TOUCHED WITH FIRE

THE LAND WAR IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC

Eyewitness accounts by combat survivors of early battles of the Pacific, interspersed with lucid commentary by the author, recounting how green American and veteran Australian troops stopped the seemingly invincible Japanese army in mid-1942 in Guadalcanal and New Guinea. (For an account of one American's war in the South Pacific, see Peter Richmond, My Father's War, p. 672.) Military historian Bergerud (Lincoln Univ.; Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning, 1993) captures the reality of life in the firing pits for untested Allied soldiers opposing an experienced, ruthless enemy with a reputation for cruelty. The South Pacific, Bergerud reminds us, was a terrible place to fight a war, with its dense and dangerous jungles, extreme heat and humidity, and frequent torrential rains. Diseases like malaria, dengue fever, scrub typhus, and dystentery took as high a toll as combat. Battles were fought at very close quarters, often by small units led by captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, not generals. Bergerud rates General MacArthur, despite flaws, as a great strategic leader, and the Australian army as the best infantry in the South Pacific. In addition, the First Marine Division, with many underage youngsters, fought with great endurance and bravery, and increasing skill, at Guadalcanal. Nevertheless, Bergerud notes that the army greatly outnumbered marines in the South Pacific and did far more of the fighting, despite the general impression created by the outstanding marine publicity machine. In the later central Pacific campaigns, on the other hand, the marines were in fact responsible for some sanguinary victories. The author discusses in detail the daily life of the soldiers and the weaponry and tactics central to the dreadful process of combat. According to Bergerud, the growing Japanese emphasis on fighting to the end resulted in a ``take no prisoners'' attitude by the Allies. Victory in the South Pacific in 194243 was, Bergerud persuasively argues, the first crucial step in bringing the war home to the Japanese and thereby ending it. One of the best books about WW II, capturing both the powerful if narrow view of the combat soldier and the panoramic vantage point of the military historian. (8 pages b&w photos, 8 maps)

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-670-86158-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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

NIGHT

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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