BLOODS: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans by Wallace Terry

BLOODS: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Get 20 black Vietnam vets to talk about their experiences, and what you hear from a lot of them--""We came back totally fucked up in the head""--is what you hear from a lot of white vets, with trimmings. Maybe there's more candor about the torching of villages, the killing of old people, women, and children, the torture of prisoners; about going to Vietnam ignorant, and coming back violent; about the nightmares and depression--because blacks could identify with the Vietnamese, and can properly blame their confusion and guilt on a white system. This is apart from their feeling of being used: of serving at the front, while whites were safe and comfortable. And, with variations, they found racism not in the field (""we had to depend on each other,"" ""we had utmost respect for each other""), but in the rear. ""In the rear we saw a bunch of rebel flags. . . . It didn't mean that they hated blacks. But after you in the field, you take the Hags very personally."" Some, however, see the Hags only as provocation--while on other subjects (including loss of the war) there's no more unanimity than there'd be among 20 whites. The men, too, don't represent only the damaged and disillusioned; they include a Marine Corps lieutenant who took flak from fellow-blacks (""If you give orders, it means you had to kiss somebody's rear end. . .""), an Air Force captain POW distinguishable as black only because he resisted being used for anti-US racial propaganda. They include two men whose stories belong to the larger history of blacks in service: Navy Lieutenant Commander William S. Norman, the spur to Admiral Zumwalt's racial reforms; and Marine Sergeant Major Edgar A. Huff, ""senior enlisted man in the whole United States Armed Forces"" on his 1972 retirement. . . whose Alabama house was attacked, by four white Marines throwing hand grenades, shortly after the retirement party. (How did old-time blacks live with Klan terrorism, he marvels.) They also include a few who rebuilt their damaged lives--among them Haywood Kirkland (Ari Sesu Merretazon), convict-founder of the Incarcerated Veterans Assistance Organization. Terry doesn't do much to link their stories together beyond noting the change in black attitudes as careerists were replaced by draftees, ""filled with a new sense of black pride and purpose."" But in the absence of an interpretive history, some potent fragments.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0345311973
Publisher: Random House