One of the best treatments to date of America’s rapid transition from the Depression to the wartime power it became.

THE RISE OF THE G.I. ARMY, 1940-1941


A richly detailed history of the rebuilding of American military power in the run-up to World War II.

In 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, the U.S. Army had fewer than 120,000 men in uniform; Gen. Douglas MacArthur said they all could have fit into Yankee Stadium. Recognizing that war was all but inevitable, President Franklin Roosevelt took steps to revitalize the nation’s military, and his most important move was likely the appointment of Gen. George Marshall as chief of staff of the Army. Marshall had been prepared for the job due to his leadership in the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, in which young men learned discipline and skills that coincidentally prepared them for life in the Army. The CCC, writes Dickson, “became a driving force for improving the Army and facilitating the education and professional development of key officers.” The establishment of a peacetime draft in 1940—against strong opposition from isolationists in Congress and elsewhere—was also a key element. Marshall gave the Army’s officer corps a vital shot in the arm with his creation of Officer Candidate School, allowing talented men to rise to command positions without a degree from a traditional military academy. Dickson also highlights the war games that took place in 1941, especially a large exercise in Louisiana just before Pearl Harbor where both Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton proved their abilities. The author provides a wealth of fascinating detail; even those familiar with the general history of the period will learn something new. Especially intriguing are Dickson’s discussions of the rise of the United Service Organizations, with shows headlined by Bob Hope and other stars, and the implications of a universal draft for black Americans.

One of the best treatments to date of America’s rapid transition from the Depression to the wartime power it became.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4767-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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