Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
I can be a bit verbose with my reviews but I write what I want to see when I read the reviews of others. However the three-letter heading really sums it up! But, if you insist.....
While I know that forensics didn't begin recently, there has been a huge gap on books about criminal investigation in the decades between Victorian-era Sherlock Holmes and present day "CSI: Miami". And both of these accounts are largely science fiction - my long-time Sr. Crime Scene Investigator boyfriend doesn't drive a Hummer, conduct highly technical forensic and chemical tests, arrest perps, or interrogate suspects! He mainly "bags it 'n' tags it", i.e., collects evidence like bullet casings, weapons, blood, drugs, etc., dusts for fingerprints, and thoroughly documents the crime scene with schematics, photos, and video, assuring that everything is logged in which begins the critical chain of custody for trial.
This book gives credit to 2 brilliant dedicated scientists who created, formally organized, and set the current standard for catching murderers and/or exonerating innocent people of the most elusive and complicated manner of death - poisoning. Before there were mass chromatograph spectrometers, there was chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler, scientists who dedicated their time and, often, their own money to convince the corrupt NYC legal system that forensics had a much- needed place in criminal investigation. And they did it with glass tubes, petri dishes, and Bunsen burners in the 1920s! They could keep working in a blackout while today's forensic labs would have to close up until the computers had power!
My only complaint is the narrator. While she can spit out long hard-to-pronounce chemical names without batting an eye, for some strange reason she had Dr. Gettler sounding like Tony Soprano! Totally unnecessary and often distracting. This is not a book which requires gimmicky accents. The subject matter stands on its own. AMAZING!!
I thought I had "WW II'd" myself into a coma, listening to or reading more than 50 books and watching a kazillion documentaries and online videos about World War II in the past year. I was just about to pass on this 25 hour account when I became outraged by one of the written reviews. While giving the book an overall favorable review, without the 5-star rating of the other written reviews, this listener claimed that her only criticism was that the book overdid the contributions of African-Americans to the war. REALLY? This is one of the very few books NOT written by a black author that even MENTIONS the many minority members of the military who fought in ALL of our wars, including the Civil War. Blacks were originally seen by the US as "not fit for combat duty" and were given positions as cooks, supply clerks, deck hands, etc. Eleanor Franklin changed all of that.
Was this reviewer aware of the MAJOR support that the 761st Tank Battalion - the first all-black tank battalion - gave to General Patton, helping him win the war? Black soldiers were relegated to what the military termed as "iron coffins" due the cumbersome movement of the tanks and the ever-present carbon monoxide leaking INSIDE the vehicles (often killing black soldiers silently, to be found by their comrades sitting up, eyes open, mid-sentence). Yet, Patton openly claimed "that a colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor." (In the 1970 film "Patton", the 761st unit was depicted as WHITE soldiers coming to the general's aid!) While saving the lives of hundreds white "comrades", who openly called the members of the 761st "niggers" and "monkeys", the unit suffered 156 casualties; 24 men killed and 88 wounded, in the month of November 1944 ALONE! The unit also lost 14 tanks and another 20 damaged in combat. In December 1944, the battalion was rushed to the aid of the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. After the Battle of the Bulge, the unit opened the way for the U.S. 4th Armored Division into Germany during an action that breached the Siegfried Line. In the final days of the war in Europe, the 761st was one of the first American units to reach the Steyr in Austria, at the Enns River, where they met with Ukrainians of the Soviet Army. THAT IS JUST ONE UNIT IN ONE BRANCH OF THE MILITARY!
Black Americans fought and died with distinction in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. But the real tragedy is that, after serving their country in order to stop the industrial murder of the European Jews at the hands of the Nazis and helping to end the war so that thousands of American, British, Australian and Chinese military and civilians could be liberated from the unparalleled cruelty in Japanese prisoner of war camps, black Americans returned to the United States to sit in the back of buses, drink from "Colored Only" water fountains, be assaulted, lynched and murdered, to be denied the same veterans benefits given to their white counterparts such as employment, housing, education, medical care, etc. Sgt. Isaac Woodard Jr. was BLINDED by South Carlina police officers while in uniform, just hours after being honorably discharged from the US Army!
These men's accomplishments were ignored by the military and America, their records of bravery suspiciously "lost". These AMERICANS were not honored for decades. After being rejected countless times, the members of the 761st Tank Battalion were finally recognized in 1978, eventually receiving 1 Medal of Honor, 296 Purple Hearts, 11 Silver Stars, and 69 Bronze Stars. In 1994, the THREE surviving members of the Navy ship USS Mason were awarded a letter of commendation for "meritorious service". The famous Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007 - given mostly to their widows or posthumously. The black Marines weren't recognized until 2012.
That said, this book - TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AND 58 MINUTES LONG - served the black Americans who fought and died in World War II both fairly and without undue bias. They were an integral component of the war effort and for anyone to disparage an author giving credit where it is long overdue smacks of the continued institutional racism that the U.S. is still guilty of.
I know that my review will receive more "Not Helpful" ratings than "Helpful" but I really don't care! I'm willing, once again, to stick my neck out to say what needs to be said. This is a great book about a major historical event. Black Americans were a part of that war and deserve to be included just like Hitler, Hirohito, and Patton. ALL three of those "men" were the worse racists ever but no one has a thing to say about the hundreds of accounts written about them!
If you want to learn more about our contributions in war, check out "Brothers In Arms", a fantastic book about the 761st written by NBA great Kareem Abdul Jabbar. You will be surprised to learn that baseball legend, Jackie Robinson, was a member of the 761st! Truth be told, there can NEVER be too much revealed about the bravery and heroism of the black members of American military ranks!