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My Detachment: A Memoir

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  • Posted May 6, 2011


    Kidder applies his novelist like insightfulness of people and there place in the world to himself with this book. At times shockingly honest, Kidder's tale rings true for anyone who went to Vietnam or even knows a vet from that war. The transformation Kidder goes through from nervous but determined cherry el tee to a protector of his men from banal military bueracracy and those that enjoy making it that way is presented warts and all. By the end of the book you feel Kidder's satisfaction, jadedness and worry over handing off his detachment to a new cherry officer right along with him. While there are a number of good books about combat in Vietnam, Kidder's story fills a gap about how most soldiers experienced the war. Good stuff, and all the better for his unique story telling talents.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2008

    '...a young man in a morally desperate situation that everyone back home wants to forget...'

    The tone of Tracy Kidder's excellent memoir from his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968 and 1968 is dour, full of resentment and disbelief in the value of war, and one of the stronger pacifist statements in book form. Rather than re-living the horrors of the Vietnam War and struggling to stay alive in a combat zone not marked by peripheries but rather by indistinct underground burrows where the ubiquitous 'enemy' remained hidden and disguised, Kidder's 'Detachment' was an Intelligence unit, for the most part safe from assault attack, but a unit that suffered the psychological destruction that accompanies an isolated band of men living in filthy conditions and always under the threat of 'inspection' by commanding officers seemingly more concerned with polished boots than by healthy mental states. Kidder, who never believed in the concept of the war in Vietnam, was a Lieutenant in charge of a small band of enlisted men whose job was to gather Intelligence to pass on to the war planners. His memoir unveils his own need to transmit to his family and girlfriend back home a sense of constant danger and participation in killing, and it is this disparity between his own convictions and the 'image' he felt necessary to send home that makes his memoir so frighteningly memorable. He shares his relationship to the men under his command, the multiple problems he confronted with personality types and aberrant situations, and the manner in which he grew as a man during his prolonged exposure to the underbelly of the commanding officers of the war. 'But to represent something is to command power over it. Maps are the tools of many ambitious people, of policy makers, commanders of armies, and youths who like to play at being one of those. And the problem is that the maps are easily confused with the world'. Where Kidder succeeds in his memoir about his war experience is in his brutal honesty, his fearless approach to report the reality of a war everyone is electing to forget, and the impact that Vietnam had on the mentality of the world and especially now with the youths who face another very similar war. His pacifism may annoy some readers, but his intelligence as a reporter and a writer cannot by ignored. As Kidder completed his tour, he observed a lifer, Major Great, on his way to back into Vietnam and ultimately society: 'I tried to imagine the life in front of him. Paperwork and acronyms and young men who wouldn't get dressed right. Too bad he wasn't a more prepossessing villain. But what a horrible life. Incomprehensible, really. And, of course, he probably walked off still shaking his head, thinking much the same about me.' Kidder has written a gripping book, one that would serve us all well to read - a different view of the long-term effect of Vietnam, and war in general. Grady Harp

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2006

    What Life Was Like For Most Soldiers In Vietnam

    As a Viet Nam War veteran, who spent 16 months in- country, I found My Detachment to be especially intriguing. Tracy Kidder¿s experience in Vietnam was not unlike my own. And. our stories are not atypical. NIne out of every 10 soldiers, sailors or airmen sent to southeast Asia fell into that category. Although perhaps not as intense as the daily regimen of the grunts who actually did the fighting, our lives in-country were filled with danger, tedium and the Mickey Mouse BS so typical of the military life of that era. In telling his own story, Kidder has told the story of thousands of others who did a tour in Nam. This book is definitely a must-read for anyone who was there. Those who weren¿t will get a real glimpse what Vietnam was like for most of the troops who were there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2010

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    Posted January 3, 2011

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