A noteworthy chronicle—and surprising appreciation—of two well-matched foes from the Greatest Generation.


Extraordinary Leaders


A debut book details the fighting lives of two soldiers in the South Pacific during World War II, one a U.S. Navy officer, the other a young Japanese lieutenant.  

The author deploys an intriguing dual biography of two combatants on opposite sides during the war in the Pacific, neatly balancing the two portraits of military officers from two very different cultures. One is his own uncle, Vernon Jannotta, a veteran of both world wars who saw extensive Navy service during World War II—and, being middle-aged, was “the old man” to his younger troops in battles throughout the Philippines and New Guinea (yet could still hold his own physically and in drinking, readers are told). Through the family, the author was provided with his uncle’s many descriptive letters home to his beloved wife, describing the rigors of combat and command in detail (the officer was bright enough not to include classified material that could assist the enemy). The other protagonist is Kotaro Kawanishi, a Japanese Imperial lieutenant who, before his death in 1967, wrote an unpublished memoir, which was helpfully provided to the author. The two soldiers never met but are still a compelling study paired side by side. Many band-of-brothers tales from the South Pacific (going all the way back to James Michener) relate the conflict from the American vantage point. The victory here lies with an evenhanded view of the Japanese, making (somewhat) comprehensible to a modern Western mindset the rigid ideas of discipline and beyond-human sacrifice that still seem outwardly savage and barbaric (even before the advent of the kamikazes, Japanese Zero pilots flew missions without parachutes; the notion of surviving a plane crash was not an option). Although only in his 20s and sometimes overwhelmed by responsibilities, Kawanishi seemed an enlightened sort. Rather than succumbing to base survival instinct when stranded on an island with thousands of starving comrades (of whom only about 270 would live to the war’s end), he worked out an equitable, humane farming/education deal with the natives. He was ultimately offered a chief’s virgin daughter in appreciation (he appears to have declined); even the French and Australians treated him with respect. Generous photos and maps accompany the accounts of courage and day-to-day travails.

A noteworthy chronicle—and surprising appreciation—of two well-matched foes from the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-5008-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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