CASUALTIES: Death in Vietnam, Anguish and Survival in America by Heather Brandon

CASUALTIES: Death in Vietnam, Anguish and Survival in America

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For this addition to the growing number of Vietnam-related oral histories, Brandon interviewed the families of 16 men killed in Vietnam--surviving ""casualties"" who express their grief, shock, pride, bitterness, or disillusionment. And few surprises or fresh insights emerge from the 37 voices here: wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, friends. Some of the survivors (including brothers who were themselves in Vietnam combat) express anger about the anti-Vietnam protests, about those who weren't drafted: ""The sons of the rich should be on the front lines."" There are stories of broken families, traumatic reactions: ""After Dennis got killed, my mom just kind of zombied out for a couple of years. . . . Mother died as a direct result of losing Don. Cause and effect."" There is blame and guilt within families--most vividly in the case of Carmen Cammarata, who for ten years shunned his dead son's wife, irrationally convinced that ""You killed our son."" A widow, suffering from depression, is able--through psychotherapy--to acknowledge not just grief but ""anger, resentment, a whole bunch of emotions rolled into one. . . 'Why didn't you come home? How could you do this to me?'"" The children who grew up without a father offer brief bits of confusion, curiosity, or loss. And, throughout, one family after another expresses anguish over the funeral itself: the question of open or closed casket, the desire (sometimes thwarted by military authorities) to see the dead body, the need to be convinced that the loved one is truly dead. Brandon's sampling here--mostly from New York state, a few officers along with draftees and volunteers--is too small and too regional to reflect or represent the whole range of Vietnam casualties. On the other hand, while some of the testimonies are lengthy, few of the individual histories are distinctive or particularly involving--especially since Brandon offers no background information other than birthplaces and birthdays. A limited compilation, then, but well-meaning, unpretentious, and occasionally moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's