Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe

Overview

In the final months of World War II, with the Allied forces streaming into Germany on two fronts, a major decision had to be made: where to draw a stop line to prevent an accidental clash between the Russian and the Anglo-American armies.
Behind this decision lay another. Whose forces would be the first to reach Berlin? General Dwight David Eisenhower, supreme commander of the British and American armies, chose to halt at the Elbe River and leave Berlin to the Red Army. Could he...

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Overview

In the final months of World War II, with the Allied forces streaming into Germany on two fronts, a major decision had to be made: where to draw a stop line to prevent an accidental clash between the Russian and the Anglo-American armies.
Behind this decision lay another. Whose forces would be the first to reach Berlin? General Dwight David Eisenhower, supreme commander of the British and American armies, chose to halt at the Elbe River and leave Berlin to the Red Army. Could he have beaten the Russians to Berlin? If so, why didn't he? If he had, would the Berlin question have arisen? Would Germany have been divided as it was? Would the Cold War have assumed a direction more favorable to the West? In a narrative of steady fascination, Stephen E. Ambrose describes both the political and the military aspects of the situation, sketches the key players, explains the alternatives, and considers the results. The result is a sharply focused light on an important question of the postwar world. This paperback edition features a new introduction by the author.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393320107
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Series: Norton Essays in American History Series
  • Edition description: NORTON TRA
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 990,293
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

The distinguished historian Stephen E. Ambrose is the author of several best-selling books on World War II and was an editor of the Eisenhower Papers.

Biography

"I was ten years old when [World War II] ended," Stephen Ambrose once said. "I thought the returning veterans were giants who had saved the world from barbarism. I still think so." Years after he first watched combat footage in the newsreels, the popular historian brought fresh attention to America's aging WWII veterans through such bestselling books as Band of Brothers, about a company of U.S. paratroopers, and The Wild Blue, about the B-24 bomber pilots who flew over Germany. Though best known for his books on World War II, Ambrose also produced multi-volume biographies of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, a history of the building of the transcontinental railroad, and a fascinating account of the Lewis and Clark expedition across the American West.

As a young professor of history, Ambrose was one of many left-wing academics who spoke out against American involvement in the Vietnam War. Yet he revered the veterans of World War II, and he interviewed and wrote about them at a time when many of his colleagues considered military history old-fashioned. "The men I admire most are soldiers, sailors, professional military," Ambrose would later tell The Washington Post. "Way more than politicians."

He labored without much popular acclaim or academic renown until 1994, when his book D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II burst onto the bestseller lists. War heroism was suddenly a hot topic, and Ambrose's approach, which focused on the experiences of soldiers rather than the decisions of high command, was perfectly suited to a popular audience. More bestsellers followed, including Citizen Soldiers, The Victors and Undaunted Courage. Ambrose's vivid narrative accounts were devoured by readers and praised by critics. "The descriptions of individual ordeals on the bloody beach of Omaha make this book outstanding," wrote Raleigh Trevelyan in a New York Times review of D-Day.

Ambrose retired as a professor of history at the University of New Orleans in 1995, but he continued to write one or more books per year. He also founded the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, worked with his family-owned business organizing historical tours, and served as the historical consultant for the 1998 Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg later turned Ambrose's Band of Brothers into an HBO miniseries.

This rise to fame was accompanied by criticism from some of Ambrose's fellow historians, who charged that he could be careless in his research and editing. In early 2002, he faced accusations of plagiarism when reporters noted that a number of phrases and sentences in his books were lifted from other works. Ambrose responded that he had forgotten to place quotation marks around some quotes, but said he had footnoted all his sources. "I always thought plagiarism meant using another person's words and ideas, pretending they were your own and profiting from it. I do not do that, never have done that and never will," he wrote in a statement on his Web site.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer a few months later, he began work on a memoir, To America. "I want to tell all the things that are right about America," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. Ambrose died in October 2002, at the age of 66.

Good To Know

Ambrose was a star football player at the University of Wisconsin and played in the Rose Bowl, according to his friend and co-author Douglas Brinkley.

As a college sophomore, Ambrose abandoned his pre-med major for history after he attended a class on "Representative Americans" taught by professor William Hesseltine.

For more than 20 years, Ambrose and his family spent their vacations traveling portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail. They canoed the Missouri and Columbia rivers, endured soaking rains and summer snowstorms, and read from the explorers' journals at night by the light of their campfires.

Ambrose named his house in Mississippi "Merry Weather," after Meriwether Lewis. His Labrador was called Pomp, after the nickname of Sacagawea's son.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Ambrose
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 10, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Whitewater, Wisconsin
    1. Date of Death:
      October 13, 2002
    2. Place of Death:
      Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Paperback Edition 5
Foreword 11
1 The Position, March 7, 1945 17
2 The Creation of the Zones 35
3 Eisenhower's Superiors and His Telegram to Stalin 47
4 The Military Situation and the Basis for Decision 66
5 Could Eisenhower Have Taken Berlin? 88
App. A The Telegrams 99
App. B Eisenhower's Directive 105
A Note on Sources 107
Index 113
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