A compelling glimpse into forgotten World War II history.




Four survivors of a World War II Japanese prison camp are the subjects of this gripping story.

Colton (Counting Coup: A Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn, 2000) picks up his subjects at a young age. While they came from different parts of the country and different backgrounds, they had in common impoverished childhoods and were hit hard as the Depression took its toll on their families. Chuck Vervalin, from upstate New York, dreamed of becoming a harness race driver; Bob Palmer, from Oregon, joined the Navy when his girlfriend dropped him after she entered college; Texan Tim McCoy figured the Navy would be easier than the four jobs he was working to support his mother; Canadian-born Gordy Cox, growing up in Washington State, dropped out of school because the work was too hard. All ended up on the U.S.S. Grenadier, a submarine patrolling off Malaya early in the war. Bombed by a Japanese plane, its captain and crew were taken prisoner in April 1943. From then until the end of the war, more than two years later, they were imprisoned, beaten, tortured, starved and forced to work in Japanese factories. Colton tells their stories in unflinching detail, looking at their different survival stragegies. McCoy played the tough guy, even taking on one of the guards in a wrestling match; Cox tried to fade into invisibility. Liberated after the Japanese surrender, they returned to their lives in the United States, looking for a new, normal life. The author follows them for a short time, then jumps to the present day, wrapping up their stories in a final epilogue chapter for each man. All showed signs of what in more recent veterans would have been diagnosed as PTSD, though they would have rejected that term. All had marital troubles, and all were at one point heavily dependent on alcohol. But each of them made it into their 80s with full mental acuity, and Colton has given them a fine last chance to tell their stories.

A compelling glimpse into forgotten World War II history.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-609-61043-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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