A proficient, well-wrought work that emphasizes the actual fighting men, their deeds, and their fates. A good complement to...

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DONOVAN'S DEVILS

OSS COMMANDOS BEHIND ENEMY LINES—EUROPE, WORLD WAR II

Thorough research into the American military’s special arm for guerrilla warfare, which helped undermine the Axis effort during World War II.

In this valuable study, Lulushi (Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain, 2014, etc.) finds harrowing and inspiring incidences of both bravery and recklessness among the special forces arm of the wartime precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services. The guerrilla arm, called Operational Groups Command, was inspired by the British Commandos under the Special Operations Executive, which had in turn been instigated upon the successful use of the German K-Truppen (combat troops)—these soldiers operated independently from the regular army and provided a key strategic advantage in the Nazi military campaigns at the beginning of the war. As head of the OSS, which was a civilian agency placed under the Joint Chiefs of Staff (amid much controversy in the War Department), William “Wild Bill” Donovan, a World War I hero and friend of President Franklin Roosevelt, created the Operational Groups Command to collect intelligence and to aid the partisan and resistance groups in enemy-controlled areas. The trial run of the OSS was Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa under Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership in November 1942. In these and subsequent maneuvers in Italy and the western Mediterranean, the special foreign language–speaking soldiers, trained in commando tactics, parachuted into enemy-occupied territory and became valuable tools in harassing the enemy and in bolstering support of local resistance groups. Lulushi ably delineates these specific campaigns, from Corsica to Vercors, France, to the Balkans, and focuses on the appalling treatment of POWs by the Germans—e.g., the capture of the 15-man Ginny mission in Genoa-La Spezia in February 1944.

A proficient, well-wrought work that emphasizes the actual fighting men, their deeds, and their fates. A good complement to Douglas Waller’s Wild Bill Donovan (2011).

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62872-567-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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