I Heard My Country Calling, A Memoir by James Webb; 2014; $27.00; 370 pages; Simon and Schuster, New York, NY; B-We3825i; 978-1-4767-4112-3; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Woodstock; 7/31/14-8/7/14
Since this is America and we try to label everyone and everything let’s try and stick one label on James Webb, Air Force Brat, less than stellar student, Naval Academy graduate, Marine Lieutenant, Vietnam Veteran, Son, Father, Husband, Senate Committee staffer, Defense Department staffer, Secretary of the Navy, Author and Senator. So it would be hard to just put him in one box. He talks about moving a lot as a child, something that I also did a lot of, he does it so eloquently in places that it took my breath away. He tells tales of his father a career military man who during his educated himself and made more of himself becoming one of the top missile people in the Air Force. His time in Vietnam is harrowing and he also speaks eloquently of the men he was with and with some of the outrages that he witnessed while he was there and also of the story of Son Thang, a village in which five Marines were charged with war crimes. The difference in sentences in that case were what angered me, one Marine was granted immunity, two were acquitted, one was given a life sentence (later commuted to one year) and another was given 5 years. Webb also tells why he served only one term as a senator when he probably could have gotten re elected, which says a lot about the state of our government today.
Did I like it? Yes, some of it related to things I have been through so I was moved and encouraged by what I read. Some of the things that he has experienced or been involved with saddened me. He shared most of the highs and many of the lows in his life.
What is with the title of the review? I was moved by what Webb wrote and angered by some of the stuff that he wrote about
Kill Anything That Moves, The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse; 2013; $30.00; 370 pages; Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY; 978-0-8050-8691-1; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Midland; 11/20-unfinished.
Why did I pick this up? I saw this on the shelf at Midland last weekend and picked it up. I am usually interested in books about our involvement in Vietnam, because I know many guys just older than me who served there, this is the war I grew up with.
What is the story? Nick Turse uncovered many documents that proves that the My Lai massacre was not an aberration but the normal mode of operations during the war.
Why didn’t I finish the book? I got halfway through the book and gave up. It made the point over and over that soldiers and marines were involved in all kinds of immoral behavior, most of it was standard operating procedure from the very top down. The author was highlighting each and every instance of the bad behavior. I didn’t want to continue to read the same thing again and again.
What is with the title of the review? I couldn’t take the continued repetition of the investigations, there didn’t seem to be any payoff to the repetition.
Perfume Dreams, Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora by Andrew Lam; 2005; $14.95; 140 pages; Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA; 1-59714-020-1; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Gregory Heights, B-La16p; 6/20-6/24
Why did I pick this up? Andrew Lam is scheduled to be at Wordstock 2013, October 5 & 6 at the Oregon Convention Center.
What is the story? This is a series of essays that cover a time that begins during the Vietnam War and continues until the early part of this century. Andrew Lam reflects on his life and the lives of others who have fled Vietnam since the fall of Saigon through the early part of the 2000’s. The perspective that he brings to these events is very different from the perspective that I had. I am glad to read another perspective on a event that impacted so many people.
Did I like it? Yes this was a perspective that I had never thought of before, I am very thankful that is available. Many people other than just soldiers from the United States were affected by what happened in Vietnam, and it is good to be reminded of that.
What is with the title of the review? Until this book the predominant perspective that I had read about the Vietnam War was of the United States, it is good to read another perspective.
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.