Plenty of excitement and good writing, along with the occasional clunker.


Three dozen accounts, many excerpted from previously published work, of military and paramilitary exploits that will provide long hours of pleasure to buffs.

The titular “mammoth” is accurate, as usual, but “elite forces” is an exaggeration. Many of these dramatic actions involved either regular units—like the U-boat that snuck into Scapa Flow in 1940 to sink a British battleship and the US Marines on Peleiu in 1944, or volunteers from ordinary units, such as Doolittle’s 1941 raid on Tokyo, Merrill’s Marauders fighting till they collapsed in Burma in 1944—and the Flying Tigers in early 1940s China. If paratroopers and engineers are included, most of the accounts involve units with specialized training such as Green Berets, Rangers, Navy SEALs, and British Commandos. In any case, the end results were often spectacular, including some dazzling triumphs and a surprising number of disasters. Lewis (The Mammoth Book of True War Stories, not reviewed) sticks to the years since 1939; all the stories provide fireworks, but the prose quality varies. A witty account of a failed 1942 British raid behind Rommel’s lines mostly describes a long, long walk across the desert to safety. A few chapters, like the one recounting a battle during the Falklands War, are written in turgid militarese. Plenty of incidents are also old-hat: the Israeli hostage rescue at Entebbe, the Ranger assault on the cliff at Omaha Beach, the Nazi rescue of Mussolini, disasters at Arnhem and Dieppe. Yet jaws will drop at the tale of one of the greatest sabotage operation in any war, carried out by Italy, a nation not known for its warriors. Three midget subs crept into Alexandria harbor in 1941 and blew up three British ships, including two battleships.

Plenty of excitement and good writing, along with the occasional clunker.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0952-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2001

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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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