The focus on this different type of soldier renders this more than a mere paean to the WWII generation; their stories offer...



A gripping account of the eclectic group of artists, sound engineers, theatrical designers, actors, and writers who became America’s masters of battlefield deception during WWII.

Novelist Gerard (Desert Kill, 1994) tells an amazing and little-known story about the greatest generation. Following the battle of El Alamein, where the British general, Bernard Montgomery, revolutionized the use of camouflage to surprise and rout the German army, movie star and adventurer Douglas Fairbanks Jr. sold the American military on the idea of creating a unit that specialized in covert deception operations. Gerard chronicles not only the efforts of free-thinking senior officers like Fairbanks and Lieutenant Colonel Hilton Howell Railey, but also those of artistically inclined junior officers and soldiers like Lieutenant Fred Fox, a scriptwriter for NBC radio in civilian life, and Bill Blass, who would go on to become a famous fashion designer after the war. Surprisingly, he finds that this flamboyant blend of artists and technicians, armed only with a few dozen radios, truckloads of inflatable rubber tanks, and jeeps modified to serve as mobile loudspeakers, quickly adapted to military discipline and learned to create the perception of tens of thousands of soldiers and armored vehicles. Drawing on interviews with veterans, Gerard reveals that success for these young artists resulted in convincing the enemy to concentrate troops and fire on their “Ghost Army” so that real Allied fighting units could maneuver more safely. Gerard concludes that the efforts of these soldiers saved thousands of more conventional soldiers from facing massed German defenders.

The focus on this different type of soldier renders this more than a mere paean to the WWII generation; their stories offer intriguing evidence of a unique and selfless service that resonates poignantly in today’s crisis-filled world. (Photos and illustrations throughout)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94664-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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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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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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