An impressive blend of drama and history marvelously researched.

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A COMPANY AT NUI BA DEN

A historical account of a harrowing mountain battle during the Vietnam War.

Debut author Sly was drafted (he says “kidnapped”) into the Army only days after his graduation in 1968 from the University of South Dakota. He was assigned to the Awards and Decorations Department, which is responsible for writing accounts of notably brave conduct under consideration for commendation. He was sent to work as unit historian for Alpha Company, which had just weathered a macabre battle that decimated their ranks. When it comes to the issuance of medals, it's best to gather eyewitness accounts in the immediate aftermath of combat. Years later, now a civilian, Sly researched the battle further, even contacting some of the participants, which ultimately led to this breathtakingly fastidious record. In June 1969, after B-52s bombed a mountain called Nui Ba Den, which harbored the North Vietnamese army, Alpha Company was tasked with securing the base of the mountain in case enemy troops descended. However, a general ordered the company to aggressively ascend the mountain “dismounted”—meaning without either tanks or other military vehicles—despite objections from the company’s commanders. There were only a few ways up, and the visibility of the paths was greatly obstructed by massive boulders. Once specialized enemy snipers began picking off American soldiers, there was little they could do but retreat. The casualties were considerable, but so was the heroism of the soldiers involved. Sly carefully reconstructs the entire battle—including its tactical context and aftermath—and offers a moving account of his motivation: “Those who fought, particularly those who were killed in action, deserve to have their heroism, dedication to each other and dedication to their unit properly documented.” The writing is speckled with technical terminology and a farrago of initialisms; Sly helpfully provides a glossary at the beginning of the book that the reader will surely reference often. That grouse aside, the book is stirring and rigorous, a shining example of investigative journalism.

An impressive blend of drama and history marvelously researched.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5320-0304-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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