A compassionate account of a dramatic incident in modern naval history, told with cinematic immediacy and narrative skill.




A riveting true tale of heroism and tragedy at sea.

On the morning of June 29, 1967, the US aircraft carrier Forrestal was preparing to launch a routine air raid against America's North Vietnamese enemies. The heaving deck was packed with fueled warplanes and a motley combination of old and new ordnance: Belgian-made Zuni rockets, leaky thousand-ton bombs of WWII vintage, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, and hundreds of other rockets and bombs. An instant after pilot John McCain (yes, that John McCain) gave the thumbs-up signal to his parachute rigger, he felt an enormous impact. A Zuni rocket had accidentally fired, gashing the side of McCain's plane and pouring hundreds of gallons of jet fuel onto the deck. Freelance journalist Freeman (Lay This Body Down, 1999) spares the reader no detail of the ensuing horror. First, fire engulfed the deck, then volatile WWII bombs “cooked off” in pools of jet fuel, triggering successive explosions from the munitions on the deck, blasting away sections of the ship, and wreaking bizarre damage on the bodies of the young men working there. Many died, while for those who survived to conquer the fire, just doing their jobs constituted unbelievable heroism. Freeman tells a few representative stories in detail. One kid stayed at his post at general quarters, alone, for five hours, because he'd been ordered to; three dying men, trapped in a steering compartment, uncomplainingly followed orders to transfer steering control before succumbing. In the end, 134 men died in the fire, and many survivors were left with haunting memories and crippling injuries. Incredibly, McCain survived with only minor wounds. Freeman blames the incident in large part on an electrical surge in the rockets and the use of old and faulty thousand-pound bombs, but leaves unclear whether the Navy's investigation of the fire, an unsatisfying combination of whitewash and scapegoating, taught it any enduring lessons.

A compassionate account of a dramatic incident in modern naval history, told with cinematic immediacy and narrative skill.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-621267-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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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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