A fine contribution to the genre: The author has done his homework well, interviewing survivors and poring over old records...

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THE EMPEROR’S CODES

THE BREAKING OF JAPAN’S SECRET CIPHERS

An account of American and British operations that broke Japanese codes during WWII.

Japan and Germany did not lose the war because of the Allied advantage in numbers and material—all the big turning-point battles occurred early on, when the Allies were outnumbered. It was stupidity that defeated the Axis, and nothing illustrates this better than the story of codebreaking. In 1943, when fighters shot down a transport carrying Admiral Yamamoto, it was publicized as a lucky accident—but, in fact, details of his flight had been broadcast by the Japanese and intercepted. Inferior American forces could not have won the key naval battle of Midway without knowledge of enemy positions given by Japanese transmissions: American submarines devastated Japanese shipping because we knew their routes and positions. Even Pearl Harbor came as a shock not through poor codebreaking, but because US intelligence concentrated on reading the Japanese diplomatic (rather than military) code. We knew their diplomats negotiating in Washington were not serious and that Japan was about to launch a war, but the details were elsewhere. British journalist Smith (Station X, not reviewed) includes a fascinating step-by-step explanation of codebreaking, but most readers will probably not be able to follow beyond the first steps. Because of their difficult language and sense of intellectual superiority, the Japanese assumed their codes were unbreakable—but they were merely difficult. The codebreakers themselves were a collection of academics, geniuses, and eccentrics assisted by a vast army of clerks (including many women). There were also plenty of small-minded bureaucrats and arrogant (mostly American) officials unwilling to share information, so progress was often unnecessarily slow.

A fine contribution to the genre: The author has done his homework well, interviewing survivors and poring over old records to tell the story of one of the greatest capers of the century.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55970-568-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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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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