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Word of Honor Summary & Study Guide

Nelson Demille
This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Word of Honor.
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Word of Honor Summary & Study Guide Description

Word of Honor Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Word of Honor by Nelson Demille.

Ben Tyson is on a train bound for his work when a book being read by a fellow commuter catches his eye. The book, "Hue: Death of a City," describes the actions of Tyson's platoon on a particular day during a battle in Hue, a Vietnamese city. The author, Andrew Picard, cites two unnamed members of Tyson's platoon and an unnamed nun as his sources of information. Tyson immediately realizes that the story is the account of the murders of several civilians by American troops under his command, and knows that under military law he can be held accountable for those crimes. The problem is that he can't be tried as a civilian for military crimes and so he is soon recalled to the Army and assigned to Fort Hamilton where he's placed under restriction to remain on post.

Tyson, who has established a rapport with the military investigator, hires an attorney named Vincent Corva. Corva, though seeming to be operating off-the-cuff, pours his heart into Tyson's defense even when Tyson himself seems despondent and willing to give in without a fight. Through the attention on Tyson, the media soon zeroes in on the fact that his wife, Marcy, is famous for her role in protesting the Vietnam War and that a nude photo of her had been printed during that era. The Tyson's son, David, catches abuse at school from those who read - and believe - the tabloids.

Tyson never really proclaims his own innocence. The situation was that his platoon had taken heavy casualties and was without effective leadership because Tyson was the only man among them with a leader's rank and experience. As they approach a hospital on the outskirts of Hue, the men effectively mutiny, killing civilians and holding Tyson at gunpoint. Tyson himself shoots one of his own men in the heart to stop his random killing but can't stop the massacre that follows. As Tyson continues to fear for his life and his men continue to mumble about killing the only commander on hand, Tyson files false radio reports and the men all eventually come to an understanding, each memorizing and offering details of a firefight that never happened.

Picard's book opens the way for a trial against Tyson. A medic who hated Tyson for taking a strong stand when the medic was caught raping a young girl testifies that Tyson gave the order to kill the unarmed people in the hospital. He's backed up by one soldier's testimony. Tyson doesn't call any of the men who had pledged to tell the story they'd all concocted and is found guilty of murder. Before he's sentenced, his former radio operator tells the entire story - as it really happened - and the jury panel of military officials decide that Tyson's only punishment will be to strip him of his rank and any pay due him.

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