Entertaining popular military history, mostly for fans of the genre.

ROCK FORCE

THE AMERICAN PARATROOPERS WHO TOOK BACK CORREGIDOR AND EXACTED MACARTHUR'S REVENGE ON JAPAN

A history of the fierce 1945 battle to recapture the island fortress in Manila harbor.

The U.S. suffered the greatest military defeat in its history after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December 1941, although American and Filipino forces on Corregidor held out for a month before surrendering in May 1942. When the Americans returned to the Philippines in October 1944, Corregidor had little strategic but much symbolic value. Journalist Maurer is not the first to recount the nasty battle for its reconquest in February 1945. Carried by a fleet of transport aircraft, 3,000 men of the 503rd parachute regiment dropped on the island’s central high points, a particularly dangerous operation because there were no large open areas. Many men were injured. Expecting an amphibious assault, the Japanese were taken by surprise; however, based inside the island’s extensive tunnels, caves, and fortifications, all were under orders to fight to the death. About 4,500 did so, with only 119 taken prisoner; 228 Americans died. Much of the narrative is a series of gripping, somewhat scattershot accounts of small-unit firefights, ambushes, suicidal attacks, heroic feats, and tragic deaths. The sole map of the entire island is little help in following the action, so readers should sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Although the mission was a combined airborne and amphibious assault, Maurer relies heavily on unpublished memoirs by three paratroopers, so the seaborne landing is only mentioned in passing; readers searching for a more balanced account will need to look elsewhere. Having worked hard and long gathering material, Maurer crafts a narrative that reads less like serious history and more like a novel, with invented dialogue and melodrama. Still, history buffs can be assured that he gets his facts right.

Entertaining popular military history, mostly for fans of the genre.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4476-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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