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If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home Paperback – September 1, 1999
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"When you are ordered to march through areas such as Pinkville--GI slang for Song My, parent village of My Lai ... you do some thinking. You hallucinate. You look ahead a few paces and wonder what your legs will resemble if there is more to the earth in that spot than silicates and nitrogen. Will the pain be unbearable? Will you scream or fall silent? Will you be afraid to look at your own body, afraid of the sight of your own red flesh and white bone? You wonder if the medic remembered his morphine."
O'Brien paints an unvarnished portrait of the infantry soldier's life that is at once mundane and terrifying--the endless days of patrolling punctuated by firefights that end as suddenly and inconclusively as they begin; the mind-numbing brutality of burned villages and trampled rice patties; the terror of tunnels, minefields, and the ever-present threat of death. Powerful as these scenes are, perhaps the most memorable chapter in the book concerns his decision to desert just a few weeks before he was sent to Vietnam. "The AWOL bag was ready to go, but I wasn't.... I burned the letters to my family. I read the others and burned them, too. It was over. I simply couldn't bring myself to flee. Family, the home town, friends, history, tradition, fear, confusion, exile: I could not run." Tim O'Brien went into the war opposing it and came out knowing exactly why. If I Die in a Combat Zone is more than just a memoir of a disastrous war; it is also a meditation on heroism and cowardice, on the mutability of truth and morality in a war zone and, most of all, on the simple, human capacity to endure the unendurable. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
—The New York Times Book Review
"One of the best, most disturbing, and most powerful books about the shame that was / is Vietnam."
—Minneapolis Star and Tribune
Top Customer Reviews
O'Brien "grew out of one war and into another." He is the son of a WWII soldier, "who fought the great campaign against the tyrants of the 1940s." His mother served in the WAVES. Drafted in the summer of 1968, "Nam-bound," O'Brien thought the war was "wrongly conceived and poorly justified," and seriously planned to escape to Canada, or to Sweden. However, his entire history of life on the American prairie, the values instilled in him by parents and teachers, pulled him in another direction. In the end, he submitted. "It was an intellectual and physical standoff, and I did not have the energy to see it to an end. I did not want to be a soldier, not even an observer to war. But neither did I want to upset a peculiar balance between the order I knew, the people I knew, and my own private world. It was not just that I valued that order. I also feared its opposite - inevitable chaos, censure, embarrassment, the end of everything that had happened in my life, the end of it all." Thus, he articulates, so well, the reasons that many of my generation, far less eloquent than he, went silently off to fight a war they did not believe in - and too many never returned.
As a woman from the "Vietnam generation," this book was very painful to read. Yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I was still a girl, in so many ways, when Tim O'Brien landed in Vietnam. And he, and our peers, were still boys. I will always feel wonder at their courage - even if they did not feel particularly courageous. How did the regular guys I graduated school with, manage to shoot and be shot at?Read more ›
This is an excellent text for learning about the experience of the Vietnam war, the choices that young man were faced with at that time and basic dilemmas in making moral decisions. It is a well written book which makes for a quick, satisfying read.
Courage and morality are continuing themes that O'Brien explores through his actions as well as literary quotes. It is very clear that O'Brien was uncomfortable with the war even before being drafted. He even contemplates going AWOL. In a paradox, he lacks the courage to go to war or escape going to war. Nothing is more powerful than the last chapter. Going beyond patroitism and rituals, O'Brien is numbed as he returns home. The war has left a mark that is difficult to fathom.
Tim O'Brien does not flinch at the brutality of the war nor the American soldiers. Major Callicles seems straight out of Catch 22, yet he is all too real. The cruelty to a blind civilian has the ability to disgust. While making a statement, O'Brien's writing is both enlightening and entertaining. It is a remarkable perspective on a disastrous war.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was great to read the actual story of O'Brien's tour in Vietnam. In many places,I could see the real events that made up TTTC. Overall, an enjoyable read.Published 9 days ago by Kindle Customer
Excellent account of Vietnam and its tragedies! A must read for war buffs. Gruesome war scenes and serene moments captured by O'Brien.Published 1 month ago by Erica Cox
Another excellent read by Tim O'Brien. Walk with him through the putrid rice paddies, the smell of napalm, and the ear splitting noise of fire-fights. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Wayne G
This book was amazing if you're trying to understand what warfare and the mindset of a soldier is read this book it applies to today as well as it did in Vietnam this booked help... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Chris F
Tim does a good job here. I read this before I read his "The Things They Carried". Either way it's a good read.Published 5 months ago by LVDesert Rat
O'Brien wrote this memoir shortly upon his return from Vietnam. Some 20 years later he wrote the fictional "The Things They Carried", which I believe is one of the finest... Read morePublished 5 months ago by CJA