Research, not Rambo
Apocalypse Now, Rambo and other popular movies about the Vietnam War don’t show the real thing, according to my father and the other veterans I’ve talked to lately. Instead, they’ve given me a long list of books to read, supplemented by suggestions from people who have recently traveled to Vietnam.
Nearly everyone’s list includes The Girl in the Picture – the story of Kim Phuc, the burning girl famously photographed in 1972.
I’ve also read The Father of All Things by Tom Bissell (the author wrote about returning to Vietnam with his father, a former marine); If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien (I read The Things They Carried in high school, then saw him read from it at Cornell a few years later); and Letters from Vietnam. There are plenty of books I haven’t had a chance to read – including Red Thunder Tropic Lightning by Eric Bergerud, my father’s recommendation, about his particular unit – the 25th Army Division. I haven’t even had time to skim the guidebook a Columbia student from Vietnam lent me two months ago. I guess that’s what the long, long flights are for…
(By the way, I used to read so much, some Briarcliff Middle School classmates just called me “Book” to tease me. If only I had the time now to deserve it!)