A rigorous, sharp survey of this decisive moment in the war.



Suspenseful chronicle of the 12 days in December 1941 that would define the perimeters of the global conflagration.

Mawdsley (Professorial Research Fellow/Univ. of Glasgow; World War II: A New History, 2009, etc.) embarks on the action from the first day and never lets up in this crisp, chronological study—from the Japanese Imperial Conference’s ratification of war on Dec. 1 against the United States, Britain and the Netherlands, setting in motion the Southern Operation invasion, to Germany’s declaration of war on the U.S. on the 11th. In between, Hitler’s lightning thrust into the Soviet Union was now mired in mud and the approaching winter. In Libya, the British under General Ritchie were driving General Rommel and his Italian allies back from securing the supply port at Tobruk. Yet the essential crisis at this moment was gathering steam in Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands, with the launch of the Japanese invasion convoy on Dec. 4, which struck Malaya and southern Thailand, Singapore, Pearl Harbor, Wake, Guam, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Mawdsley has an excellent grip on the behind-the-scenes political and diplomatic scurrying among London, Washington, Berlin and Tokyo, much of it desperate and, to readers in hindsight, smugly blinkered, as Japan’s hostile intentions were not hidden and the Allies had broken the Japanese encryption in 1940. Crucial code warnings received by U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark were not delivered to the Pacific commanders in time. Pearl Harbor brought America into the war, bolstering Britain and turning the tide. Hitler announced in a Dec. 12 speech his resolve to “clear the table” of the Jews; a week later he had taken direct command of the German Army.

A rigorous, sharp survey of this decisive moment in the war.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-15445-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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