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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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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