Whopper of the Week: Simon & Schuster.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Jan. 10 2002 12:50 PM

Whopper of the Week: Simon & Schuster

Ambrose comes clean, but his publisher fibs!

"Stephen Ambrose'sThe Wild Blue is an original and important work of World War II history. All research garnered from previously published material is appropriately footnoted."
Statement issued by Simon & Schuster, quoted by Fred Barnes  in the Jan. 14 Weekly Standard.

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"Up, up, up, groping through the clouds for what seemed like an eternity. ... No amount of practice could have prepared them for what they encountered. B-24s, glittering like mica, were popping up out of the clouds all over the sky."
Thomas Childers, Wings of Morning, Page 83, as cited in Barnes' piece.

"Up, up, up he went, until he got above the clouds. No amount of practice could have prepared the pilot and crew for what they encountered—B-24s, glittering like mica, were popping up out of the clouds over here, over there, everywhere."
Stephen Ambrose, The Wild Blue, Page 164, as cited by Barnes.

"The bombadier, navigator, and nose-turret gunner were forced to squat down, almost on hands and knees, and sidle up to their stations through the nose wheel well of the ship. Once inside, the three men, fully dressed in their bulky flying gear, would be squeezed into a cramped compartment. ... The remaining members of the crew entered the plane by crawling up through the open bomb-bay doors, no more than three feet off the ground. Once in the bomb bay they would stand upright, step up onto the narrow catwalk. ... Jerry Barrett, the engineer, stood between the pilot and copilot at takeoff, helping to monitor the engine and fuel gauges, but once in the air he slipped to his position behind the pilot and just across from the radioman. ... It was the most physically uncomfortable, isolated, and terrifying position on the ship. The gunner climbed into the ball, pulled the hatch closed, and was then lowered into position."
Thomas Childers, Wings of Morning, Pages 21-23, as cited by Barnes.

"The bombadier, navigator, and nose turret gunner were forced to squat down, almost on hands and knees, and sidle up to their stations through the nosewheel well of the ship. Inside, the three men had to squeeze themselves into a cramped compartment. ... The other crew members entered the plane by crawling up through the open bomb bay doors, about three feet off the ground. Once inside they would stand upright, step onto the narrow catwalk. ... The engineer stood between the pilot and co-pilot at takeoff, helping to monitor the engine and fuel gauges. In the air he took his position behind the pilot and just across from the radioman. ... The ball turret was, as McGovern said, the most physically uncomfortable, isolated, and terrifying position on the plane. The gunner climbed into the ball, pulled the hatch closed, and was then lowered into position."
Stephen Ambrose, The Wild Blue, Pages 95-96, as cited by Barnes.

"Howard struggled to master the internal electronics of the radio, building generators, studying vacuum tubes and amplifiers, transformers and transmitters. He disassembled the sets, examined the intricate ganglia of tubes and wires, and reassembled them blindfolded."
Thomas Childers, Wings of Morning, Page 11, as cited by Barnes.

"He mastered the internal electronics of the radio, built generators, studied vacuum tubes and amplifiers, transformers and transmitters. He learned to disassemble a set, then reassemble it blindfolded."
Stephen Ambrose, The Wild Blue, Page 64, as cited by Barnes.

Discussion: Simon & Schuster might argue, in its self-defense, that Ambrose cited Childers in four footnotes. None of these footnotes, however, are "appropriate" because none of them point out that Ambrose borrowed language from Childers. (In any event, the more conventional way to so indicate is to use quotation marks.) Since Barnes' piece hit newsstands, Forbes.com has busted Ambrose for borrowing another author's words in three additional books. Ambrose, wisely, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he can't guarantee other similar examples don't exist. "I don't know," he said. "It's a lot of books." Barnes, meanwhile, praised Ambrose for his prompt apology to Childers.

Got a whopper? Send it to chatterbox@slate.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:

Jan. 4, 2002: The Associated Press

(Click  here  to access the Whopper Archive for 2001.)

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