Kidder was an ROTC intelligence officer, just months out of college and expecting a stateside assignment, when his orders arrived for Vietnam. There, lovesick, anxious, and melancholic, he tried to assume command of his detachment, a ragtag band of eight more-or-less ungovernable men charged with reporting on enemy radio locations.
He eventually learned not only to lead them but to laugh and drink with them as they shared the boredom, pointlessness, and fear of war. Together, they sought a ghostly enemy, homing in on radio transmissions and funneling intelligence gathered by others. Kidder realized that he would spend his time in Vietnam listening in on battle but never actually experiencing it.
With remarkable clarity and with great detachment, Kidder looks back at himself from across three and a half decades, confessing how, as a young lieutenant, he sought to borrow from the tragedy around him and to imagine himself a romantic hero. Unrelentingly honest, rueful, and revealing, My Detachment gives us war without heroism, while preserving those rare moments of redeeming grace in the midst of lunacy and danger. The officers and men of My Detachment are not the sort of people who appear in war movies, they are the ones who appear only in war, and they are unforgettable.
©2005 Tracy Kidder; (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"His account is an introspective, demythologizing dose of reality seen through the eyes of a perceptive, though immature, army intelligence lieutenant at a rear-area base camp. War isn't hell here; it's 'an abstraction, dots on a map.'" (Publishers Weekly)
I am a fan of Tracy Kidder and have read all of his books. Like John McPhee he has a true ability to convey what is taking place around him. In this volume he reveals the Viet Nam war through his own eyes and his own point of view. Certainly, he shares his own failings and change during this tour of duty honestly.
You'll not find anything really heroic in this volume. In the end, it seemed as though Kidder picked up his former fiction manuscript and decided to write a memoir about his experience. Unfortunately, he still seems to be nursing old "wounds" about slights and bureaucratic snafus that he endured while there.
The reader is warned by Kidder at the outset that this is the saddest story you'll ever hear. That is self serving and not really true. The reader will get a distinct picture of one Officer's experience in and feelings about the war. The volume is well read and written. Ultimately, it contains insight into the conflict that is narrow in focus, but valuable nonetheless.
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