Citizen Soldiers is about just that, young men who were ordinary citizens driven into the military and war through forces beyond their
control. It’s the story of their accomplishments, setbacks, and experiences. Whether as a volunteer or a draftee, most never intended to join the armed forces but still did, and the majority served with conviction and a sense of loyalty to their fellow soldiers.
The term “citizen soldier” defines itself, but the final chapters covered in Ambrose’s book should help you to form your own definition.
Part Three: Life in the ETO (Continued)
Chapter 14: Jerks, Sad Sacks, Profiteers, and Jim Crow
What attitude did the troops in the ETO share with American civilians back on the homefront? (See pg. 332)
What aspect of war did soldiers deemed “profiteers” take advantage of? (See. pp 332-333)
Describe a “sad-sack” in your own words. What had they “mastered the art of”? (See pg. 333)
What did “chickenshit” behavior never have as its objective? How did Lt. Lesseman’s experience with the Third Army prove this to be true? (See pp. 334-336)
Officers who acted ‘“chickenshit” were often called “jerks” in the ETO. Find examples from the American and German armies, and explain why their actions were considered “chickenshit”. (See pp. 336-344)
Note Corp. Rupert Timmingham’s experience in the south in April, 1944. Did these “regulations” exist in the army as well? (See pp. 345 - 350)
How did the actions of General John Lee lead to the eventual integration of the army? (See pp. 348-350)
Chapter 15: Prisoners of War
- What usually happened to individual soldiers, either American or German, found between the lines? (See pg. 351) Explain why this was so.
- Read the quote by Lt. Tom Gibson (101st Airborne) on page 353 and answer the following: Do you think someone who has not experienced combat has the ability or understanding to judge the actions of a soldier during combat? Explain your answer.
- After reading about Hitler’s directive to German troops in the Ardennes, and Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper’s experience as a commander, do you believe Peiper gave the order for the Malmedy massacre? (See pp. 354-355)
- In your opinion, what was the most significant difference between being a German POW in America verses an American POW in Germany? Why do you think this was? (See pp. 357-363)
Part Four: Overrunning Germany
Chapter 16: Winter War
- The quote in the footnote on page 376 by Sgt. Josh Honan highlights the importance of an officer having a good sergeant.
- How does Honan’s statement back up the quote by Major Winters regarding his junior officers during the Battle of the Bulge? (See pg. 376)
- What group of men does Ambrose believe supplied “the core leadership” that helped the soldiers through January 1945? (See pg. 375) How does this reinforce the overall focus of the book?
- How did Lt. Barry solve the problem of having no winter camouflage? (See pg. 378) How was his initiative rewarded and/or punished?
- Why did German soldiers feel they should not be defending their Western Front against the Americans? (See pp. 383-384)
- What were the political consequences, for Germany, of the Battle of the Bulge? (See pg. 393)
Chapter 17: Closing to the Rhine (February 1-March 6, 1945)
- Why was Ike so intent on eliminating the Colmar Pocket? (See pp. 398-399)
- What motives fueled a possible German counter offensive along the Rhine? (See pg. 398)
- Note Patton’s opinion of fixed defenses on page 403. Do Captain Colby’s remarks regarding pillboxes support Patton’s position? (See pp. 403-404)
- Lt. Pope was amused by the reaction of two visiting Colonels to some minor shelling. Does Pope’s reaction tell you anything about the different experiences of front line and rear echelon troops? (See pp. 406-407)
- What was your initial reaction to Patton’s order to keep Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross winners off the front lines? Does his reason reveal anything about his personality to you? (See pp. 412-413)
Chapter 18: Crossing the Rhine (March 7-31, 1945)
- Why did Eisenhower choose to try and cross the Rhine north of Cologne? (See pp. 418-419) Who was in charge of that operation?
- What did the average GI consider a “million dollar wound”? (See pg. 420)
- What was the strategic benefit gained after First Army crossed the Ludendorff Bridge? What did this foothold enable First Army to eventually do? (See pp. 425-432)
- Why did Eisenhower choose not to race the Russians to Berlin? (See pp. 456-457)
- Do you think individual initiative and effort were the driving forces behind the crossing of the Ludendorff Bridge? (See pp. 425-432)
Chapter 19: Victory (April 1-May 7, 1945)
- On the whole, what did a large number of GIs who overran Germany discover about the German people? (See pg. 449)
- What experience in Eisenhower’s life had caused him to be distrustful of wartime propaganda? (See pg. 462)
- Eisenhower was horrified by the barbarism he witnessed at a slave labor camp. What did he do to ensure news of the Nazi atrocities reached the rest of the world? (Se pp. 462-463)
Key Facts and Terms
Black Market - buying, selling, or trading goods outside the legal market.
Catch 22 -The book by Joseph Heller who served during World War II. It is set in the war and the phrase, Catch 22, comes from the title. It’s basically a problem with a solution that is precluded by the problem itself.
Jim Crow - Jim Crow was the phrase used for norms, regulations and laws meant to segregate and degrade blacks. Jim Crow existed primarily, but not exclusively, in the southern states from the late 19th century until the middle of the 1960s. Ambrose uses this term to refer to those who carried 1940s American society’s racial caste system, segregation, and general denial of opportunities to African Americans over into army life. The army was racially segregated and Jim Crow was pervasive throughout as was evidenced by the treatment of black nurses during World War II, which we learned about in Study Guide for Citizen Soldiers: Chapter 10-13.
Heinrich Himmler - Reichsfuhrer SS (head of the SS. Also, Chief of the German police and in charge of carrying out the Final Solution.
Colmar Pocket - A 30 to 40 mile bridgehead occupied by the Germans around the town of Colmar.
Operation Plunder -The crossing by boat phase of Montgomery’s plan to cross the Rhine.
Operation Varsity -The airborne phase of Montgomery’s plan.
This post is part of the series: Study Guides: Citizen Soldiers by Stephen E Ambrose
Study guides written for use with Citizen Soldiers, and linked lesson plans. These study guides concentrate on the contrasts and similarities between the military and homefront cultures of the Allies and Axis nations. Lesson plans use quotes to achieve the last. Includes key terms and facts.