A sharp, exciting account, sure to appeal to military history buffs but also instructive for those who think that stories of...




Retired Air Force pilot and military historian Wetterhahn offers the fullest account yet of the Mayaguez incident, that series of events often symbolically thought of as the last battle of the Vietnam War.

On May 12, 1975, a little more than two years after the last US ground forces left Vietnam, Khmer Rouge, assigned to the islands south of Cambodia, seized the Mayaguez, a US merchant ship bound for Thailand. The crew of 40 were taken to the mainland, but not before the radio operator got off his SOS. In a few hours, situation reports began to reach the National Security Council, ably portrayed by Wetterhahn from declassified minutes of the meetings between President Ford, Secretary of State Kissinger, and Defense Secretary Schlesinger, among others. Ford was determined to punish the Cambodians and to effect a dramatic rescue, and insisted on controlling the combat situation from the Oval Office, resulting in a confused battle plan that sent a company of Marines into an assault on a stoutly-defended island where the captives were erroneously thought to be. After 41 Marines and Air Force personnel died in ground combat or helicopter crashes, the Cambodians released the merchant seaman. In the meantime, the Navy had captured the Mayaguez without resistance. Most heartbreaking of all, the Marines left behind three men, who were captured, bludgeoned to death, and buried in shallow graves. They were, in a way, the last Americans to die in the Vietnam War, and their heroism has yet to be acknowledged.

A sharp, exciting account, sure to appeal to military history buffs but also instructive for those who think that stories of lost POWs and MIAs are crackpot legends for zealots. The truth, which Wetterhahn patiently and evenhandedly pursues, hurts.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0858-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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...


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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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