. . . AND A HARD RAIN FELL: A GI's True Story of the War in Vietnam by John Ketwig

. . . AND A HARD RAIN FELL: A GI's True Story of the War in Vietnam

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Some day medical science will discover how many brain cells a man can lose and continue to function."" So begins this magnetic, bloody, moving worm's-eye-view of soldiering in Vietnam, an account that is from first page to last a wound that can never heal. ""A lot of brain cells are burned out in a war, overloaded and short-circuited and gone. They don't regenerate. You know they're gone, but the folks back home only see that you've brought all your arms and legs, and the inside hurts stay inside, and there's a void you can feel."" Ketwig's is a completely personal, subjective account, not about fellow ""grunts"" or army groups he served with. Aside from an 18-year-old Cantonese-Malay whore he falls in love with and pursues to Thailand, there is hardly another figure he meets in Southeast Asia who sticks in the reader's mind. He is a wide-eyed high-school graduate from Rochester, New York, when he enlists in 1967 and is shipped to The Nam. His baptism of fire--driving a loaded ammo carrier behind an even larger flatbed ammo truck 100 miles upcountry to Dak To--is unforgettably unbearable, a lyrical holocaust and blood bath that erupts when the flatbed ahead drives over a mine, blows up and tears his truck half to pieces, though he keeps driving straight through the flames and hole in the road where the truck ahead had been. This is bad but the arrival at Dak To only deepens the hell insanely, since the outpost is in the midst of an extended firefight against a massive enemy assault that keeps the earth quivering and mud pounding upward. Soon he's watching green beanies (Green Berets) savagely torture village maidens and explode them to a pink mist with firehoses up their vaginas. Before his year is over, he sees horrors of which few people even dream. Ketwig's fade-out at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, along with other veterans standing in a hard rain, brings a lump to the throat. His own memorial, built of superbly intense vignettes, is worthy of his generation's loss of innocence and a searing gift to his country.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1985
Publisher: Macmillan