Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam

By Christian G. Appy | Go to book overview

1
Working-Class War

MAPPING THE LOSSES

"We all ended up going into the service about the same time -- the whole crowd." I had asked Dan Shaw about himself, why he had joined the Marine Corps; but Dan ignored the personal thrust of the question. Military service seemed less an individual choice than a collective rite of passage, a natural phase of life for "the whole crowd" of boys in his neighborhood, so his response encompassed a circle of over twenty childhood friends who lived near the corner of Train and King streets in Dorchester, Massachusetts -- a white, working-class section of Boston. 1

Where were the sons of all the big shots who supported the war? Not in my platoon. Our guys' people were workers. . . . If the war was so important, why didn't our leaders put everyone's son in there, why only us?

-- Steve Harper

( 1971)

Thinking back to 1968 and his streetcorner buddies, Dan sorted them into groups, wanting to get the facts straight about each one. It did not take him long to come up with some figures. "Four of the guys didn't go into the military at all. Four got drafted by the army. Fourteen or fifteen of us went in the Marine Corps. Out of them fourteen or fifteen" -- here he paused to count by naming -- "Eddie, Brian, Tommy, Dennis, Steve: six of us went to Nam." They were all still teenagers. Three of the six were wounded in combat, including Dan.

His tone was calm, almost dismissive. The fact

-11-

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Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Facing the Wall 1
  • 1 - Working-Class War 11
  • 2 - Life before the Nam 44
  • 3 - Basic Training 86
  • 4 - Ominous Beginnings 117
  • 5 - The Terms of Battle 145
  • 6 - Drawing Fire and Laying Waste 174
  • 7 - A War for Nothing 206
  • 8 - What Are We Becoming? 250
  • 9 - Am I Right or Wrong? 298
  • Notes 323
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 355
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