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Dispatches (1977)

by Michael Herr

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2,826493,790 (4.16)119
One of the greatest examples of war journalism ever written, Michael Herr's clearheaded yet unsparing retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, finding clarity in one of the most incomprehensible events in our modern era. A National Book Critics Circle finalist and highly acclaimed upon its publication, Dispatches still retains its resonance as America finds itself amidst another military quagmire.… (more)
  1. 10
    Chickenhawk by Robert Mason (Peter4444, chrisharpe)
    Peter4444: The autobigraphical recount of a young man who flew UH-1 Iiroquois helicopters in Viet Nam. He flew personnel rather than gun ships, but his take on what Viet Nam came to mean for him and how he ended up back in civilian life are a must-read, as well as the sequel "Chickenhawk: Back In The World"… (more)
  2. 10
    In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff (kraaivrouw)
  3. 10
    In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Dispatches was the central source for the film Apocalypse Now. It's non-fiction, but it conveys the hallucinatory horror of the Vietnam War in the same way as O'Brien's novel.
  4. 00
    Teaching Hearts and Minds: Colege Students Reflect on the Vietnam War by Barry M. Kroll (villemezbrown)
    villemezbrown: One of the books discussed in the text.
  5. 00
    The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn (gust)
  6. 00
    Naples '44: An Intelligence Officer in the Italian Labyrinth by Norman Lewis (gust)
  7. 00
    Territorio comanche by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (chrisharpe)
  8. 01
    Supernotes: het waargebeurde verhaal van de CIA-spion die ineens op de dodenlijst stond by Agent Kasper, (Luchtpint)

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Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
This book is the most haunting, visceral account of the Vietnam War that I have yet read. Michael Herr captures the essentially surreal character of the war, from the isolated and strange atmosphere in the Saigon drug scene to the absurdities of the "five o'clock follies", to the front-less fighting against the Viet Cong in both the jungles and in set battles. I felt in reading this that I got a real sense for how crazy it must have felt to be involved in the war from an American perspective, and what mental gymnastics were required to continue to justify a U.S. presence that became increasingly absurd as time went on. This is a highly readable account from a journalist who was there, who doesn't have any ideological or professional agenda to redeem or explain. ( )
  Dan_Smith | Jul 24, 2021 |
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
This is an incredible accounting of a time period about the Vietnam War, told with such descriptive clarity by journalist Michael Herr.

The journalist conveyed the horror using such descriptive language you could smell the fear, feel empathy for these children who wore the uniform of of military. He descrobed the young men as young but their eyes were old, old before their time having witnessed horrors no one should ever see.

He rode in choppers that were under fire and those filled with bodies of dead marines. He had humorius stories about the converstions with the men and frightening moments when they were targeted by incoming missles. Drugs, drink, death and sadness.

“I went through that thing a number of times and only got a fast return on my fear once, a too classic hot landing with the heat coming from the trees about 300 yards away, sweeping machine-gun fire that sent men head down into swampy water, running on their hands and knees towards the grass where it wasn’t blown flat by the rotor blades, not much to be running for but better than nothing.”

Herr didn't have to be in Vietnam and soldiers and Marines who realized this were gob smacked. One Marine stated once he was back in the States his own mama could be sent over and he'd never come back.

It took him years to write the book Dispatches as he came home with crippling depression. Writing this was probably theraputic.

The Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.
This is for the category Wartime Experiences. ( )
  SquirrelHead | Jan 18, 2021 |
There are some authors that can just write and it reads like it is made out of the best silk you can buy. This is one of those books that just read like this.

Not only this, but it also gives an amazing view into the Vietnam war from the point of view of a reporter. It shows very well how completely fucked up everything was down there.

Highly recommended, almost a must read. ( )
  gullevek | Dec 15, 2020 |
Some Difficult Sections, Rings True Overall

"Dispatches" is a collection of six short stories from the author's time in Vietnam during the war. Parts of the book are very difficult to read for one of two reasons: either there are very technical military terms that don't help the casual reader, or there are stream-of-consciousness sections that go on for pages at a time. When Herr slips into those stream-of-consciousness sections, the book is particularly hard to read. If the reader can get through those difficulties, the book is worthwhile. Herr spends a great deal of energy describing the psychological effects of the war on American soldiers, such as their loss of thought and emotional tiredness. Certainly not all soldiers behaved like the ones Herr describes, but their psychological problems ring true. ( )
  mvblair | Aug 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
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For my mother and father
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There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, coming back late to the city, I'd lie out on my bed and look at it, too tired to do anything more than just get my boots off.
Bob Stokes of Newsweek told me this: In the big Marine hospital in Danang they have what is called the "White Lie Ward," where they bring some of the worst cases, the ones who can be saved but will never be the same again. A young Marine was carried in, still unconscious and full of morphine, and his legs were gone. As he was being carried into the ward, he came out of it briefly and saw a Catholic chaplain standing over him.

"Father," he said, "am I all right?"

The chaplain didn't know what to say. "You'll have to talk about that with the doctors, son."

"Father, are my legs okay?"

"Yes," the chaplain said, "Sure."

By the next afternoon the shock had worn off and the boy knew all about it. He was lying on his cot when the chaplain came by.

"Father," the Marine said, "I'd like to ask you for something."

"What, son?"

"I'd like to have that cross." And he pointed to the tiny silver insignia on the chaplain's lapel.

"Of course," the chaplain said. "But why?"

"Well, it was the first thing I saw when I came to yesterday, and I'd like to have it."

The chaplain removed the cross and handed it to him. The Marine held it tightly in his fist and looked at the chaplain.

"You lied to me, Father," he said. "You cocksucker. You lied to me."
...what a story he told me, as one-pointed as resonant as any war story I ever heard; It took me a year to understand it:

"Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened."

I waited for the rest, but it seemed not to be that kind of story; when I asked him what happened he just looked like he felt sorry for me, fucked if he'd waste time telling stories to anyone as dumb as I was.
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One of the greatest examples of war journalism ever written, Michael Herr's clearheaded yet unsparing retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, finding clarity in one of the most incomprehensible events in our modern era. A National Book Critics Circle finalist and highly acclaimed upon its publication, Dispatches still retains its resonance as America finds itself amidst another military quagmire.

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