Not a pretty story, nor prettily told. But few will deny that the dogs deserve this tribute.

A SOLDIER’S BEST FRIEND

SCOUT DOGS AND THEIR HANDLERS IN THE VIETNAM WAR

Acrid memoir of infantry days spent in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.

Four thousand dogs served in Vietnam for the American military. They were prizes for any unit, writes scout-dog handler Burnam in the gruff voice used throughout his text; sharp sensory equipment combined with extensive training gave them the jump on ambushes, booby traps, and kindred nasty battlefield situations. The first half of this work chronicles Burnam’s introduction to Vietnam—the clueless enlistee “had no idea there was a war going on in Vietnam or where that country was located on the globe”—providing a low-key but brisk primer on what it is like to be dropped into tropical landscapes to encounter people who want to kill you and work very hard to do so. (He will undoubtedly alienate some readers with his use of the term “Charlie,” but this seemingly derogatory nickname for “these fierce and savvy Asian warriors” comes as part of his rough packaging.) Luckily, Burnam managed to run a sharpened piece of bamboo through his knee rather than be killed, which certainly looked like his destiny. Recovering from that incident, he received training in dog-handling and then reenlisted for another tour of combat, a step for which he can provide no justification. The second half details his experiences on the battlefield with two German shepherds: Timber (“a grumpy draftee,” notes Burnam, tipping his hat to the dog’s native intelligence) and Clipper, who together saw the infantryman through traumatic combat shock, minefields, and intense battle fire. The dogs’ quick intelligence saved Burnam and his comrades’ bacon more than once. What thanks were they given? Fewer than 200 were shipped home, the remainder euthanized or slaughtered for food. The author and the Vietnam Dog Handler Association are seeking to acknowledge their contributions with a monument of their own.

Not a pretty story, nor prettily told. But few will deny that the dogs deserve this tribute.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1137-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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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