Good niche military history.



An account of an overlooked piece of World War II history.

During the early hours before the massive Normandy landing on June 6, 1944, thousands of Allied paratroopers descended behind German lines. Many missed their drop zones, including two companies that landed 15 miles away in the marshes of the Cotentin Peninsula. After dawn, the soldiers noticed a village atop a nearby hill, and about 180 men drifted in during the following days. Historians have described the resulting Battle of Graignes in passing, but Rabe, a Marine Corps veteran, emeritus professor of history at the University of Texas at Dallas, and son of one of the paratroopers, gives it his full attention. The story is particularly inspiring because the townspeople and surrounding farmers universally welcomed the soldiers, fed and sheltered them, gathered intelligence, and sent boats into the waterways to recover supplies. Unable to accomplish their original goal, the paratroopers hoped to delay German forces racing toward the invasion beaches 20 miles away. Lightly armed with no artillery, tanks, or antitank weapons, they could not hope to do so for long. They drove off initial attacks by an SS division but were soon devastated by superior numbers and artillery fire. Survivors abandoned the city, approximately 110 eventually reaching Allied lines. After accepting the surrender of a doctor, two medics, and 14 wounded left behind, German soldiers shot them. They also killed 44 French civilians and burned Graignes to the ground after an orgy of pillaging and looting. Overwhelmed by surrounding events, this defense of an obscure village did not attract attention until decades had passed and memories became spotty and perhaps idealized. Rabe does a fine resurrection job, assembling his material and filling out the text with mostly engaging diversions, including the history of American airborne forces, biographies of its two leading generals (who were preoccupied elsewhere), details of the Normandy landings, and subsequent battles across France.

Good niche military history.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-009-20637-2

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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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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