Stephen Edward Ambrose - 1936


By Nicholas O. Andrews

I.  Biography

Stephen Edward Ambrose was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1936.  He was the second son to Rosepha Trippe and Stephen Hedges Ambrose.  His older brother, Harry, was two years ahead of him and his younger brother, Bill, was two years behind him in age.  Ambrose's father worked as a medical doctor in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  His mother worked in a pea cannery next to German POWs during the war.  Ambrose has relayed anecdotes of his childhood during the war years.  He kneeled and prayed with his mother when Franklin Roosevelt read a prayer over the radio for all the troops fighting in the war.  He and his brothers would watch newsreels at the theatre for a dime.  He also remembers collecting tin foil gum wrappers, wrapping them into balls and turning them in to be recycled.

Ambrose graduated from the high school in Whitewater and went on to college at the University of Wisconsin.  When he entered, he was planning on going into the pre-med program, but after taking a required American History course, he switched to history as his major.  As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Ambrose played left guard and middle linebacker on the college football team.  In 1957, he married his first wife, Judith Dorlester and had two children, Stephenie and Barry.  He then went to Louisiana to obtain his Masters Degree (1958).  He chose Louisiana State University because during a vacation, he and a friend had hitchhiked to New Orleans and, Ambrose had fallen in love with the city.  He returned to Wisconsin to receive his Ph.D. in 1963.  He married his second wife, Moria Buckley Ambrose, shortly after the death of his first wife.  Moria was an English Literature Major and a schoolteacher.  He adopted Moria's three children, Andrew, Grace and Hugh.

After getting his Doctorate, Ambrose moved to New Orleans and started teaching history at the University of New Orleans.  He taught at the University as an assistant professor from 1960 to 1964.  He then went to Johns Hopkins University (1964-1969), Naval War College (1969-1970), Kansas State University (1970-1971), University College in Dublin, Ireland (1981-1982), and then back to the University of New Orleans (1982-1995).  During his teaching career, Dr. Ambrose also taught at the University of California at Berkley, the Army War College, and Rutgers.  He founded the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans and is a member of many professional historical associations.  He has received many awards including most recently the Distinguished Civilian Service medal from the Department of Defense, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Dakota Wesleyn University, the Department of the Army Award for Distinguished Public Service, the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award, and the Will Rogers Memorial Award.

Dr. Ambrose is currently retired from his teaching positions and spends his time writing and giving talks about history to various groups.  He divides his time between his houses in Helena, Montana and New Orleans, Louisiana.  He enjoys biking, canoeing and woodworking.

II.  Publishing Career

Dr. Ambrose has been publishing books for many years.  His first book, Halleck, Lincoln's Chief of Staff, was published in 1962, when Ambrose was still in college.  Less than one thousand copies of this book were published, yet one copy found its way to President Eisenhower.  Eisenhower liked the book and called Dr. Ambrose to see if he would edit his papers.  Ambrose agreed and was given access to information which he later used to write Eisenhower's biography and several other works.  After Eisenhower died, Ambrose's editor pressed him into writing about Richard Nixon.  Ambrose wrote three books on Nixon's personal life and political career.  Today, Dr. Ambrose is regarded as one of the leading experts on Presidents Richard Nixon and Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

Ambrose's recent best-selling book, Undaunted Courage, is the story of the Corps of Discovery through Lewis's eyes. Ambrose's interest in Lewis and Clark began when his aunt gave him a copy of the Lewis and Clark journals.  Since he's had the journals, Ambrose has walked every part of the trail.  At the country's bicentennial, he assembled his family and a group of friends to canoe over the continental divide on the Fourth of July, singing patriotic songs and reading from the journals on the trip.  Ambrose has made this a tradition, returning every year.

Dr. Ambrose's most recent work, Nothing Like it in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869, has received mixed reviews from the railroad buffs.  The book is a mix of stories about the Civil War veterans, the Chinese and Irish workers who built the railroad. 

III.  Literary Works

Nothing Like it in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869, 2000

Comrades: Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals, 1999
The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys, The Men of World War II, 1998
Americans at War, 1997
Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy (1938-1997), 1997
Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945, 1997
The American Heritage New History of World War II, 1997
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Owning of the American West, 1996
Handbook on German Military Forces, 1995
D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, 1994

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne From Normandy to Hitler's Eagles Nest, 1992

Eisenhower and the German POWs: Facts Against Falsehood, 1992
Nixon: The Ruin and Recovery of a Politician, 1991
Eisenhower: Soldier and President, 1990
Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972, 1989
Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962, 1987
Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944, 1985
Eisenhower: The President, 1985
Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President–Elect, 1890-1950, 1984
Ike's Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment, 1981
Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors, 1975
General Ike: Abilene to Berlin, 1973
Rise to Globalism, 1971
The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1970
The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower: The War Years, 5 vols., 1970
Institutions in Modern America, 1967
Eisenhower and Berlin 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe, 1967
Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point, 1966
Upton and the Army, 1964
Halleck, Lincoln's Chief of Staff, 1962
Wisconsin Boy in Dixie, 1961

IV.  Sources

Bachmann, Thomas. Who's Who in America 1999, 53rd Edition, Volume 1 A-K; Marquis Who's Who, New Providence NJ.

"Booknotes Transcript: Stephen Ambrose: D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II".  Book Discussion, Some Biographical Information:

"The Books of Stephen E. Ambrose".  Book List:

"Character Above All Biographies: Stephen Ambrose",  Biography:

"The People's Historian".  Magazine Article: Book- The Magazine for the Reading Life:

"Stephen Ambrose".  Book List and Short Biography:

"Stephen E. Ambrose" Home Page:

Stephen E. Ambrose Complete Bookshelf".  Book List:

Vincent, Tom. "Ambrose Pays Tribute to Railroad Builders".  Sunday, October 15, 2000, Section E; Billings Gazette.

This essay was submitted by a student of Steve Gardiner, a teacher at Billings Senior High School in Billings, Montana.