Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose
Written in the late 1990’s, Stephen Ambrose’s “Citizen Soldiers” draws upon oral histories, memoirs, and letters of Allied and German World War II combat veterans to write an engaging narrative that follows U.S. combat soldiers from the D-Day landings at Normandy to the surrender of Germany in 1945, inviting the reader to join his harrowing and inspirational account of the final eleven months of the war.
Best known for his book-turned-TV-miniseries, “Band of Brothers”, Ambrose writes in a straightforward and readable manner, accessible to all who are interested in history and the strength of human character found in the common and everyday citizens who enlisted and were drafted into war.
Following the timeline from the day after D-Day, the book includes three sections of contemporary black and white photographs that follow the chronological order of the chapters. Other features of the book include detailed maps showing battlefronts and army progress, meticulous footnotes from each chapter, an exhaustive bibliography, a comprehensive index, and a complete list of the full names of U.S. and German veterans whose letters, memoirs and oral histories were used in the crafting of this account.
While the content is serious, mature grade 11 and 12 students can handle the material, and while the language used by soldiers in war can be punctuated with cursing, the direct quotes of combat veterans included by the author are never used in a gratuitous or entertaining manner. Please note that there is a brief reference to how leadership in different armies would respond to reports of soldiers assaulting local women (Russian and German Army leadership encouraged it, US Army court-martialled and sometimes executed offenders from its own ranks).
This book can accompany and complement a homeschool curriculum of 20th Century World History. At just under 500 pages, a student, with regular reading, will be able to fully understand the material, enabling them to speak with intelligence on an important event from our recent past. Students can use the strategic maps to further explore the geography of the surrounding areas in Europe. Most importantly, young people reading a first-hand account can be shown extraordinary examples of character. Finding ways for older students to demonstrate their understanding through essays, paragraphs, creative writing, artwork, discussions and dioramas will not be difficult, as there are many topics that can be gleaned from the material.
Citizen Soldiers is an excellent account of a very specific time period of a war in which common men and women displayed uncommon bravery not to conquer but to liberate.
Jeffrey Curwen, BA, Certificate in Liberal Arts, Professional Teaching Certificate, M.Ed
Jeff is a Canadian homeschool dad of seven kids, and husband to one amazing woman. He has worked as a public school teacher, independent DL school teacher, and secondary school administrator. He enjoys coffee, jazz and almost anything written on 20th Century History, US Foreign Policy and JFK. He’s grateful everyday for his wife, children and his Lord and Saviour, Jesus.