Not for the squeamish, but full of valuable insights.




A look at the role of infantry and the common soldier’s experience in America’s wars.

McManus (Military History/Missouri Univ. of Science and Technology; American Courage, American Carnage: 7th Infantry Chronicles: The 7th Infantry Regiment’s Combat Experience, 1812 Through World War II, 2009, etc.) studies ten typical actions: four from World War II, three from Vietnam, one from the first Gulf War and two from the current war in Iraq. They run the gamut from triumph to near-disaster, although all are technically American “victories,” and they all show how infantrymen serve as the key element in warfare. The author makes it clear that he believes that war is ultimately about men doing the dirtiest of jobs—killing other men, often hand to hand, to secure control of some piece of ground their superiors have ordered them to take. In fact, McManus chooses several battles (e.g., Peleliu in the Pacific, Dak To in Vietnam) to demonstrate how the leadership’s trust in bombing, artillery and other methods of “softening up” an enemy ignored the harsh realities of what the grunts eventually have to do. At Peleliu, the U.S. naval bombardment of the island left the Japanese defenders in fortified positions strong enough to take a heavy toll on the Marines sent to expel them. At Dak To, U.S. forces were lured into a battle for essentially useless territory, where the Vietnamese could engage them on favorable terms and withdraw seemingly at will. Even while describing successful actions, McManus does nothing to prettify the brutal face of combat. Drawing on firsthand accounts of participants, he makes his case that, whatever the promises of the “techno-vangelists,” the infantrymen “have done almost all of the fighting and dying in America’s modern wars.” In particular, the author holds up as models the Marine combined action platoons of Vietnam, who lived among the native population, learning their language and customs—and were undercut by higher-ups’ intent on body counts. A similar approach has worked in Iraq, he argues. McManus ends with “A Plea for Change,” urging better recognition of the critical role and central importance of the combat soldier, without whom he says no nation can be safe or strong.

Not for the squeamish, but full of valuable insights.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-451-22790-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: NAL Caliber/Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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