A welcome addition to the military history of Vietnam.




Taut, well-written account of an unknown chapter in the Vietnam War: the perilous work of forward aerial observers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Many brave Air Force flyers populate the pages of this collaboration by U.S. News and World Report writer Newman and Misty pilot Shepperd (Misty pilots, whose name comes, improbably, from a Johnny Mathis song, flew 247 Vietnam combat missions), but few braver than Howard Keith Williams, the Top Gun who graduated from flying transport planes to jockeying fighters up and down the most dangerous skies in Vietnam. Recruited by Dick Rutan (who in 1986 completed a nonstop solo flight around the world in a plane called Voyager) to join the unit called Commando Sabre, Williams and his comrades performed the equivalent of a ground tracker’s cutting for sign, flying just above the treetops to look for telltale dust kicked up by tanks and trucks, for tire tracks that ended abruptly (indicating a transport park) and for people and vehicles moving supplies from North to South Vietnam. The Misty pilots were the secret eyes and ears of the war, though they had to deal with generally unhelpful brass (of one superior officer, a Misty pilot protested, “The guy doesn’t give a shit about our war up north”) and had as well to contend with a crippling lack of coordination with other intelligence agencies, especially the CIA. Still, the Misty pilots provided invaluable information to American ground forces on enemy movements, suffering terrible losses in the bargain; some pilots ended up in the Hanoi Hilton, while others—including Williams, who had come in the meanwhile to regard the war as a “farce”—were killed in action. Indeed, Williams’s remains would not be recovered for 25 years, though they were not buried upside down—“So the world can kiss our ass,” as the pilots’ bawdy theme song put it.

A welcome addition to the military history of Vietnam.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46537-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Presidio/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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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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