A conventional but richly rewarding history of the last war that turned out well for the U.S.

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The final volume in Toll’s fine Pacific War Trilogy.

The author begins with the July 1944 Honolulu meeting of the key American figures. He rocks no boats in his evaluations of Franklin Roosevelt (canny if slippery politico), Adm. Chester Nimitz (brilliant but colorless technocrat), and Gen. Douglas MacArthur (military genius with a massive ego). At the meeting, American officials reached a decision to invade Japan by way of the Philippines rather than Formosa. By 1944, Japanese leaders knew that victory was impossible but also believed that they were unconquerable. Once Americans, whom they considered technically advanced but soft, realized that every Japanese soldier, civilian, and child would fight to the death, they would lose heart and agree to a compromise peace. “There was a difference between defeat and surrender,” writes the author, a meticulous historian, “between losing an overseas empire and seeing the homeland overrun by a barbarian army.” Ironically, the first part of the Japanese strategy worked. Convinced that the Japanese preferred death to surrender, American military leaders did not quail but simply proceeded with that in mind. There is no shortage of accounts of the brutal island-hopping invasions (Peleliu in September, the Philippines in October, Iwo Jima in February 1945, Okinawa in April), but Toll’s take second place to none. Accompanying the Philippine invasion was the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in world history. The most effective submarines of the war were not Hitler’s but America’s, which crippled Japan’s economy and sank a torrent of warships. Toll’s account of the coup de grace, the atomic bomb, barely mentions the debate over its use because that began after the war. At the time, a few administration figures protested but did not make a big fuss, and it turned out to require two bombs and the Soviet invasion before Japan decided to surrender.

A conventional but richly rewarding history of the last war that turned out well for the U.S. (32 photos; 20 maps)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-08065-0

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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