Revealing look at yet another facet of the army’s racial politics.



Drawing on interviews with the survivors, journalist Colley paints a “Band of Others” picture of the first integrated unit to see combat in WWII.

In 1941, he writes, blacks were simply not considered reliable combatants by the white military hierarchy. Generals may have believed that integration was coming, but none were about to undertake “a social experiment” in the middle of a war whose outcome was still in doubt. The result, stresses Colley (The Road to Victory, not reviewed), is that African-American units were segregated from induction on and given inferior training that all but guaranteed the conventional expectation. The brass planned to deploy most black soldiers behind the lines as cooks, MPs, or auto mechanics, but manpower demands by early 1945 dictated another tactic: African-American platoons would be mixed in at the front with infantry units struggling against a Wehrmacht now fighting on its home soil. The author introduces the all-volunteer 5th platoon of K Company, 394th Regiment, 99th Infantry Division as it reinforces white soldiers, “mostly Southern boys,” pinned down on a hill at night a few miles east of the Rhine. The reader will doubtless guess there would be no book if the 5th had not acquitted itself with honor; one officer reported its ranks showed “courage to the point of foolishness.” In a worthwhile digression, the author explains why nobody should have been surprised: although there hadn’t been an integrated infantry since Washington’s Continental Army marched away, segregated black troops were crucially effective in the Civil War and also as Buffalo Soldier cavalry units (as they were nicknamed by the Cheyenne and Comanche) in campaigns against Mexico and Spain. “They saved our ass,” recalled one white infantryman in that action east of the Rhine. But it was decades before the 394th’s black veterans would join their comrades at reunions back in the States.

Revealing look at yet another facet of the army’s racial politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30035-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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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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