FOUR HOURS IN MY LAI

THE SOLDIERS OF CHARLIE COMPANY

Brilliantly realized study of the infamous Vietnam War atrocity in which US soldiers burned a Vietnamese village to the ground, shot the livestock, raped the women, and drove 400 men, women, and children into a ditch to slaughter them with machine- gun fire. Bilton and Sim (Women at War, 1982)—who co-produced an Emmy-winning TV-documentary on My Lai—begin by speaking with Varnardo Simpson, gunner with Charlie Company, 1969; for 20 years he has imprisoned himself in a tiny shack, tortured by memories. Through extraordinary research, the authors go on to discover the sad fates of several of Simpson's fellow vets; talk with Vietnamese survivors of the bloodbath; reveal facts cloaked by the Army's court-martial system; expose White House machinations to obscure ``a grave breach'' of the 1949 Geneva Convention; and document a coverup involving dozens of officers right up to the rank of major general. Only one soldier was court-martialed for the massacre: Lt. William Calley. And, as the authors explain, initial public outrage gave way, apparently as the result of manipulations by Richard Nixon, to the sentiment that Calley was a martyr: When the soldier was convicted of premeditated murder, Nixon ordered him released from Leavenworth. By the authors' account, there was only one hero at My Lai: young helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson. Seeing Charlie Company driving children to the killing ditch, Thompson landed in front of troops, trained his machine guns on them, and rescued the children. In a supreme irony, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross: his sound judgment ``had greatly enhanced Vietnamese-American relations in the operational area.'' Thompson threw the decoration away. Savagery, the authors declare, has been endemic to every American conflict: in 1902, US troops in the Philippines slaughtered ``goo-goos'' indiscriminately; in WW II, soldiers sent their girlfriends Japanese skulls. But why is it continually repeated? ``Massacre has a short shelf life,'' say Bilton and Sim. Essential for the war scholar's bookshelf; for the generalist, a profoundly moving human document. (Eight pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-670-84296-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1992

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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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