File Size: 2878 KB
Print Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 30, 2011)
Publication Date: November 30, 2011
I first read Dispatches in the late 70s and I have gone through several duplicates and 8 or 12 readings in the intervening years. I finally obtained a clue and bought the book on Kindle fire today so I avoid have to go looking for it or buy just one more copy when I feel the urge to read this prose that can still give me chills almost four decades after I first found it.
Rest in Peace, Eileen, and thank you., A young reporter goes to Vietnam during the very level of hostilities in Southeast Asia. Unlike any young marine or army jewellry, Michael Herr has selections to make. Where are the stories? Is it in the clubs and dens of Saigon or Da Nang or is it in the Key Highlands with the 1st Cav or the Fourth Infantry Division or was it up in We Corps with the marines at Khe Sanh. Herr got a chance, unlike any soldier, to go to all these areas and describe to one and all what was really happening in Vietnam. His education was far advanced to the soldier who served usually in a small area of procedure for his or her tour of Vietnam.
Typically the stories unfolded in this book are irreverent and straightforward, infantry language and all. It conveys the behaviour, fears and concerns that marines and soldiers dealt with in their combat tours in Vietnam. Herr tells us the mindsets of the soldiers whether in the field or in the supposed REMF (Rear Echelon Mother F------s) areas. But since explained by Herr there really is no rear area. Whether or not in built up areas such as Da Nang, Saigon and Hue there really was no safe haven in Vietnam. Vietnam was a war where you could get murdered anywhere.
In Herr's stories he brings the unadulterated fact. He holds no night clubs, even in his behaviour with the higher regulators who he knew were not telling the full story of just who was "winning" the war. Herr along with his other youthful peers are able to go the location where the action is. They are not shy about heading with troopers who had been put into harm's way. These reporters do not shy away from danger, and in many instances put themselves in just as much peril as any marine or cav trooper.
Of special fascination with this book Herr devotes enough time in I Corps with the marines in the battle of Khe Sanh. He makes a legitimate comparison of the siege of Khe Sanh with the siege of Dien Muy bien Phu. He tells of the similarities but also relates why the siege was broken by the Americans, whereas french were defeated 14 years before.
Something which intrigued me was Herr's assessment of what he thought were the best troopers fighting in Vietnam. They were not the marines. They were in his opinion the First Cavalry Division as quoted in the publication. "And now, everywhere you went, you could see the most comforting military insignia in all of Vietnam, the yellow-and-black shoulder spot of the Cav. You were with the pro's now, the elite. "
This is a visceral book which will let you enter in the mindsets of the men who served in this much misunderstood war fought against in Southeast Asia., A vivid portrayal of life at the front of the Vietnam War. Eileen Herr, working for Esquire magazine, picked up his notebook and headed out to where the was happening. He was at the Citadel in Shade during the Tet Offensive; he also travelled to Khe Sahn. He talks about being afraid but moving forward anyway " We didn't go through all that never to see. " (p 256)
Herr does an exquisite job of describing the grunts (he spent most of his time with the Marines). Of a 19 year old Marine he says " He had one of those faces, I saw that face at least one thousand times at a hundred bases and camps, all the youth sucked out of the eyes, the color drawn from the skin, cold white lip area, you knew he more than likely wait for any one of it to come back. Life had made him old, he'd live it out old". (p 16)
Herr, writing in the sixties and 70s, is extremely critical of the war and the way it was waged (but then weren't most people? ). He knew that " A lot of men and women knew that the country could never be won, only destroyed, and they locked into that with breathtaking attention. " (p 59). He or she discusses a number of the variation between the Army and Marine approach to the war: " That belief [that one Sea was worth 10 dead Vietnamese] was undying, nevertheless the grunt was not, and the Corps emerged to be called by many people the finest instrument ever devised for the killing of young Americans. " (p102)
It was interesting to read this after having read Gregg Jones' " Last Stand at Khe Sanh: The You. S. Marines Finest Hour in Vietnam. " Jones does a great job of describing the tactics and flow of battle providing details based on selection interviews with survivors years later. Herr's story is much more immediate. While you don't get a sense of the ebb and flow of the stand, you get a gritty, realistic view of life in the mud of the bunkers and ditches.
I read this book back again in the 70's and was glad I selected it up again. In case we will certainly put our young men and ladies through pain and misery that will last a lifetime, sometimes a very short lifetime, you should be damn well clear it is worth it for us., Let myself start by saying that We bought this book as a Christmas present for my grandfather who served in Vietnam and he absolutely cannot put the book down. I look forward to reading it myself and would recommend the publication to anyone who has served or knows someone who has. The publication was in excellent condition and exactly as described., Since a Marine vet of Viet Nam, I appreciate the candor of the writer.
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