Among the strongest images of World War II is that of waves of Allied bombers "striking at the heart" of Germany, reducing German cities to rubble and destroying the German will to fight. But of late the issue of the effectiveness of strategic bombing has become a contested one in Britain, and journalist Hastings' contribution to the debate is a crippling blow to the carefully constructed myth of bomber warfare. Deftly interweaving stories of individual bomber groups with the machinations of strategy-making and the development of aircraft technology, Hastings gives a complete—and striking—picture of the Bomber Command at every level. He argues that the myth of bomber effectiveness was set before the outbreak of war; and despite the disastrous early bombing raids, with their high losses and missed targets, the myth died hard. He emphasizes the technological and strategic primitiveness that prevailed at that stage—the most pitiful example being the inability of the Wellington bombers to defend themselves against attack from the side, since their machine-gun turrets could rotate only 80 degrees. At first, the British had such confidence in their "precision bombing" that they made elaborate efforts to avoid civilian targets; but in 1942, with the ineffectiveness of their raids beginning to show, they switched to a policy of area bombing. The justification rested on three pillars: retribution for the German bombing of British cities, the crippling of the German production capacity, and the destruction of German morale. As Hastings notes, the moral implications of the choice were never discussed; and to the above list he adds a critical fourth element—by going over whole-hog to this policy, the British could prolong the opening of the "Second Front" and keep their losses to the 50,000 airmen killed. Hastings argues that strategic bombing did not significantly shorten the war, since it was ineffective until the tide had already turned. But the center of the book is the airmen themselves, who were offered up for slaughter—the chances of any of them lasting a month were slim—and who were transformed during the war from high-living adventurers to highly-trained technocrats. He manages, tersely, to convey something of the horror they experienced over Germany. A successful book in every way; thoughtfully analytic and emotionally gripping at the same time.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1979

ISBN: 0330392042

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979

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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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