Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Love the Smell of Napalm In the Morning

I was bloghopping around my links when I came across a post on good books about 20th century conflicts. This, in turn, reminded me of the time when I used to read books on the Vietnam War.

Yes, true believers, before I haunted the bookshops' fantasy and science-fiction section, I used to be a regular habitue of the military shelves.

I remember reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction books then, like the now-classic Dispatches by Michael Herr, Sympathy for the Devil by Kent Anderson, , Fields of Fire by James Webb, The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford (which became the basis for Stanley Kubrick movie Full Metal Jacket), and A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo.

Unfortunately, I missed out on a number of well-known war novels by Tim o'Brien like The Things They Carried (which a friend would later recommend to me) and Going After Cacciato. Still, I managed to read some good books: John del Vecchio's harrowing Thirteenth Valley; Gayle Rivers' The Five Fingers, which ignited some debate on its veracity as fiction or non-fiction; an account of a helicopter pilot in Chickenhawk by Robert Mason; as well as the autobiography of a marine M60 gunner in Guns Up! by Johnnie Clark.

Before, I used to think that I enjoyed reading such novels for the shallow aspect of it: akin to playing toy soldiers when one was a child. However, I came to realize that standards will out-- of the 20 books or so I've read on the subject, only a handful stuck to me because of its high quality of writing and story. These include the del Vecchio and the Rivers books (for fiction) as well as the Mason and Clark (for non-fiction).

Ironically, despite the somewhat macho tone of most of these books, these could still be taken as part of that group of war literature that has Catch-22, The Naked and the Dead, and All Quiet on the Western Front as their members. Or one could also cite other well-known war books like The Thin Red Line by James Jones and A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan.

War is hell indeed.


Eldritch00 said...

HOW STRANGE. While the only book I've read from your list here is The Short-Timers, I also spent a lot of my time back in the day reading Bantam War Books and other similar memoirs. My favorites were the US Marines in Korea and Vietnam. This is so strange!

Eldritch00 said...

I've responded!

banzai cat said...

Hehe too much of a coincidence? I'm still not sure why I vibed on to the Vietnam War as opposed to the Korean War, WW2, etc. though I guess that was the last one (before the Bosnia conflict, Somalia, Gulf War, etc.) that had a standing army doing battle somewhere.

Oh yeah were you able to read Mark Bowden's Blackhawk Down? Now that was even more of an eye-opener as compared to the movie.

Eldritch00 said...

Never read or even watched Black Hawk Down if you can believe that. I wouldn't mind seeing it, but I think I was monumentally busy when it was screening at the theatres. I think I really was just into the Marines in a big way, and there was a big boom in the Vietnam War back then, even in the films being released.

banzai cat said...

Heh yeah I remember that: Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Full Metal Jacket. On the other hand, Marines ain't so bad but what appealed to me were the different services special forces groups like Force Recon (Marines) and Navy Seals. Appealed to my GI Joe childhood days.

Funny enough, I think that the war movie that most appealed to me was this relatively-unknown flick from South Africa called The Stick.