EVERYTHING WE HAD: An Oral History of the Vietnam War as Told by 33 American Soldiers Who Fought It by Al--Ed. Santoli
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EVERYTHING WE HAD: An Oral History of the Vietnam War as Told by 33 American Soldiers Who Fought It

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, as distinct from Mark Baker's Warn (above), the veterans relating their experience of the Vietnam War, and its aftermath, are fully identified: ""Brian Delate, Helicopter Door Gunner, American Division, Chu Lai, March 1969-March 1970."" The 33 comprise a cross-section of ranks, functions, branches of service--which is often, though not always--germane: Mike Beamon, Scout, US Navy SEALS: ""I was more at war with the officers there than I was with the Viet Cong""; Robert Santos, Rifle Platoon Leader, 101st Airborne Division: ""That was really hard, being an officer. I mean it's just a title. . . . And it's strange that the men hate you, but when the bullet goes off they look to you. . . ."" They carry out missions; they perform: ""I knew every single village, town, hootch in the Delta, every canal, every tributary, every little squiggly, every little creek, every little light, just by flying over it day in and day out."" They react: "". . . For a fucking stick of gum. We got into more trouble there for shooting water buffalo than we did for killing people"" . . . ""Who did it to her if I didn't? Some idiot out of Guam thirty thousand feet up on a radioscope? Bullshit. . . . I knew where his ordinance went."" True, the one thing that the 33 apparently have in common (it's never made explicit) is membership in Vietnam Veterans of America--which makes them a pre-selected, self-aware group. A group aware, too, of Vietnam as a totality: what we thought we were doing, why it didn't work. (Several were intelligence officers: the material on counter-terrorism, ""pacification,"" and the VC is some of the best in the book.) The collection was conceived, obviously, to un-bury the war, to bring those who were there into synch with the US--or, the US into synch with them. It's not set up to shame, to shock, or to justify. People who marched on Washington can be reached by it, and people who wore POW bracelets.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1981
Publisher: Random House