diverse as civil rights, atomic weapons, communism, and a new global role.
Along the way, Ambrose follows the 34th President's relations with the people closest to him, most of all Mamie, his son John, and Kay Summersby, as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Harry Truman, Nixon, Dulles, Khrushchev, Joe McCarthy, and indeed, all the American and world leaders of his time. This superb interpretation of Eisenhower's life confirms Stephen Ambrose's position as one of our finest historians.
Ambrose, Stephen H. Pegasus Bridge (Simon & Schuster, Reissue edition, 1988).
In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, a small detachment of British airborne troops stormed the German defense forces and paved the way for the Allied invasion of Europe. Pegasus Bridge was the first engagement of D-Day, the turning point of World War II. This gripping account of it by acclaimed author Stephen Ambrose brings to life a daring mission so crucial that, had it been unsuccessful, the entire Normandy invasion might have failed. Ambrose traces each step of the preparations over many months to the minute-by-minute excitement of the hand-to-hand confrontations on the bridge. This is a story of heroism and cowardice, kindness and brutality -- the stuff of all great adventures.