BROTHERS IN ARMS: A Journey from War to Peace by
Kirkus Star

BROTHERS IN ARMS: A Journey from War to Peace

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Superbly written, often moving story of Broyles' journey back to the killing ground in Vietnam where he once served as a Marine lieutenant. He discovers that today he has more in common with his old enemies than with anyone except the men who fought at his side. It's a short trip, just four weeks, but intense. In the early 70's, after returning from his combat year in Vietnam, Broyles founded Texas Monthly, and in 1982 was named editor of Newsweek, a job he left after two years to resume his career as a writer. He'd thought he'd buried Vietnam but a visit to Washington for the unveiling of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial exploded that. In Vietnam he had asked, ""Why me?"" Before the marble roll call of the dead, he asked, ""Why them?"" "". . . [T] he war was still in me, like a buried piece of shrapnel working its way to the surface. . .I had to go back."" Landing in Hanoi, he finds himself as rare as a man from the moon. Our former enemies, now fury communized, detest Russian visitors but admire and fondle this warbird returned from the paradise of materialism. ""American number one!"" they cry. War heightens all appetites and the Vietnamese soldiers he meets recall their passions as they shot at incoming US fighter-bombers and B.52s--little ground fighters, their blood quaking, battling giants out of heaven. ""The most popular exhibit at the war museum in Hanoi is the wreckage of a B-52. . .Children gather around it throughout the day, staring, as if transfixed by the body of a slain beast."" The power fails daily, usually for two hours--""It could be anytime,"" a Vietnamese doctor tells him, ""--right in the middle of surgery."" He finds a people whose every soldier is a poet who reveres the rice paddy where he was raised, and while spending perhaps nine years away from it, fighting, writes verses about it. ""I wondered what I should tell them. Should I say that in America people are constantly moving, that few stay near where they were born, that freedom means you go looking for opportunity and happiness wherever you can find it? Should I say that in America even poor people have refrigerators and televisions and cars, items not one person in the entire district of Phat Diem possesses?"" He visits the famous young girl seen in a Life photo, who was running naked down a road and smoldering with napalm; visits the scene of and relives the Mi Lai massacre; revisits personal scenes of battle, Saigon, and so on, ever weighing the meaning of the war and giving a classic exposition of American motives gone to hell. A cool, clear meditation that stings the heart.

Pub Date: May 30th, 1986
Publisher: Knopf