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OVERLORD

From Russell Weigley's solid Eisenhower's Lieutenants (1980) to John Keegan's tour-de-force Six Armies in Normandy (1982) to Carlo D'Este's microscopic Decision in Normandy (1983), recent writings have shot down the "chauvinist legends" Hastings decries. His contribution is no less noteworthy: "It seems fruitless to consider whether an Allied plan or maneuver was sound in abstract terms. The critical question, surely, was whether it was capable of being carried out by the available Allied forces, given their limitations and the extraordinary skill of their enemies." Hastings (Bomber Command) has interviewed both Allied and German Veterans. Col. Heinz Guderian: "There was no alternative but to keep one's nerve." Brigadier Bill Williams: "The Germans liked soldiering. We didn't." He is mindful of the issues—Montgomery's failed "plan," American vs. British performance, could the Germans have prevailed?—and thorough and sensitive in his judgments. Montgomery's error was never to admit error, never to acknowledge failure—thus forfeiting trust; but he had, correspondingly, "the iron will to persevere." By resisting political pressure for results, he averted "a British bloodbath." And could he "have been sacked. . .without inflicting an intolerable blow to British national confidence?" Detailed treatment of the near-catastrophic American assault on Omaha beach scores V Corps commander Gerew for hubris (in eschewing "tactical subtleties, the use of British specialized armour, and any attempt to seize the five vital beach exits by maneuver"), pronounces the day saved only by "the men on the sand." Similar detailing of the British failure to secure Caen finds the expectation unrealistic, troop performance sluggish or muddled. Overall: "The Allied armies discovered the limits of what metal alone could achieve"; "It ill became either army. . .to harp upon the shortcomings of the other." (But—in answer to Clifford Irving and Anthony Cave Brown—the Germans couldn't have won.) Additional points, from D-Day to Cherbourg to the Falaise gap: the crucial advantage of surprise (and German indecision) lost by vehicle pile-up on the beaches, the inability to move up tanks and gain momentum; "the superiority of almost all [German] weapons in quality, if not in quantity"; the tenacity and resilience of less-than-elite German troops; the shooting of prisoners by the Allies as well as the Germans ("among scores of Allied witnesses interviewed. . .almost every one had direct knowledge. . ."); the difference between the American COBRA breakout and the British GOODWOOD failure—against an unbroken German front, tanks (without men) were unavailing. The book has, finally, two moving, chilling effects. It presents the infantry soldier, "locked in battle," in the image of Passchendaele. And it suggests that, were Soviet troops ever to sweep across Europe, "the level of sacrifice and endurance displayed by the Allies" in Normandy wouldn't suffice to defeat them. But it's the intricate mesh of theme and experience—Brigadier Williams wondering, early on, "To what extent would these chaps make a good showing despite Hitler?"—that gives Hastings' work exceptional force.

Pub Date: June 6, 1984

ISBN: 0671554352

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1984

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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