Kaplan illuminates some abhorrent recent history that the Army would likely prefer to forget.


Justice for all? Not in the Jim Crow U.S. Army of WWII, as a French civilian discovered, to his horror.

Louis Guilloux, one of France’s leading novelists in the 1930s, prided himself on his knowledge of Russian literature, especially that of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. The authors’ ironic sense of what happens when the law is badly served came to the fore when, as Kaplan (French/Duke Univ.; The Collaborator, 2000) documents, Guilloux was hired as an interpreter for and intermediary between the newly liberated people of Brittany and the Third Army under George S. Patton, who voiced concern for the “increasing number of crimes against French civilians which are being committed within the Army, particularly by service troops.” By service troops, Patton meant black GIs attached to quartermaster, ordnance and transportation companies behind the lines, and he warned that some charges, including rape, would carry the death penalty. Only hours after Patton’s warning was issued, a black GI named James Hendricks went off after a drinking bout and allegedly killed a French civilian and sexually assaulted the dead man’s wife; after a trial in which Guilloux served as interpreter, Hendricks was sentenced to die and was publicly hanged, though his family in North Carolina were told only that he died as a result of misconduct. Guilloux discerned a pattern: “The guilty were always black,” he noted, “so much so that even the stupidest of men would have ended up asking himself how it was possible that there be so much crime on one side, and so much virtue on the other.” As Kaplan demonstrates, that virtue was illusory: In one case that she closely documents, a white American officer murdered an Austrian attached to Free French forces but was readily acquitted, while black soldiers—including civil-rights martyr Emmett Till’s father—were executed for capital crimes, making up 55 of the 70 Americans thus killed in Europe from 1943 to 1946.

Kaplan illuminates some abhorrent recent history that the Army would likely prefer to forget.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-5424-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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