An intriguing analysis of the American war in Vietnam, as seen through the prism of the North Vietnamese supply line known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. When historians examine the crucial military engagements of the war, they usually focus on the 1965—68 Rolling Thunder bombing campaign, the 1968 Tet Offensive, the 1968 siege at Khe Sanh, the 1970 incursion into Cambodia, the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive, and the so-called Christmas bombings of 1972. But Prados, the author of a history of the National Security Council (Keepers of the Keys, 1991, etc.), makes a convincing case that the building of, North Vietnamese use of, and American and South Vietnamese attacks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail instead constitute the most important military aspects of the war: “The Trail serves as metaphor and microcosm.” Calling this 12,000-mile network of roads and paths the North Vietnamese “highway to victory,” he characterizes the trail as the “fulcrum” behind the 1975 North Vietnamese win. “By any standard of human endeavor and achievement, what happened on the Ho Chi Minh Trail must rank high among the works of men and women,” he claims. His well-researched, readable book contains impressively detailed nuts-and-bolts descriptions of how the trail was built and maintained. Prados also covers territory far removed from it, including analyses of Kennedy’s, Johnson’s, and Nixon’s Vietnam decision-making; Lao political machinations; US covert operations in Cambodia and Laos; the antiwar movement; and the impact on the war of the Soviet Union and China. Prados brings most of these analyses to bear on the American war effort in general and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in particular. One main reason the US lost in Vietnam, Prados concludes, was “Hanoi’s ability to sustain the Viet Cong [in South Vietnam] in the face of [US commanding Gen. William] Westmoreland’s attrition operations.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail, he says, “made that possible.” An original account of the Vietnam War, interpreted logistically.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 1998

ISBN: 0-471-25465-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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