THE KOREAN WAR

An overview of the 1950-53 "police action" that ranks with T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War and Bevin Alexander's Korea (1986). Having interviewed over 200 American, British, Canadian, and Chinese veterans, Hastings (Overlord, Bomber Command, The Battle for the Falklands) is able to put the bitter conflict into human-scale focus. As an Englishman, moreover, he offers fresh perspectives on the contributions of Commonwealth and other nations that, at no small sacrifice, sent troops to fight under the UN banner. In addition to obligatory coverage of the Inchon, Pusan, and Chosin campaigns, for example, he provides a musing account of the Gloucestershire Regiment's costly 1951 stand on the Imjin River, about 30 miles north of Seoul. Hastings is equally adept at capturing the big picture, offering persuasive interpretations of the causes and course of the Korean conflict, "a struggle the West was utterly right to fight." For instance, he documents the American miscalculations that' helped precipitate North Korea's mid-1950 invasion with "active assistance" from Moscow and "the connivance" of Peking. Along similar lines, the author argues convincingly that the US, whose forces bore the brunt of the combat duty, could have avoided confrontation with the Communist Chinese had it heeded clear warnings that they required North Korea as a buffer state. While the Korean War was effectively ended when peace talks started at Kaesong, Hastings makes clear that the small-unit actions and set-piece battles of the pre-ceasefire period were every bit as bloody as the dramatic thrust and parry of the first year. During the stalemate, UN and Chinese forces engaged in savage strife along the 38th Parallel, sustaining tens of thousands of casualties. Brutality and brawls in POW compounds on both sides also exacted a heavy toll while the superpowers took each other's measure at the bargaining table. A balanced, perceptive reckoning of what was won and lost in an important clash of arms that excited precious little interest or passion on home fronts. The absorbing text has photographs and maps (not seen).

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 1987

ISBN: 067166834X

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1987

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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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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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