Overly sentimental writing may test some readers, but the authors deliver a great war story.

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LUCKY 666

THE IMPOSSIBLE MISSION

A breathless history of World War II heroism.

After conquering Guadalcanal in early 1943, American military leaders planned to invade Bougainville, several hundred miles north. Little was known about its defenses, however, so the air force required a reconnaissance mission. One crew volunteered, flying an unescorted 600-mile mission from the New Guinea base in “Old 666,” a shabby B-17 bomber that returned, crippled, with precious film but also dead and wounded soldiers. Journalists and longtime co-authors Drury and Clavin (The Heart of Everything that Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend, 2013, etc.) tell a fascinating story somewhat diminished by fictionalized prose full of invented dialogue and insight into the characters’ thoughts. The mission doesn’t begin until more than 200 pages into the narrative, but most readers will not complain, as they encounter a biography of an interesting lead character: talented pilot Jay Zeamer, a brilliant nonconformist who yearned to fly the new, high-tech B-17 but whose superiors didn’t trust him. Bored by the minimal duties of a co-pilot, he often slept during missions. Frustrated with the lack of action, he and a like-minded coterie found a junkyard B-17 and spent their spare time returning it to flying condition, adding multiple machine guns to its complement. It flew several missions before photographing Bougainville while Japanese fighters attacked it for over an hour. “The final flight of Old 666 with Capt. Jay Zeamer at the helm…remains the longest continuous dogfight in the annals of the United States Air Force,” write the authors. Though crewmates thought Zeamer was dead after they landed, he and another crew member received the Medal of Honor and the remainder, the Distinguished Service Cross, making them the war’s most decorated aircrew.

Overly sentimental writing may test some readers, but the authors deliver a great war story.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7485-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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