The extremely prolific Jeffers (An Honest President, 2000, etc.) does much of his research in other popular histories....



An enthusiastic, only mildly critical account of America's original elite fighting unit.

Special forces like the Green Berets and SEALs didn’t exist when the U.S. entered World War II. Admiring the spectacular hit-and-run tactics of British Commandos, American leaders decided to form a similar unit in 1942. Chosen as its leader was William Darby, an obscure but popular staff officer of the 34th Infantry, the first American division to arrive in the U.K. Within two weeks, Darby had assembled 600 volunteers and led the newly named 1st Ranger Battalion to a Commando camp in Scotland for a brutal summer of training. That autumn, the battalion stormed ashore in North Africa to knock out two batteries just before the main landing. After other successful raids during the North African campaign, the Rangers, now expanded to a regiment, preceded the invasion of Sicily and of the Italian mainland at Salerno to protect one flank of the landing. An avalanche of publicity fostered by Phil Stern, a famous photographer who attached himself to the unit, made Darby’s Rangers as familiar to Americans as Patton’s Third Army or Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Britain’s handful of Commando units remained reserved for special operations, but the Rangers kept growing, and commanders could not resist using them on the front lines, where they suffered far more casualties than in raids. In the bloody January 1944 Anzio campaign, a botched attack decimated the unit. Other Ranger units made history in Normandy and the Pacific, but the remnants of Darby’s group scattered and never again fought together.

The extremely prolific Jeffers (An Honest President, 2000, etc.) does much of his research in other popular histories. Military buffs who have read those same books might give this one a pass, but readers unfamiliar with the Rangers will enjoy this dramatic account of their adventures.

Pub Date: July 3, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-451-22128-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: NAL Caliber/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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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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