A natural for military historians, war buffs and even teenagers looking for an authentic adventure story.



Spirited literary reportage of life-and-death battles, heroism and failure aboard two U.S. submarines in World War II’s Pacific theater.

On November 19, 1943, the USS Sculpin was damaged beyond repair during a naval battle off the coast of Japan. Most of the crew was taken prisoner. The captain scuttled the submarine, going down with his ship—and with the secrets he held about the Navy’s capacity to break Japanese radio signal codes. Two weeks later, the USS Sailfish torpedoed a Japanese carrier that happened to hold half the Sculpin survivors, en route to a POW camp. The story of this encounter is the culmination of first-time author McCullough’s far-reaching military history. Yet the bulk—and real meat—of the book takes place in the years before. We learn of the two ships’ early patrols, successes and failures, day-to-day routines, nerve-fraying attack and defense maneuvers during battle. McCullough employs novelistic techniques, taking us into submarine control towers, torpedo rooms, sweaty living quarters and the quiet chambers of Naval code breakers, standing them beside Japanese spies and POW camp torturers. He surely had to reimagine some events, but his compelling narrative is solidly based on information from patrol reports, eyewitness accounts, interviews with surviving sailors, diaries, notebooks, letters sent home, etc. And anyone who thinks the nail-biting suspense isn’t credible in this kind of nonfiction clearly hasn’t read James Calvert’s classic memoir Silent Running (1995). The Battle of Midway is one of several oft-told Pacific war stories rehashed here, but this background is required to make clear later events enveloping the Sculpin and Sailfish.

A natural for military historians, war buffs and even teenagers looking for an authentic adventure story.

Pub Date: May 13, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-17839-6

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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