A deft, engaging history of two young soldiers’ brief lives.



Sweetland (co-author: The Other College Guide, 2015) builds upon a cherished fragment of family history to create a comprehensive story of two opposing World War II pilots.

This well-researched volume tells of the author’s American uncle, Ted Sweetland, and the German who killed him, Joachim Müncheberg. On March 23, 1943, Müncheberg shot down Sweetland’s Spitfire over North Africa, but the American pilot steered his dying craft into the German ace’s Messerschmitt, killing him, as well. It was the 135th plane that Müncheberg had taken down and Sweetland’s first, as the German was a veteran pilot and the American a relative novice. Still, the author notes that the two were otherwise quite similar; both came from well-off families, and both were initially apolitical. The two even looked similar in appearance, she says: “[Joachim] was born just six months before Ted and when I saw his picture I thought they looked a little like cousins with their smooth white faces, light hair and deep blue eyes.” She details the histories of the two pilots as they make their ways to their joint, final fate. While Joachim, who came from a military family, was rising through the ranks as a pilot, Ted was trying to find himself as a California college student and fledgling writer and photographer. Joachim was shipped around the globe, wherever the Fatherland needed him; several months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Ted enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps against his parents’ wishes. Author Sweetland’s history is certainly quite a feat of research. She set out to learn more about the uncle she never met, starting with Ted’s war diary, then, through determined digging, located a nephew of Joachim’s, and this provided the foundation of this revealing work. Photos culled from family albums also help to bring the two men to life. In addition to family stories, however, Sweetland provides much-needed historical perspective by effectively explaining how World War II evolved and what exactly the two pilots’ places were within it. Overall, she’s done military-history readers a service by offering a war story on a very personal level.

A deft, engaging history of two young soldiers’ brief lives.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5426-1765-9

Page Count: 206

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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