The most thorough and satisfying history yet of the campaigns in North Africa. (Two 16-page photo inserts, 18 maps)



First volume in a projected WWII trilogy by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Atkinson, who shows North Africa’s desert battlefields inspiring America’s raw recruits to rise up and defeat Nazi Germany’s dangerous professional army.

Given his success with modern military history (Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, 1993, etc.), the penetrating historical insights Atkinson brings to bear on America’s 1942–43 invasion of the North African coast are not surprising. Neither the American leadership under Eisenhower nor the GIs themselves understood the level of fury it would take to defeat General Rommel’s Afrika Corps, argues the author. He finds that the relative ease American soldiers had in pushing aside lackluster Vichy French forces led US generals to also expect a token resistance from the German armies. It was anything but token, Atkinson finds; instead of rolling through the German panzers, untested American forces found themselves brutally manhandled by a more experienced enemy and disparaged as inferior soldiers by their British allies. The author describes Eisenhower’s gradual awakening to the need to protect American morale and prestige from British sniping as critical to finding the proper balance between command and international politics. Atkinson also demonstrates that early battle failures such as the one at Kasserine Pass toughened the American soldiers and their leadership: commanders like George Patton and Omar Bradley rose to refute British criticism; GIs learned that defeating the veteran Axis forces would take more personal discipline and sacrifice than they had ever imagined. By the end of the campaign in North Africa, the author convincingly argues, the American army emerged from North Africa ready to lead the Allied forces onto the European continent to finish off the Nazi threat.

The most thorough and satisfying history yet of the campaigns in North Africa. (Two 16-page photo inserts, 18 maps)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6288-2

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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