review–Dispatches by Michael Herr

Required reading. Michael Herr takes you under fire with him and the Marines. You’ll find yourself under siege at Khe Sahn, breath their sweat, the marijuana, the fear. Despite it all, it’ll be one of those places you can’t leave behind. There are the improbable stories of daredevil war photographers such as Tim Page and of all people the son of actor Errol Flynn, Sean. Spot on-observations abound, such as, “The Green Berets doesn’t count. That wasn’t about Vietnam, it was about Santa Monica.”

One of the most apt summaries of the war, filed while it was still going on, appears on pg. 200: “Somewhere on the periphery of that total Vietnam issue…there was a story that was as simple as it had always been, men hunting men, a hideous war and all kinds of victims. But there was also a Command that didn’t feel this, that rode us into attrition traps on the back of fictional kill ratios, and an Administration that believed the Command, a cross-fertilization of ignorance, and a press whose tradition of objectivity and fairness (not to mention self-interest) saw that all of it got space.” This book was hard to get through, not hard to read per se but harsh in its details, and may be the most honest book about the Vietnam War.