Historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who died last Sunday, had a remarkable rapport with the World War II veterans he wrote about so memorably in a series of best-selling books.
Before Ambrose, histories of WWII battles had minimal input from the enlisted men who fought them. Many, though proud of their service, carried painful memories of combat that they preferred to keep to themselves. Even their families had only sketchy knowledge of what they went through.
Ambrose was first to get these aging, reluctant warriors to really open up. He idolized these "citizen soldiers," as he called them, and he could relate to them as no other historian ever had. Although a lifetime academic, Ambrose spoke with a master sergeant's gravelly baritone and emitted an air of authority that won over the old soldiers.
From them, he collected thousands of oral histories which he culled for riveting books that made the war vivid and immediate again for the generation that lived though it, and also their children and grandchildren, who had only glimpsed it in old black and white newsreel footage.
Ambrose's success had its downside though. His works were not popular among his cerebral colleagues, and some say it was their jealousy that led to the accusations of plagiarism that clouded his final year.
But as former Ambrose student and best-selling historian Douglas Brinkley pointed out, he wrote for the everyday people, not the intellectuals. To be even more specific, he wrote for the soldiers. He provided the voice that broke their long silence.
They'll be back
The Anaheim Angels did what Bud Selig, Carl Pohlad, the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians, a mess of injuries, and the Oakland A's feared pitchers could not do: make the Minnesota Twins go away.
A season filled with accomplishments of mythical proportions won't end with a World Series ring for the scrappy, low-budget Twins, but the team has left its fans with enough memories to last for the four months until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Ft. Meyers, Fla. -- and long beyond.
The best part is that they will be back next year.
Looking back, it was a season to remember for Minnesota baseball fans. Looking forward, it may be the start of even better things.
--Austin Daily Herald
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.