CHARLIE COMPANY: What Vietnam Did to Us by Peter & Tony Fuller Goldman

CHARLIE COMPANY: What Vietnam Did to Us

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The special (December 14, 1981) issue of Newsweek on the Vietnam vets of Charlie Company has been expanded four-fold--with mixed results. The format is the same: what happened to Charlie Company in 1968 and '69, when these men were doing their one-year tours; how 40 of them have fared (or did fare, or were remembered) in the years since; who said what at the 1981, staged-for-TV reunion. The impact of arrival, unknowing, from car-clubs and street gangs, from rural Tennessee and Minnesota; the terrors and deaths; the returns, unheralded; the strung-out, patched-together after-years: all these hit home, regardless of prior exposure (Caputo, Herr, Santoli) and despite some journalistic hype. There are other pluses: because the men were flung together ""by the vagaries of chance and alphabetical order,"" they're a ready-made cross section of the US--as much today as in '68-'69. Some are vividly present--like Buffalo black Omega Harris, ""a wild child"" and a natural-born squad leader; or San Pedro's Don Stagnate, who finds himself ""liking the echoes of Vietnam"" as a narc with the L.A.P.D. The families, especially, amaze: mid-American fathers weeping, begging their boys to go to Canada; straight-arrow, church-going parents lying to protect a shattered, deserter son. But theme issues of newsweeklies have, by definition, a theme; and what Goldman and Fuller want to put across is the damage these men suffered (the drinking, crack-ups, flights, rages, outright suicides and self-destruction)--not because of the nature of the war, but because they were denied pride. While they were in Vietnam, the anti-war movement peaked and ordinary people came to see the war was futile; once back, they couldn't talk about their experiences or lay their ghosts. There is truth in this, yet it is not the whole truth. Maybe Minnesota-Irish Mike MacDonald gets closest: ""He still felt that the country owed him and a million others like him a parade for what they had been through."" The book is less raw, less probing than the A1 Santoli round-up, Everything We Had (1981). But just because it offers a catharsis, it will sit better with many.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow