KOREA: 1950-1953

For an ostensibly forgotten war, the Korean ``police action'' has commanded a lot of literary attention in recent years. Unfortunately, Toland (Infamy, Adolf Hitler, The Last Hundred Days, etc.) does not add a great deal to available lore. In fact, though he draws on some fresh sources, there are no new or startling perspectives in this readable, if sometimes perverse and portentous, narrative overview of the conflict. A diligent researcher, Toland makes a generally good job of putting the war's first year into human-scale focus, documenting the murderous battles that raged from the mid-1950 Communist invasion of the South through the Pusan, Inchon, Chosin, and allied campaigns. He's equally competent, if often elusively contrarian, at capturing the big picture, offering short-take interpretations of the war's causes and course. He shows, for example, how the US failed to heed China's clear warnings that it required North Korea as a buffer state. Despite a conspicuous (and admitted) lack of evidence, however, Toland leaves open the question of whether the Allies employed biological weapons. Along similar lines, he taxes Truman with prolonging the stalemated fighting by virtue of his insistence on voluntary repatriation of all POWs. Like most annalists, Toland concludes that the Korean War ended when peace talks began at Kaesong. As he nonetheless makes clear in his summary coverage, it took two more years to negotiate a cease-fire, during which time American and Chinese troops engaged one another, sustaining tens of thousands of casualties in the bloody, purposeless process. A less-than-balanced accounting of what was won and lost in a clash of arms that aroused precious little interest, much less passion, on the home front. Among other superior alternatives, Bevin Alexander's Korea (1986) and Max Hastings's The Korean War (1987) stand out. The sparsely annotated text has 55 photographs and 18 helpful maps.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-688-10079-1

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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