Excellent revisionist history.

THE BOMBER MAFIA

A DREAM, A TEMPTATION, AND THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Another Gladwell everything-you-thought-you-knew-was-wrong page-turner, this one addressing a historical question that still provokes controversy.

During the unprecedented slaughter of World War I, bombers played a trivial role. However, by the 1930s, many military thinkers concluded that they were the weapon of the future. Were they right? Gladwell concentrates on the careers of Gens. Curtis LeMay and Haywood Hansell, but the author includes several of his characteristic educative, entertaining detours—e.g., histories of napalm and the Norden bombsight. Between the wars, all rising American Air Corps officers attended the Air Corps Tactical School in Alabama. A small part of the faculty, the Bomber Mafia, taught that high-altitude, daylight, precision-bombing would win wars. During World War II, Mafia stalwart Hansell sent fleets of bombers to destroy German and Japanese industrial targets. Unfortunately, due to weather, enemy resistance, and failure of the overhyped Norden bombsight, the bombs mostly missed. Gladwell delivers a fairly flattering portrait of LeMay, who “had a mind that moved only forward, never side­ways…[and] was rational and imperturbable and incapable of self-doubt.” Heading the 21st Bomber Command in the Pacific in the fall of 1944, Hansell was conducting high-altitude precision daylight bombing of Japan, with the usual poor results. Replacing him in January 1945, LeMay did no better—until he changed tactics, sending missions at night, at low level, loaded with firebombs. His first round of bombing created a firestorm that killed an estimated 100,000 Tokyo civilians. LeMay’s bombers went on to devastate 67 Japanese cities, and the raids continued until the day of surrender. In his opinion, the atomic bombs were superfluous; the real work had already been done. Some historians call this a humanitarian crime that failed to shorten the war. Evenhanded as usual, Gladwell does not take sides, but he quotes a Japanese historian who disagreed: “if they don’t surrender, the Soviets invade, and then the Americans invade, and Japan gets carved up, just as Germany and the Korean peninsula eventually were.”

Excellent revisionist history.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-29661-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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