World War II "strengthened us as a country," said Ambrose. "We were much more committed to the idea of country, rather than region. People didn't speak of themselves any more as being, 'Well, I'm a rebel, I'm from Mississippi.' 'I'm a Yankee, I'm from Wisconsin.' [It was], 'I'm an American.' That would always spring first to their lips."
From the time when Japanese fighters dropped the first bombs, it was an American fight. And as the first troops were shipped off to battle, it became an American effort.
According to Ambrose, the widely acclaimed "American spirit" began in World War II. When there is a genuine threat to a democracy, "We're all in this together, and we will fight it out together," he said.
Stephen Ambrose is retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans, director emeritus of the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans, the author of more than 20 books, and an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society.
He was profiled on National Geographic Today on Wednesday, May 23. He will appear in the TV special Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack, which will air Sunday, May 27, on NBC and the National Geographic Channel.
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