It’s no Guadalcanal Diary or From Here to Eternity, but likely to interest WWII buffs all the same.

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GIVEN UP FOR DEAD

AMERICA’S HEROIC STAND AT WAKE ISLAND

A blood-and-guts tale from the early days of WWII.

Not many Americans of the day knew much about Wake Island, a dismal atoll closer to Tokyo than Honolulu. But, writes journalist Sloan, it had been on the Japanese war planners’ map ever since the US Navy authorized the use of its outpost as a refueling station for Pan American Airways’ “China Clipper” service, which the Japanese saw as proof that “Wake was quietly being groomed for future military use.” As indeed it was, Sloan continues: Wake lay close to major Japanese bases, and it was easier to defend than Guam or Midway, providing one link in “a defensive chain envisioned by Washington as a protective westward shield for Hawaii.” The Japanese attacked Wake only a few hours after bombing Pearl Harbor, and for the next two weeks Japanese and Americans fought out what some contemporary writers characterized as a latter-day Alamo. Sloan begins all this on a clunky note—he promises, with much self-satisfaction, to place the reader “down in the sweat, smoke, and grime of foxholes and gun pits, where bullets whine, bombs explode, coral splinters fly, blood spurts, rats bite, men scream, and death is never more than inches away”—but his narrative overall is a competent if by-the-numbers account of that siege. He adds value to it by drawing on the memories of a rapidly dwindling number of American (and a couple of Japanese) veterans, and by pointing to some historical accidents that the fight exposed: one, that the Japanese made several costly blunders, including the failure to provide adequate air cover for its task force, and two, that the American commanders in Hawaii missed an opportunity to reinforce Wake and attack the oncoming Japanese fleet. As it was, the Japanese eventually forced Wake’s defenders to give up, but at a lopsided cost: whereas 4,500 Japanese were killed attacking and holding the atoll, Sloan writes, only 366 Americans “died either of combat injuries or the ill effects of captivity.”

It’s no Guadalcanal Diary or From Here to Eternity, but likely to interest WWII buffs all the same.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2003

ISBN: 0-553-80302-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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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