WINNERS AND LOSERS: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses and Ruins from a Long War by Gloria Emerson
Kirkus Star

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Battles, Retreats, Gains, Losses and Ruins from a Long War

Email this review


Vietnam. ""The name dropped like a stone again and again"" and resonates still through America, touching the great and the small. For some--and Gloria Emerson, New York Times war correspondent, is one of them--the war will never be ""over."" The people she speaks with in this eloquent, numbing book share no common perspective: some have expunged their memories of the grotesque, bloody creatures the ""choppers"" lifted from the fire zones; some are smug, having learned nothing from Hamburger Hill, the Mayaguez, My Lai, the press reports of ""tiger cages."" Others cannot sleep--they saw too much. Albert Lee Reynolds is one of them. Long ago he built bridges in Vietnam; later he sheltered resisters: ""It was a very profitable war--except for the soul or whatever it is that hurts so much. All the time. All the time."" Emerson permits herself no rhetoric; she writes as if her taut, oddly contrived sentences could hold back dams of feeling. She crowds in perceptions, military reports, scenes in Saigon restaurants, clinical details of death: ""multiple fragmentation"" killed 8,464; gunshots killed 18,447; grenades killed 7,428; the 1972 Christmas bombings cost $25,000,000 a day. And faces: Luong, her interpreter and friend--his last letter was dated Ho Chi Mirth City, 23 May 1975; Chinh, a twelve-year old grenade carrier held in the Danang Detention Center--he preferred Salem to Pall Mall; Ellsworth Bunker, American Ambassador, leading the Saigon Yale Club in the ""Wiffenpoof Song."" She knows too well that the war has become an awkward, unwelcome subject to many who participated; people want to leave it, to move on. But says one veteran, ""It's hard to be hopeful about anything""--and that, finally, is what the words and faces that spill from these pages convey.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1976
Publisher: Random House