GENTLEMEN VOLUNTEERS

THE STORY OF THE AMERICAN AMBULANCE DRIVERS IN THE GREAT WAR

Hansen (who until his recent death taught English at the Univ. of the Pacific) compellingly tells the story of thousands of eager young Americans who volunteered to drive ambulances for the Allies in the Great War before the US army arrived in 1917. Hansen relates little-known stories of wealthy Americans sympathetic to the Allies, like H. Herman Harjes (a banker for J.P. Morgan), Boston Brahmin Richard Norton, and A. Piatt Andrew, a former Harvard professor and assistant secretary of the treasury, who led the way in forming private ambulance companies that raised money, recruited volunteers, and purchased or received donations of automobiles to convert into ambulances. As the author relates, they dealt with stubborn French military and government bureaucrats, frustrating delays, and personality conflicts while organizing medical services for the wounded in rear combat areas. But the volunteers, mostly from Ivy League colleges and eastern prep schools (as well as the likes of Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos), proved themselves and their state-of-the-art vehicles to be more effective than French horse-drawn ambulances, and they saved countless lives. Hansen has included many personal accounts of devotion to humanitarian efforts and many encounters with horror and heroism by the gallant gentlemen who faced the enemy shells and bullets on the Western Front. In time, Hansen tells us, the volunteers' ranks were augmented by a diverse group that included cowboys, big-game hunters, a Portuguese revolutionist, a racing car driver, and several football players. Women also played a significant role as doctors and nurses. Over 3,500 Americans had served as drivers when the US army took control of ambulance details on the Western Front in October 1917. A fitting tribute, told in effective matter-of-fact style, to mostly obscure volunteers who showed great bravery in a time of cataclysmic change and great tragedy.

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55970-313-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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