A vivid, well-researched history of one of America’s many misguided military expeditions.



A little-known piece of World War I history in a “frozen Hades, [the] last place on earth at the top of the world.”

Beginning in September 1918, 5,000 American soldiers spent a miserable year fighting Bolsheviks in the Russian Arctic. In this fast-paced account, journalist and historian Nelson (I Will Hold: The Story of USMC Legend Clifton B. Cates, from Belleau Wood to Victory in the Great War, 2016) delivers a detailed, often gruesome narrative of this century-old campaign. In March 1918, Russia’s revolutionary government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers and withdrew from the war, freeing more than 1 million German soldiers to attack Russia’s former allies—Britain, France, and America—on the Western Front. Outraged, many Allied leaders yearned to reverse matters. Initially opposed to intervention, President Woodrow Wilson eventually agreed with the official explanation that it was required “to guard military stores which may be subsequently needed by Russian forces and to render such aid as may be acceptable to the Russians in the organization of their own self-defense.” As a result, the 339th Infantry Regiment and several ancillary units landed in Archangel in northwest Russia. They served under English command, complaining bitterly of the unpalatable food and inferior cigarettes. Nelson has turned up enough journals, letters, newspaper accounts, and memoirs to give an intimate, blow-by-blow description of a nasty campaign fought under unspeakable conditions against the Red Army, an initially ragtag unit that grew increasingly competent. The author reminds readers that these Americans were citizen soldiers, not professionals, yet they continued to obey orders after the war ended and during the Arctic winter, when temperatures dipped far below zero. More than 200 died. By year’s end, family, congressmen, and a few soldiers were complaining. In February 1919, Wilson directed the war department to plan their withdrawal, and by summer, they were gone.

A vivid, well-researched history of one of America’s many misguided military expeditions.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-285277-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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