A well-conceived work of military history dissecting a seemingly minor episode that still speaks volumes.



A taut study of the largest military search-and-rescue operation in history and the lessons learned.

Talty (The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History, 2017, etc.) has a fascination for grim moments under seemingly impossible odds, as with the story that would eventually become the movie Captain Phillips. The yarn he spins here was already made into a movie three decades ago, the Gene Hackman vehicle Bat*21, recounting the harrowing experience of an Air Force navigator shot down over Vietnam in the late days of the war. Iceal “Gene” Hambleton (1918-2004) was one of the most experienced officers in the business, a master of signals intelligence whose capture by the North Vietnamese would probably have led to a strategic and propaganda victory not just for them, but also for the Soviet agents who were tracking him. Thus it was that when Hambleton’s plane went down under enemy fire, the commanders in Vietnam assembled “an armada of fighter planes, B-52s, attack helicopters, Navy aircraft carriers” to extract him from the field—to say nothing of soldiers, sailors, aviators, Marines, and special forces troops. As Talty recounts, for 11 days these allies raced against equally determined North Vietnamese troops to locate Hambleton, sometimes coming up against each other; among the costs of these extraordinary measures were the deaths of nearly a dozen airborne troops. Too young for service at the time, the author shows informed appreciation for military culture and the workings of war. As he writes, knowingly, “the men at Da Nang that spring would have loved to fight for values like freedom and liberty on behalf of a grateful republic. But as it was, their leaders were feckless, their country had forgotten them, and their allies rarely felt like allies….All they had, many airmen felt, was their unbreakable bond to one another.”

A well-conceived work of military history dissecting a seemingly minor episode that still speaks volumes.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-86672-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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