Dispatches Themes

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Herr lists the many ways a soldier can die in Vietnam, such as walking on a mine, falling into a spiked pit, all the variations of bullet wounds, and shrapnel from artillery rounds. Other threats include malaria and friendly fire or being shot down in a helicopter. Firefights may be brief or extend over days, weeks, and sometimes months, as with the siege of Khe Sahn.

Besides the physical toll, war takes its measure from the psychological health of young soldiers. Some may go insane and show it. Others go insane but hide their conditions until later when something sets them off. Those who manage to keep their wits and sense of morality must still perform gruesome tasks—nobody walks away from war unaffected.

Destruction of buildings, ruination of the land, and abuse of the population defines war. The once beautiful city of Hue turns...

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This section contains 1,513 words
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