Twenty years after the US withdrawal from Vietnam and a spate of books on the war, Bergerud (Military and American History/Lincoln Univ.) offers a fresh and original work that gives essential new insight into the US-Vietnam experience. Ignoring the diplomatic maneuvers of nations and the strategic histories of battles, Bergerud graphically reveals ``the world confronted by an American combat division...including...climate, living conditions, deadly combat, and morale,'' and catalyzes his text with the unvarnished stories of combat veterans. He focuses on the 25th Division; nicknamed ``Tropic Lightning,'' it lost 5000 men between 1966 and 1971. Bergerud notes, for example, the lack of experienced NCOs to lead troops in combat; the Army's answer, he explains, was to create ``shake and bake'' instant-sergeants drawn from likely looking stateside conscripts who were run through brief courses in leadership and then shipped to the fight. As Armored Cavalry Commander Carl Quickmeyer (one of the author's many interviewees) says of his first tour of duty, ``I took over a squad after three months in country...but now, you have four shake-and-bakes and a green platoon leader. And then you had guys who had been there for seven or eight months who didn't have any experience.'' Explanations of Army standard operations and of soldiers' reactions are definitive and riveting as Bergerud covers the emotions of men in firefights; the quagmire of patrolling the same area hundreds of times; soldier's stories of being wounded; Vietnamese civilians' views of US soldiers; drug use; racial tension; and the Army's withholding of troop-movement intelligence from grunts, even though for them it was vital, possibly life-saving, information. The war at ground level, in full force. (Photographs and maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8133-1128-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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