Readers will share Emery’s lack of nostalgia for this half-forgotten weapon, but they will admire this satisfying...

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HELLFIRE BOYS

THE BIRTH OF THE U.S. CHEMICAL WARFARE SERVICE AND THE RACE FOR THE WORLD’S DEADLIEST WEAPONS

An illumination of the “little understood and…poorly documented” story of a significant piece of the “history of chemical warfare in the United States.”

Following the declaration of war against Germany in 1917, America scrambled to expand its minuscule infantry, artillery, and air force. Furthermore, the country’s poison gas infrastructure was nonexistent, so the government was forced to build a chemical warfare service from scratch. It’s an obscure aspect of a distant war, so even military buffs will learn from this intensely researched, often unnerving account by journalist Emery. Who in the government knew about gas? The answer, leaders decided, was the Bureau of Mines, an agency responsible for mining safety, which included protection against toxic underground gases. Its energetic director mailed 25,000 letters to chemists, engineers, and industries asking for contributions to the war effort. In a gush of patriotism similar to events after 9/11, enthusiastic responses poured in. By the end of 1917, thousands of researchers across the nation were busily analyzing existing gases, inventing new ones, and designing gas masks as the Army trained specialized units to hurl these chemicals at the enemy. By the end of the war, the Chemical Warfare Service was a full-fledged Army department with 20,000 members who fired more than 1,000 tons of gas at the Germans; they were supported by a massive network of factories and training grounds whose poisoned landscapes and buried but still deadly chemicals are still with us. The author concludes that poison gas was more trouble than it was worth, but, like germ warfare, it continues to fascinate fringe groups and rogue nations. The cast of characters at the beginning of the book is much-appreciated.

Readers will share Emery’s lack of nostalgia for this half-forgotten weapon, but they will admire this satisfying combination of technical background, battlefield fireworks, biographies of colorful major figures, and personal anecdotes from individual soldiers.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26410-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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