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46-May-June-2010
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The Heroism and Triumph of the Berlin Airlift, June 1948–May 1949

A-Daring Young MenPresidential historian and journalist Richard Reeves has published more than 15 books, including biographies of Bill Clinton, JFK, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. Daring Young Men was inspired by Reeves's discovery that few people remember the Berlin Airlift, one of the defining moments of the early Cold War.

The Topic: In the aftermath of World War II, two million Berliners suffered terribly when the Soviets, on the orders of Joseph Stalin, blocked all access to the city's eastern quarter. In the face of Soviet intransigence and the elements--and with the backing of President Harry Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall, among many others--Allied veterans returning to normal lives after the war were recalled, and tired, outdated equipment was put back into service in one of the most monumental logistical operations ever undertaken. With 277,500 flights into Soviet-occupied Berlin, Allied forces delivered more than 2.3 million tons of much-needed supplies. In 1949, Stalin capitulated--but the Cold War persisted.
Simon & Schuster. 336 pages. $28. ISBN13: 9781416541196

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"Although Reeves never descends into mindless patriotism, he obviously is relating the saga to demonstrate to the community of nations the goodness of the American government and its citizenry, a goodness not always seen--and, if seen, not always appreciated." Steve Weinberg

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"[The] solution [to the Soviet blockade of Berlin] is wonderfully told by Richard Reeves in Daring Young Men, his account of the Berlin Blockade and the heroic efforts to defeat it. ... [The airlift] was the first major Cold War victory for the West, and Mr. Reeves brings it all to life again, conveying along the way its now-forgotten heroics--in the air and on the ground." Daniel Ford

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[Reeves] has delved into declassified archives and provided fresh insights into the power clashes between Truman, Stalin and other leading figures, including the famous generals who opposed the airlift (George Marshall and Omar Bradley) and the younger ones who defied enormous odds to make it work, notably Lucius Clay and William Tunner. But the real value of Reeves's book lies in the remarkable human sagas he collected through hundreds of interviews with uncelebrated pilots, mechanics, weathermen and ground controllers who sustained the airlift for almost a year." William Drozdiak

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The individual stories Reeves tells are illuminating and often very moving. But Reeves gives less attention to the geopolitical considerations than one might wish." Terry Hartle

St. Petersburg Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In Daring Young Men, presidential biographer and historian Richard Reeves credits President Harry Truman's push-back response with a significant role in his upset election victory. Reeves re-creates with grace and perception the tightrope the West walked in facing down the Soviets." Jules Wagman

Critical Summary

Richard Reeves's journalistic instincts shine in the hundreds of interviews he conducted with key players in the Berlin Airlift, as well as in his extensive digging in Allied and Russian archives to uncover previously unpublished documents. The author's goal in Daring Young Men is to highlight the sacrifices and courage of a country already stretched to the breaking point by World War II and to bring back into our history the effort's potent (and ironic) humanitarian message: "This time [the soldiers] were supposed to free the people they had been trying to kill, and who had been trying to kill them, only three years earlier." If Reeves focuses more on the individual stories than the larger political and historical context, he nonetheless succeeds admirably, relating important history well and with passion.