Hallahan's polemic against internal regulations within the national armaments industry is also a history of America's war machine since the founding of the Springfield Arsenal during the Revolution. Because the British had forbidden manufacture of muskets and ammunition in the colonies, the Americans had to invent an irregular form of warfare based on guerrilla tactics that made the best use of limited amounts of precious ammunition. The Revolutionary War demonstrated the effectiveness of the rifle, used as a sniper's weapon from long rage and from behind cover, over the bayoneted musket favored by the British. The rifle triumphed. But Edgar Awardwinning mystery writer turned military historian Hallahan's (Tripletrap, 1989, etc.) thesis, in germ, is that an obsession with conserving ammunition was to dominate American small-arms thinking for the next two centuries, resulting in the M- 16, which fires in economical bursts of three to five shells but which is outgunned by the continuously firing Kalashnikov. GIs found this a murderous disability in Vietnam, where they often abandoned their M-16s in favor of the Russian weapon. Ultimately, of course, Hallahan's target is the sclerotic, tradition-bound mentality of military establishments in general. We see the evolution of the US Ordnance Corps from its inception by the ebullient Henry Knox, the brilliant artillery engineer of the Revolution, and follow its aggrandizement into the arena of modern warfare, where the ``fixed tradition'' of the ``grave-belly long- range sharpshooter'' persisted. Hallahan guides the reader with a sure hand through the obscure but somehow ghoulishly intriguing complexities of weapons logistics: the creation, for example, of Earle Harvey's T-25 automatic rifle after WW II becomes, in the author's hands, a psychological and Cold War political thriller. Such dramatic narrative is unexpected in a book devoted to a subject that would at first appear to be of interest only to West Point cadets and jarheads. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1994

ISBN: 0-684-19359-0

Page Count: 578

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?