12, 20 & 5: A Doctor's Year in Vietnam by

12, 20 & 5: A Doctor's Year in Vietnam

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One of war's dirtiest tricks,"" reflects Dr. Parrish, ""is to leave you physically intact and systematically take away little pieces of your very self."" Throughout his year of sawboning in Vietnam, Parrish, a young Navy internist with the Third Marine Division in Phu Bai, carries on an existential Q&A with himself, at first wondering why he went to war at all: ""To flirt with death and win?. . . to rob death and disease of their victims?. . . . Why hadn't I joned the U.S: Public Health Service? Or run away to Canada? Was I going to die?"" But he went and healed in the M*A*S*H manner and shriveled spiritually. His oaths -- to wife and Hippocrates -- and then his sensibilities went through the war's meatgrinder: ""Where would I start when some poor kid full of holes was placed before me?"" he thinks; ""What would I do when some mud-soaked, bloody limb came off in my hands?"" but presently ""A blown-off leg was a blown-off leg."" He worries about the onset of callousness: ""My world had changed greatly, and it had slowly transformed me. In the midst of gleaming white, I felt base and profane."" During an R&R break in Bangkok he escapes momentarily into narcotizing, voracious sex with a native bar whore; but then it's back to that sump called Vietnam and his hoochmates and always the nightmares filled with young bodies, blood, brains under the fingernails, tourniquets, mass casualties. This doctor's diary makes no political pronunciamentos against the War nor does it offer assumptive preachments against war in general. Rather it is, very much like Dr. Glasser's 365 Days (1971), one man's moving account of the irreparable consequences of suffering on the human spirit.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Dutton