An often intelligent and valuable book that will help casual readers understand the story of the Pacific theater.


Showdown in the Pacific War


A history of the origins and first years of World War II in the Pacific.

In this “nonfiction novel,” debut author Martell traces the events that led to war between Japan and the United States, alternating historical narrative sections with fictional interludes. In the latter, set in 1967, former staff assistants of Japanese Marshal Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto and U.S. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz—real-life men named Yasuji Watanabe and Edwin T. Layton—discuss the war. After depicting a meeting between those two men, the book offers an overview of Japan’s history and how it opened up to the West under U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry in the 19th century. It then presents biographical sketches of Yamamoto and Nimitz and recounts the failed negotiations that led to Japan’s 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Detailed accounts and analyses of the strategies, tactics, triumphs, and blunders at Pearl Harbor follow, along with in-depth play-by-plays of the retaliatory bombing raid on Tokyo by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and the pitched battles by land, sea, and air at Midway, Guadalcanal, and elsewhere. After Japan’s Pearl Harbor success, its armed forces lost momentum, stymied by American codebreakers, superior American industrial and military might, bad decisions, and simple twists of fate. The book includes maps and historical photographs and concludes with an account of U.S. forces shooting down a plane carrying Yamamoto, the commander in chief of the Japanese fleet—effectively ending Japan’s chances of winning the war—and a discussion of whether President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Yamamoto’s assassination. Martell offers a deeply researched, richly detailed account of the events leading up to the first phase of the war, and he supports his facts and theories with extensive endnotes and a lengthy bibliography. The prose is usually solid though occasionally marred by clichés (“now the fat was in the fire,” he writes of Midway, for example). The fictitious discussion between two real-life historical figures also detracts from the book’s impact, as much of the dialogue is dry and stilted (“It is hard to describe the range of feelings and the need to suppress them to be able to function as an officer”). The author might have instead used straightforward narration to better effect. Otherwise, though, this is a rock-solid account that drives home the realities of the brutal fighting.

An often intelligent and valuable book that will help casual readers understand the story of the Pacific theater.

Pub Date: March 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1503539693

Page Count: 454

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2015

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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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