WAITING OUT A WAR: The Exile of Private John Picciano by Lucinda Franks

WAITING OUT A WAR: The Exile of Private John Picciano

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From Lodi, New Jersey to Stockholm, Sweden is a long way especially if, like John Picciano, you've deserted from the U.S. Army. Franks tells the story with little embellishment: John's Italian-American boyhood in a pinched working class town; insecure high school years when he was a bookish loner; graduation and a lousy job hauling furniture in a warehouse; the induction notice and basic training at Fort Dix where like the other ""grunts"" he learned to wield a bayonet yelling ""kill! kill! kill!"" And that's as far as Picciano's army career got. He went AWOL twice and then went over the hill for good, going first to Canada, then to Sweden. His desertion was not a carefully thought out political act; the regimentation, the petty brutality, and his own recurrent nightmares of Vietnam drove him out, though once in Sweden he became involved with the American Deserters Committee. There is nothing very unique or heroic about John -- like most of the draft dodgers and deserters abroad he went through long bouts of depression, disillusionment and aimlessness. He found that neither Canada nor Sweden was the promised land. Jobs were hard to come by; he felt like a second-class citizen; he was lonely. His new-found leftist politics ebbed and flowed. Eventually he achieved a kind of equilibrium and was accepted at Upsala University. He would like to come home but not if it means a long jail term. A book with more integrity than insight, it is noteworthy only because John is such an ordinary kid with ordinary dreams. His simple story is in itself a strong argument for amnesty.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1974
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan