Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Listened To: "Dispatches" by Michael Herr

Listened to: Dispatches by Michael Herr, 1977 (listened to 2009 audio version off Overdrive).

Since audiobooks take so long to complete I take notes while listening. Here they are with a little clean-up after I finished listening:

Which came first? The attitude or the book? Is Herr's writing reflective of what went on or has everyone copied his tone?

Stories have been taken by and used by others:
"How can you shoot women and children?" responded with, "Just lead them a little less." and "You should do a story about me, I have 150 confirmed kills [plus oxen]" in Full Metal Jacket. Spooky M-79 shooter on the line in Khe Sanh redone in Apocalypse Now.

[Later comment: I found out after listening to the book that Herr helped write the script for Jacket.]

Khe Sanh's disastrous venture. Improperly digging in with the aid station next to the always shelled runway. Just sitting and waiting for an attack - to be fair an attack was expected by all. I once read a Marine's comments that they were always patrolling outside the perimeter but that ended after a while.

The Marines were just waiting it in Khe Sanh out until the weather cleared and the Air Force went to work. The Marines' stumblefuck in the mud was pointed out in a press conference by a former Marine captain working as a journalist. The former Marine pointed out how they had not dug in. The bunkers were crap. When the Army sent in the Cavalry to take over after the NVA left the Cav skipped the crappy original location and started building bases on the hills and bringing in all sorts of stuff. Khe San's original base was abandoned.

Comments about the Marines' reputation outweighing reality. Marines would go in with fewer people and weapons - seemingly based on reputation and pride. Whether or not they could get away with it or not was irrelevant. I'm assuming some of that was just because the Marines always seem to be the under equipped step child.

The unreality of first combat. The foolishness of expectations by Herr. Everyone seems to have some aspect of posing - Marines, Army, Journalists all amongst one another and with other groups. Exception being Sean Flynn and Dana Stone.

Photos carried by Marines and soldiers. The same photos were encountered everywhere - dead Viet., smiling soldiers holding up decapitated heads, a head propped on the body's chest, heads in a row with cigarettes in their mouths, dead VC female with the automatic phrase "no more boom-boom for that mama-san", cut-off ears, ears strung onto a necklace. "Snapshots were the least of what they took after a fight. At least pictures didn't rot." The same as now but soldiers have digital cameras and flash drives. Did the same things happen in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is the leadership and professional of young soldiers different than the '60s?

Everyone was raised on war movies. First times in combat seem like a movie with you waiting for everything to reset itself. Soldiers and Marines raised on war movies who do stupid things in combat just because a camera is there. The unreality of it is the same as now except their are also references to video games. The said comparisons to movies were made by soldiers in the Black Hawk Down fight in Somalia.

Herr's comment and criticism of the press corps: hundreds of credentials handed out during the war by MACV. Herr figures only about 50 of the people were any damn good. The rest were from a wide cariety of small and big papers, magazines, college reporters on vacation, magazine reporters, 2nd tier literary types 'who wrote how they hated the war more than you', people who accepted everything they were spoon fed by the military press assistance people and high ranking officers, press people who never went into the field, etc.

The main reason I listened to this is from reading about Sean Flynn in Requiem and remembering Kevin Dillon playing him in Frankie's House. (I never saw Frankies House all the way through, I only caught a few bits on television.) Even before Flynn disappeared he had a bigger than life reputation as Movie Star's Son. He was a good looking dude with his own acting experience. Flynn rejected that past and got by on his own ability. Requiem mentioned how Flynn would go out with LRRPs for weeks at a time and Herr mentions how Flynn would come back with only a two rolls of film.

Neat stories about Tim Page's history of injuries and his long recovery from the last injury.

Sign at Special Forces camp: Mercenaries kill for money. Sadists kill for fun. Green Berets do it for both.

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