"This is not the story I intended to tell." So writes Medal of Honor winner Bob Kerrey, whose youthful innocence died in the Mekong Delta one midnight in 1969.
Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator, touched off controversy when, in 2001, he admitted to having taken part in a Vietnam War incident in which women and children had been killed. That terrible event stands at the center of this book, which, among other things, offers a sharp critique of the conduct of the war; Kerrey writes that it "could not be won because we focused too much on stopping communism and too little on building a free and independent nation." But Kerrey's absorbing memoir, written at a distance of four decades, touches on much more: the lost virtues of 1950s America, small-town life in the heartland, the nature of heroism and patriotism, the camaraderie and sorrow born of combat, and the need to remember the past.
Joining the work of Tim O'Brien, Philip Caputo, and other eyewitnesses, Kerrey's account presents grim proof that war is "not what our slogans, propaganda, and childhood fantasies have taught us to believe." --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Kerrey, former Nebraska governor and senator, is currently president of the New School University. He opens this moving autobiography by recalling his idyllic Nebraska childhood. At 10, he discovered that his father had a brother who'd disappeared during WWII. Years later, Kerrey promised his father he would uncover the truth about his uncle's death. "As I searched, I discovered many things I should have known before and many I wish I had known." He traces the family's history and details his own postwar childhood of church sermons, nights alone in his tree house, movies, music, paper routes, baseball and bicycling. As a University of Nebraska graduate pharmacist, he was employed at Iowa pharmacies. In 1967, at Officer Candidates School, he made the "difficult decision" to become a frogman; while training at Coronado Bay in California, "I thought the navy had sent me to paradise." At age 25, Kerrey arrived in Vietnam. Only weeks later, he was seriously wounded, losing part of a leg, and he spent a year recovering at Philadelphia's naval hospital. Kerrey explores his doubts about accepting the Congressional Medal of Honor "I knew that many men got nothing for bravery far greater than mine" and concludes with the results of his investigation into the mystery of his uncle's disappearance. Kerrey's deceptively simple writing style has great strength, and he presents his personal memories against the larger backdrop of antiwar protesters and other events of the period. Although the Vietnam missions fill only 30 pages, an army of readers will embrace this inspiring story, and many will eagerly await future chronicles of Kerrey's later life. B&w photos not seen by PW.
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