No revisionist but a solid storyteller and naval scholar, Symonds mixes politics, strategy, sea battle fireworks, technical...




A veteran maritime historian delivers a satisfying one-volume history of “the impact of sea services from all nations on the overall trajectory and even the outcome” of World War II.

The massive naval campaigns of 1939 to 1945 remain the largest in history and will probably never happen again. Though there have been hundreds of books about this subject, readers will welcome this fine account from a highly qualified guide. Symonds (Maritime History/U.S. Naval War Coll.; Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings, 2014, etc.) emphasizes that because no navy was fully prepared for war in 1939, everyone got it wrong. Neither Hitler nor his naval chief gave priority to submarines, so Germany began the war with too few and never caught up. Despite many horrendous sinkings, ably described by the author, 99 percent of Allied ships reached their destinations. Many historians now agree that U-boats never came close to cutting off supplies to Britain. The far more successful American submarine campaign wreaked havoc on Japan’s merchant fleet, bringing the country close to starvation in 1945. It’s a cliché but also true that most pre–WWII naval planners failed to realize that air power made their first love, battleships, obsolete. A minority of Japanese admirals understood, and the two-year delay before America’s entry into the war allowed American officials to realize what they needed. Rocking no boats, Symonds agrees that the Allied victory resulted from British stubbornness at the beginning, followed by Russian blood and American industrial production. He adds that brains, luck, and enemy stupidity remained essential, enabling America to turn the tide against Japan in 1942 at Midway and Guadalcanal with inferior forces.

No revisionist but a solid storyteller and naval scholar, Symonds mixes politics, strategy, sea battle fireworks, technical details, and personal anecdotes to deliver one of the better single-volume histories of the naval portion of WWII.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-024367-8

Page Count: 792

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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


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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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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