Vietnam, Book One, I Pledge Allegiance by Chris Lynch; 2011; $16.99; 183 pages; Scholastic Press, New York, NY; 978-0-545-27029-8; Purchased at the Title Wave Used Bookstore; 12/4-12/6
Why did I pick this up? I saw the cover and read the dust jacket and was intrigued by the idea of four friends each joining a different branch of the military during the Vietnam era. These would have been men just a little older than myself.
What is the story? Four friends in high school in Boston, MA have a habit of making pacts to do things together, whether it be seeing a movie together, avoiding a certain girl, protecting one another or pledging that if one of them got drafted they would all join the military. The four of them are four archtypes, Ivan, big strong guy; Beck, the brain; Morris, the glue and Rudi, the intellectually challenged one. Rudi becomes a part of the group when the rest of them find the school yard bullies picking on him and they stand up to them. Rudi is a year older than the others, but was held back a year. Rudi is drafted into the Marines (more on that later), Ivan joins the Army, Beck put his college on hold to join the Air Force and Morris joins the Navy. Book One introduces us to the four friends and then tells us Morris’ story stationed on a batttleship and then on a River Patrol Boat. It includes mail from Rudi and Beck and a short phone call with Ivan. The other books tell each of the others stories from their own point of view.
Did I like it? Yes and No. The story of the four friends was compelling and kept me reading. The author got so many details wrong about the military that it made it difficult to read. I don’t think Mr. Lynch took the time to do much research on the military and how it works and how things work. I made a list of details that are wrong and a couple of other problems with the book.
1. It is the story of a sailor and the picture on the front is of a Army grunt.
2. Morris is said to be an Aviation Electrician 3rd class, then later he simply becomes a Radioman. These are two different ratings and the switch would be much more complicated than presented if it was allowed at all.
3. The author enables Rudi to become a Marine because he passed his physical. There is much more to joining the Corps than simply taking a physical.
What is with the title of the review? In the song Manana one of the lyrics says Don’t try describing a KISS concert if you’ve never seen one, cause you just may end up being wrong. I feel like that is what the author did here.