‘The horrors of the Vietnam War are heightened for the reader by the variety of narrative perspectives anthologised in Bernard Edelman’s Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.’
Bernard Edelman’s Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam anthologises a broad range of experiences of and attitudes to the Vietnam War from those who were ‘humping the boonies’, ‘the rear-echelon types’ in administration compounds and the photographers who documented the action. We read commentary on the pressures and atrocities of the war in letters that are both stark in their reportage and emotionally charged in their reflections. It is the range of personal perspectives presented in this collection that gives a human face to the men and women who found themselves fighting a highly controversial war.
Many of the letters give vivid accounts of the harsh realities of warfare. For so many of the soldiers, letter writing is cathartic process in which they can unburden themselves of their of “their own special nightmare[s]’ to a certain extent. Because the letters are written to trusted loved ones, the content is often uncensored and conveys, at times, distressing and heart wrenching events. Edelman’s opening chapter, ‘“Cherries”: First Impressions’, contains the reader’s first glimpse of the shocking transformation undergone by the ‘newbies’ as they become ‘hardened’ in such a short time. Mike Ransom, one of thousands of young Americans cut down in their prime, reveals in a letter to his parents the devastating reality that some men found a lust for killing. He tells them of a lieutenant who described the ‘kick’ he got out of ‘rolling a gook 100 hundred yards…with his machine gun.’ The racism is somewhat understandable; however, the desensitisation undergone is one of the most abhorrent and damaging by-products of conflict. It is hard not to feel some level of sympathy for the troops, despite the atrocities they commit. Edelman constructs the text in order to elicit...
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