The annals of an US Army airborne unit whose fine showing in WW II was often superior to that of more celebrated outfits. Drawing on extensive interviews with surviving veterans as well as on archival sources, Astor (A Blood-Dimmed Tide, 1992, etc.) delivers a tellingly detailed account of the 517th Regimental Combat Team's 33-month life span. After providing background data on the wartime use of paratroops, he follows the RCT from its tough but somewhat chaotic training regimen in the backwoods of Georgia through its formal deactivation in 1946. After shipping out for the European theater, the 517th gave a fine account of itself in five major campaigns. It first hiked (not jumped) into battle north of Rome in mid-1944. Subsequently dropped into southern France, the regiment went on to fight bravely in the Rhineland, the Ardennes (in the Battle of the Bulge), and the Buertgen Forest, meanwhile earning a Congressional Medal of Honor, six Distinguished Service Crosses, and nearly 1,600 Purple Hearts (at the cost of 244 killed). Astor (who served as an infantryman in the ETO) devotes almost as much attention to the hard-nosed team's out-of-action antics as he does to its valor and sacrifices under fire, providing valuable perspectives on what gave the 517th (whose never-approved shoulder patch featured an irate vulture) remarkable esprit de corps during its relatively short-lived, albeit immensely productive, existence. An absorbing, informative take on how the American military once managed to make elite forces of a few professionals and hordes of citizen-soldiers. (Maps, 16 pages of b&w photographs—not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1993

ISBN: 1-55611-363-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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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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