An unusual tale of war and remembrance, with particular appeal—but perhaps disturbing undertones—for Vietnam and air-combat...




Solidly detailed amalgam of military history and contemporary archaeology, tracing American attempts to recover fallen soldiers.

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot staff writer Swift’s debut chronicles from start to finish a recovery search by the military’s Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), an expensive initiative to find remains of soldiers deemed “missing in action” during far-flung WWII and Vietnam battles. The author depicts such efforts as an unwritten contract with the military’s soldiers, an observation with particular poignancy regarding the helicopter crew the search pursues, lost in southeastern Laos on a virtual suicide mission in 1971. In the present day, Swift arrives in remote, snake-infested territory with an elaborately provisioned US-Laotian team for a monthlong dig; he’d previously visited sites in Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. The success of such projects depends on the team’s unorthodox but skilled military specialists and anthropologists, but also, more troublingly, on the locals’ compromised recollections—Swift cites cash-strapped officials hoarding and recycling war relics and remains. The author alternates his exhaustive look at the recovery process, which yields many tantalizing helicopter fragments but no conclusive human remains, with a dramatic recreation of events leading to the final mission of the four doomed airmen. They had volunteered for a repeat sortie into a “hot LZ” as part of the war’s largest helicopter campaign, which attempted to assist besieged South Vietnamese forces but was turned by the Vietcong into a devastating shoot-down. This action adds some muscle to the relatively cerebral, though haunting account of the arduous, inconclusive recovery operation. Overall, Swift’s narrative demonstrates a firm grasp on the dark quirks of contemporary Southeast Asia and on the determined efforts in challenging circumstances made by the talented eccentrics of the CILHI, though he also discusses the prospect of CILHI being too costly and difficult to continue indefinitely.

An unusual tale of war and remembrance, with particular appeal—but perhaps disturbing undertones—for Vietnam and air-combat buffs.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16820-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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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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