For World War II enthusiasts, a fine history of an iconic battle.



The final campaign against Japan receives expert handling.

Former AP reporter and veteran military historian Wheelan (Midnight in the Pacific: Guadalcanal—The World War II Battle That Turned the Tide of War, 2017, etc.) reminds readers that by the time an immense armada descended on the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, Japanese leaders knew the war was lost. With victory out of the question, defenders concentrated on the mountainous south, where they dug massive underground shelters and tunnels, producing a huge interconnected complex largely immune to Allied firepower. It was also invisible from the air, so the invaders did not know what they were getting into. Taking lessons from earlier landings where resistance survived intense bombing, American ships and planes delivered the greatest bombardment of the war, which devastated Okinawans and their cities but barely touched the defenses. American forces met little opposition at first, but the Japanese had also learned from earlier battles that defending beaches was impossible in the face of superior naval firepower. Wheelan describes the brutal fighting that seized northern Okinawa and the surrounding islands over the next few weeks before turning to the main resistance in the south which soldiers encountered a week after landing. The campaign that followed featured heroism on both sides, horrendous casualties and suffering as well as atrocities—mostly but not entirely by the Japanese—as U.S. forces slowly battled south. “The battle of Okinawa,” writes the author, “was neither the climax nor the resolution of the Pacific war, but its battle royale—fought by the United States with crushing power and ferocity, and by Japanese forces with calculation, abandon, and fatalism.” Wheelan delivers excellent analyses and anecdotes and biographies of individuals from both sides, but the narrative is mostly a long series of unit-level actions down to the company and platoon level. Military buffs will eat them up, but general readers may skim.<

For World War II enthusiasts, a fine history of an iconic battle.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-306-90322-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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