A wise, elegant study to add to the World War I archives.



An intriguing work of World War I research resurrects the little-known history of a massive German luxury liner that was confiscated and retooled for the American war effort.

In this lively look at the history of the Leviathan, once known as the SS Vaterland, the flagship of the Hamburg-American Line, Chicago Tribune editor Hernon (8.4, 1999, etc.), who was also an investigative reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, unearths a fresh aspect of America’s war effort. The ship, cruising into New York Harbor from Hamburg in late July 1914, was the largest vessel afloat at 950 feet—67 feet longer than the Titanic, which had perished disastrously at sea two years earlier. Due to that earlier disaster, the Vaterland was equipped with enough lifeboats for the 5,000-plus passengers and crew, both first-class and steerage. Yet the German crew of this behemoth was quickly halted in its efforts to prepare the vessel for a quick turnaround: war was declared in Europe in the beginning days of August, and along with other German ocean liners, the Vaterland would spend the next three years tied up in a Hoboken, New Jersey, pier. Using alternating points of view of some of the characters involved—e.g., Saturday Evening Post reporter Irvin Cobb and U.S. Navy officers and changing skippers—Hernon chronicles the tension of these early days when the U.S. was just declaring war on Germany and German ships lying in American harbors were being deliberately sabotaged before falling into American hands. Eventually, the Vaterland was refitted as the Leviathan and was packed with 10,000 American Expeditionary Force troops under the direction of Gen. John Pershing. The ship ferried them to the battlefields of France and back, through nightmarish submarine attacks, from December 1917 through the Armistice. Hernon also chronicles the contributions of decorated African-American troops.

A wise, elegant study to add to the World War I archives.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243386-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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