Eric Maroney, author of Religious Syncretism, The Other Zions, & published fiction
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
Stephen Ambrose’s books worry me, and because of this I have stayed away. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest confirms my concerns. Shortly before his death, accusations of plagiarism dogged him. By that time, Ambrose was not really writing his books, but supervising researchers, running a cottage industry, churning out six to eight books a year. under his name He claimed the errors in attribution were just mistakes and no more - based in part on the form of this enterprise. But an historian's work rises or falls on the on our trust that he or she has done the hard research. Whatever a 'fact' is, it must be backed up by a primary, or at least secondary sources, and it must be cited. With this stain on his work, how do I know that Band of Brothers is a work done in good faith? I don’t.
Also, Ambrose is VERY close to the subjects of this book, and has an obvious admiration for them. As one of the proponents of the “Greatest Generation” brand, he finds no conflict in how snug he is with the people whose history he writes. Does this lead to historical distortions? Probably. Certainly, others have pointed this out and provided many examples of these distortions. So how do I know what I am reading is anything like an attempt to write an orthodox history of the subject? I don't. These question bother me. Perhaps it is best to read this book as a kind of historical entertainment, rather than as any kind of rigorous history. And to be fair, Ambrose does say this book was not written to be an overall or conclusive history of Easy Company, but only a slice. Yet despite this disclaimer, and despite being well-written and an interesting read – and at times a bit critical of his subjects – this work his hagiography, not history. Unfortunately, most readers do not realize this.