A competent inquiry into a naval battle that, Thomas ably shows, deserves more study.

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SEA OF THUNDER

FOUR COMMANDERS AND THE LAST GREAT NAVAL CAMPAIGN: THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC, 1941-1945

The paths of four different seaborne warriors—two Japanese, two Americans—collide at the now-overlooked Battle of Leyte Gulf, the “gory apex,” mother of all sea battles.

The October 1944 battle remains the largest in history; as Newsweek assistant managing editor Thomas observes, it involved 300 ships and nearly 200,000 sailors over an area of 100,000 square miles. Most Americans know little about it, perhaps because many sailors at the time wanted to forget it; for one thing, Thomas writes, the battle involved serious missteps on the part of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey—no one but reporters ever called him “Bull,” and then not to his face—who through miscommunication and “poor staff work” failed to control a critically important approach, endangering the American invasion of the Philippines. He blamed near-disaster on a subordinate, Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, who, shut out from Halsey’s master plan, made assumptions that he should not have. Halsey elliptically acknowledged later that “he had been bold where caution was called for,” but Thomas does more to relieve Kinkaid of blame. The battle cost the lives of many American sailors, including one of Thomas’s four chief subjects, Commander Ernest Evans, a mixed-blood Cherokee who set his destroyer against the Japanese as if he were leading a cavalry charge. Among the fighters on the Japanese side were two admirals, Matome Ugaki and Takeo Kurita, who took different approaches to military matters; Ugaki, whose superiors regarded him as a drunk, had worried from the outset that Japan would lose a war with America but nevertheless followed and exceeded orders, while Kurita decided on his own to steam away from battle, thereby saving the lives of perhaps 30,000 Japanese sailors and untold Americans as well; whereas Ugaki launched kamikaze assaults, Kurita “had not been willing to sacrifice his men in a futile gesture of nobility.”

A competent inquiry into a naval battle that, Thomas ably shows, deserves more study.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-5221-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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