Readers who tolerate the overheated cinematics will discover a gripping story.

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THE GHOST MOUNTAIN BOYS

THE TERRIFYING BATTLE FOR BUNA—THE FORGOTTEN WAR OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC

Campbell (The Final Frontiersman, 2005, etc.) recreates the horror endured by Allied soldiers during the brutal New Guinea campaign of 1942-43.

Overshadowed by Marine heroics on nearby Guadalcanal, New Guinea combatants suffered triple the casualties and even worse conditions. The author builds his story around the 32nd Division, formed in 1940 but only minimally trained when it was abruptly sent to Australia, where it received no preparation for jungle fighting before moving to defend southern New Guinea in September 1942. In a bitter irony, two thirds of Japanese forces marching from the north through trackless jungles and freezing mountains died in the attempt, and the starving, disease-ridden remnants were already retreating when the 32nd began its advance. Fewer Americans died in the struggle north, but the story of their suffering makes painful reading, and the ragged, gaunt soldiers who survived had left most of their equipment behind. MacArthur assured local commanders that few Japanese remained when, in fact, they were numerous and protected by superb fortifications. Victory came after two months of ghastly fighting under terrible tropical conditions by soldiers who were short of supplies, malnourished and sick. The 32nd Division suffered 90 percent casualties. The book succeeds best describing events far from the battlefield. MacArthur’s genius was evident only in the publicity releases pouring from his headquarters. Directing the campaign from a distance (unlike the Marines’ Vandergrift at Guadalcanal), he ignored the immense difficulties of terrain and climate, rejected good intelligence when it contradicted his prejudices, repeatedly ordered poorly prepared units into suicidal attacks and then announced he’d won victories with minimal casualties. Despite a plethora of material including letters and diaries from both sides, Campbell recounts the fighting as Sunday supplement fiction, describing the action in purple prose as his soldiers snarl invented dialogue and engage in passionate internal monologues.

Readers who tolerate the overheated cinematics will discover a gripping story.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-307-33596-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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...

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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