BAT BOMB

WORLD WAR II'S OTHER SECRET WEAPON

Another batman has returned—this one with inside information on a wondrously droll, highly classified yarn from WW II. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Couffer (The Lions of Living Free, 1972, etc.), on the strength of his experience as a teenage student assistant to a mammalogist employed by the Los Angeles County Museum, became a key player in one of military history's weirder chapters. The idea was to attach small incendiary bombs to millions of bats that would be released over Japan's largest cities; once the bats had roosted, the scheme's backers assumed, fires would flare up in remote recesses of the wood and paper structures common in Japan's urban areas, reducing major population centers to ashes. The notion of kamikaze bats was dreamed up and promoted by an eccentric oral surgeon, Lytle Adams (known as ``Doc''), whose powers of persuasion were such that he not only enlisted the personal support of FDR but also gained federal funds for his brainchild. Drawing on his own observations as the youngest member of Doc's odd little army, and on declassified archival sources, Couffer recalls the ultrasecret work that he and his offbeat colleagues did in out-of-the-way venues ranging from Bandera, Texas (a hamlet convenient to bat caves), through Utah's Dugway Proving Grounds. Despite technical difficulties, personality conflicts, turf battles, and allied woes, the intrepid members of Project X- Ray achieved a significant measure of success. Indeed, in their first one-way flight test bat bombers burned a new auxiliary air base to the ground. But early in 1944, the Pentagon killed the promising plan—in order, Couffer believes, to concentrate on the development of the atomic bomb. A well-told, stranger-than-fiction tale that could make a terrific movie. (Thirty-three b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-292-70790-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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