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Friday, March 17, 2000

Historian Ambrose speaks of war, friendship on the front line

Mixing finely crafted words and images depicting World War II battles and wilderness adventure, historian and author Stephen Ambrose addressed the Annual Meeting Thursday. Ambrose was the presidential guest speaker at the convention, sharing quotes and anecdotes from his book, Citizen Soldier, which recounts the struggles of American soldiers battling in Western Europe during World War II.

"The front line was characterized by quiet," Ambrose said. "There was very little noise, but life-threatening violence was always present. There were two things in front of you: the enemy and death."

Ambrose, a best-selling author and leading scholar of military and diplomatic history, was chief historical advisor for the movie Saving Private Ryan.

The historian spoke of the question he always asks of war veterans: "Who is the bravest person you saw?" The answers, he said, are remarkably consistent.

"Without exception, the soldiers say the medics were the bravest," Ambrose said. "The medic always kept his body between the German slug and the injured soldier. He'd take the hit while administering morphine and bandaging wounds."

Second in bravery were the nurses, Ambrose said, followed closely by the doctors.

"The best sight soldiers could ever see was that American smile on a nurse's face," he said. "The doctors worked 10, 12, or 14 hour days patching wounds and saving lives. No soldier forgets that."

Dr. D'Ambrosia, a personal friend of Ambrose, said he invited the historian to the AAOS convention because of his remarkable ability to reveal "the commonality of man." Having read all of his books, including D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Dr. D'Ambrosia has a profound respect for the author's talents and his message.

"Whether a person is in a foxhole or out in the wilderness with Lewis & Clark, there is that commonality of shared experience and respect," Dr. D'Ambrosia said. "It's a wonderful and necessary reminder for our physicians. Instead of looking inward at ourselves and our financial resources, we should turn the camera outward onto the humanitarian issues. If you do that, you feel good about yourself and have pride in your profession."

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Last modified 17/March/2000 by IS