A well-rounded account of the bitter WW II battles in which the US, at no small cost, put paid to Japan's Pacific ambitions. Drawing on a wealth of archival sources, van der Vat (The Atlantic Campaign, 1988; Gentleman of War, 1984) sets the stage for his hell-and-high-water narrative with a concise review of the sociopolitical and economic factors that put Japan's militant imperialists on a collision course with isolationist America. Stressing Tokyo's goal of autarky, he notes that Washington never really believed its embargoes would cause the island nation to launch a preemptive strike. It did just that at Pearl Harbor, though, paving the way for walkover conquests in the Philippines, Singapore, Guam, Indochina, and other outposts of Western empire. In the meantime, van der Vat recounts, a fighting-mad US regained its equilibrium and stemmed the Japanese tide, first at Midway, then at Guadalcanal, finally attaining easy reach of its foe's home islands before two atomic bombs obviated the necessity for an invasion. Although he offers a first-rate rundown of major campaigns, sideshows, surface-vessel engagements, and carrier clashes, van der Vat goes well beyond mere combat reportage. He provides, for example, informative briefings on summit meetings in Casablanca, Quebec, Tehran, Potsdam, and other venues that put key actions in clear perspective. He also offers thoughtful analyses that tax the Allies for failure to achieve unity of command and the Japanese for a fatal lack of strategic vision. And throughout, van der Vat focuses on the do-or-die fanaticism of Japanese troops and the atrocities they committed, at one point contrasting these perverted legacies of Bushido with the effort invested in getting a single American sailor back to the States for treatment of his wounds. A vivid, often harrowing log of a pivotal chapter in the history of naval/amphibious warfare. (Sixteen pages of photographs and maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-73899-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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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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