A top-shelf World War II history told with meticulous research and considerable heart.



Thorough study of the B-29 raids over Japan that underscores the debate over precision bombing versus firebombing at the end of World War II.

In this excellent follow-up to Rampage and Target Tokyo, Scott evenhandedly examines the controversy surrounding the firebombing of Japanese cities and offers a sympathetic rendering of the devastating effects of those bombings on the civilian population. At the core of the narrative is the development of the B-29 Superfortress, a massive, expensive new bomber championed by Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold in his advocacy for the independence of the Air Force. By late 1944, ready for action, the new bombers were assigned to the Pacific theater in an operation overseen by Gen. Haywood Hansell Jr., “one of the few leaders who still preached the idea of humane [daylight precision] bombing.” As the American public clamored for an end to the war, top-level military officials made the decision to increase the use of incendiary bombs in order to break the morale of the Japanese civilian population, force surrender, and avoid a costly invasion. In the early weeks of 1945, Hansell was replaced by ace pilot and operator Curtis LeMay, who immediately instigated the firebombing system, which involved flying low at night and carpeting dense urban areas with waves of incendiaries, killing thousands. “Targeting homes was the key to societal breakdown,” the generals concluded. Scott writes that LeMay’s March bombing of Tokyo represented a “tremendous moral shift for the United States, which until this moment had opposed the intentional killing of civilians.” This paved the way for the destruction of dozens of other Japanese cities, and after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the death toll reached 330,000, an estimate that was “likely low.” Scott alternates his page-turning account of the air operations with devastating on-the-ground eyewitness reports of survivors, providing a kaleidoscopic portrait of both sides in a cataclysmic conflict.

A top-shelf World War II history told with meticulous research and considerable heart.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-324-00299-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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