Stanton’s prose has qualities of jittery brightness, but this dramatic recreation plays to his strengths and feels...



A crisp, well-executed reconstruction of naval warfare’s darkest chapter: the sinking and abandonment of the USS Indianapolis.

Men’s Journal editor Stanton sets out to vindicate Captain Charles McVay and to force the navy to declassify information relating to one of the worst disasters in naval history. After fulfilling a secret mission (the delivery of atomic bomb parts from Guam to Tinian) in July 1945, the cruiser Indianapolis was sent for gunnery practice in Leyte—without destroyer escort, and without classified information regarding Japanese submarine activity. The ship was torpedoed and sank in approximately 12 minutes, spilling about 900 sailors into the Pacific. On shore, her hurried SOS message was intercepted, then disregarded, by the radioman’s commanding officer. Furthermore, she was not noted missing by naval administrators for more than five days. Following a suspenseful account of the sinking, Stanton assembles a detailed chronology of the horrors endured by the floating survivors via a risky device: He narrates the sinking and its aftermath by assuming the voices of Captain McVay, the ship’s doctor, and one of the few surviving Marine guards. The latter two (and other survivors) were interviewed by Stanton; McVay, the only Navy captain ever court-martialed for losing his ship in wartime, shot himself in 1968 after years of torment. The author’s minute depiction of their privations—from shark attacks that killed an estimated 200 to homicidal dementia—is appropriately terrifying; he captures his characters’ surreal horror at watching their comrades needlessly perish prior to a belated rescue (which is also dramatically rendered). The conclusion explores the remaining survivors’ efforts to officially clarify what really happened (and McVay’s actual heroism), but the dark heart of the tale lies in its sustained, gruesome survival narrative.

Stanton’s prose has qualities of jittery brightness, but this dramatic recreation plays to his strengths and feels passionate and correct. His personal veneration of the survivors sustains a positive tone, despite uglier historical truths.

Pub Date: May 21, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6632-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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