An expertly researched addition to the military history/biography genre.



A new World War II history from a stalwart in the genre.

Plenty of niches remain to be explored in WWII history; Wukovits (Soldiers of a Different Cloth: Notre Dame Chaplains in World War II, 2018), who specializes in finding them, has found another. Military buffs will be grateful. The author begins with accounts of two promising young men—Billy Hoggs, a bright farmer’s son, and Eugene Mandeberg, a scholarly city dweller—who responded to American entry into the war by volunteering as naval aviators. After more than a year of highly technical and dangerous training, their unit arrived off the coast of Japan in July 1945. By then, no one doubted that the Allies had won, but since enemy leaders continued to proclaim that they would fight to the death, American forces concentrated on softening up Japan for a massive invasion scheduled for the end of the year. This was extremely dangerous work. Japan’s once-vaunted air force barely existed, but anti-aircraft defenses were stronger than ever. Wukovits delivers gripping nuts-and-bolts descriptions of the group’s missions over the following month. The atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima on Aug. 6. The soldiers on the aircraft carrier in the area heard the news a day later and drew the obvious conclusion; no one was happy when their commander, William Halsey, announced that strikes would continue as long as Japan held out. Two more men died before the Aug. 15 mission. Japan officially surrendered two hours after it left, and it was called back. During the return, 20 Japanese fighters attacked suddenly, shooting down four American planes before being driven off. Inevitably, this cast a pall over the carrier’s victory celebrations. The survivors and the men’s families never forgave Halsey, but the incident faded from history until Wukovits, author of a Halsey biography, discovered enough material about two of the fliers to tell their stories.

An expertly researched addition to the military history/biography genre.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-306-92205-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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