DAYS OF INFAMY

GREAT MILITARY BLUNDERS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

A fun albeit shallow look by Coffey, managing editor of Publishers Weekly and editor of The Irish in America (not reviewed)—the companion volume to an upcoming History Channel series—and with a lengthy and rewarding introduction by 60 Minutes” Mike Wallace. Arranged chronologically within each war, Days of Infamy covers the greatest hits of military history in this century. There is nothing here that will come as a surprise to even a casual reader of modern history, but the accounts are written in light and casual style, with the facts always straight and clear, that makes the book an ideal occasional read. Coffey’s definition of a military blunder seems to include any event that has happened during wartime, such as the Treaty of Versailles (more a diplomatic blunder than a military one) or the WWII bombing mission lost due to poor weather, but many of the tales certainly do fall into the genuine military blunder category, such as WWI’s infamous Gallippoli (in which British and Australian troops were sent to attack a heavily defended Turkish beach); the story of the “Bridge Too Far” at Arnhem in WWII, in which the allies underestimated German capabilities in attempting to bring the war in Europe to a swift end; John F. Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs disaster; the US bomber crash that brought four H-bombs plummeting onto Spain; and Jimmy Carter’s attempt to free the hostages in Iran with a complicated military mission. Coffey is at his best when covering the large sweep of history in brief spurts, such as his introductions to the various sections into which the book is divided by historical periods. Brief, well-researched, and ultimately unenlightening, on a topic that involves the deaths of millions and could go on for volumes. (16 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-6556-3

Page Count: 283

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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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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