Plodding and pedantic—but with poignant reminders that the tragedy of Vietnam need not have happened. (3 maps, not seen)




A retired CIA officer describes his considerable involvement in the Vietnam War and offers a somewhat self-serving account of the failure of American policy.

Allen compares himself to Cassandra, and, if his claims here (vetted by the CIA) are even partially true, the comparison is apt. Not long after the 1954 fall of Dien Bien Phu, Allen (and some unnamed colleagues who agreed with him) began offering to military commanders and politicians and diplomatic officers what they considered realistic assessments of the political and military situation in Vietnam, but no one believed them—or even wanted to hear their generally dark predictions. The author begins with a little personal history. Born in 1926, he saw action in the South Pacific during WWII. Afterwards, he joined the new Central Intelligence Agency and became a specialist in Indochinese affairs. He witnessed the increasing Vietnamese involvement of the US in the early 1950s and credits himself with predicting the assault on Dien Bien Phu (no one listened); he warned his superiors in 1954 that the US should not get involved in Vietnam (no one listened); and he saw the Tet Offensive coming (no one listened). During the 1950s and ’60s he was continually in and out of Vietnam—and, at one point, spent two years separated from his family. He believes that one of our principal failures was permitting the communists to win the ideological and psychological battles with the Vietnamese. He describes a chaotic situation during the 1960s and ’70s: There was, he says, no coordinated, integrated plan of intelligence among the military, the CIA, and the South Vietnamese—but there was an insatiable hunger for good news from those US leaders prosecuting the conflict, so the naysayers like Allen were gradually marginalized. Allen is no prose stylist: in his hackneyed text, burrs are under saddles, babies are thrown out with bathwater, and feet are held to the fire.

Plodding and pedantic—but with poignant reminders that the tragedy of Vietnam need not have happened. (3 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2001

ISBN: 1-56663-387-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet