Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien is his third title regarding his Vietnam war experience. I have also recently read If I Die in a Combat Zone and The Things They Carried. These are three of the best books of fiction and mixed non-fiction regarding the war.
As a soldier in Vietnam in October 1968, Paul Berlin discovers that Cacciato, a soldier in his unit has gone MIA. Cacciato previously informed Berlin that he was planning to walk from Vietnam to Paris.
The unit chases Cacciato as ordered by their unit commanding officer. The soldiers track him to a hill, but Cacciato sets off a smoke bomb and disappears.
O’Brien reveals how Berlin recalled his service beginning in June 1968 with the 198th Infantry Brigade. As their chase leads into November, the unit loses Harold Murphy who left on his own. Yet the unit permits three women to join their chase. Soon they fall into a hole and discover a deep underground network of tunnels. As they crawl through the tunnels they meet a Vietcong soldier. They are able to somehow escape the tunnel and land in Burma.
Berlin sees Cacciato dressed as a priest and tries to capture him but is overwhelmed by Cacciato’s new friends who are also dressed in priestly robes. One of the women still in their unit tells Berlin she saw Cacciato catching a train to Delhi. The unit is able to catch the next train and continue their chase.
Continue reading “Latest Read: Going After Cacciato”
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is a powerful story of fictional experiences. His storytelling is a mix of life as a child, before the war, serving in a platoon, and after the war back at home trying to recover from the war. It is also about returning to the battlefield.
It was enjoyable to see Tim O’Brien interviewed extensively in the new Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War. O’Brien’s opening chapter is quoted in the show.
The book also describes a girl from his childhood who died in grade school and he describes how she looked at the funeral home. This story seems to prep him up for serving in Vietnam.
He shares the struggles to decide whether to avoid military service by fleeing to Canada. His story about the duty to country, the hometown feeling that you are required to follow the family and friends who answered the call to fight in World War II.
Continue reading “Latest Read: The Things They Carried”
If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien was a fast yet welcoming read last night. I finished this book in just under three hours. He writes about his experience in Vietnam, thoughts of escaping to Europe and stories about fellow soldiers in Alpha Company from 1969 to 1970 which included supporting the area of the My Lai Massacre just one year after the atrocities.
O’Brien shares a brief story of growing up in the Midwest and life in Worthington Minnesota.
He shares his experiences joining the army. If I Die in a Combat Zone shares how fellow soldiers were not fully committed by 1969 to fighting a losing war.
He shares his relationship with a soldier “Erik” who also disagrees with the war and their experiences at Fort Lewis before begin shipped to Vietnam.
The bitter topic of desertion is addressed as O’Brien planned to dessert while on leave and make his way to Sweden. Yet after all his detailed research and staying in a hotel with an AWOL bag fully packed, he does not desert. Midwestern values played a strong influence.
If I Die in a Combat Zone reveals O’Brien served around My Lai, the site of the US Army My Lai Massacre, but as the book closes he writes about getting a job out of the company’s combat zone and ends up working for an officer investigating the massacre led by William Calley and Charlie Company of the same battalion O’Brien served just one year later.