Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Read They Marched Into Sunlight (Rob)

In October 1967 two events provided convenient portals from which to view and understand America's involvement in Vietnam. The first, on Oct. 17, was a battle at Ong Thanh between the 2nd Battalion--28th Infantry Regiment (Black Lions) and the NLF's 271st Regiment. The battle (a deadly ambush) left 61 Americans dead. The next day saw a confrontation between recruiters for Dow Chemical (manufacturers of napalm) and students at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. The students, attempting to block the recruitment interviews, were beaten and dragged from the University building. They Marched into Sunlight tells both stories in more or less alternating chapters. The author interviewed over 100 of the participants (including North Vietnamese soldiers) and mixes the personal narratives with journalistic history and war strategy. We get to know the motivations and conflicting emotions of soldiers, military family members, activists, bystanders, police, politicians and University officials. It works. For the most part the author, David Maraniss, allows the subjects to tell their stories free of judgment. We will not necessarily like or agree with or sympathize with all the interviewees (how could we?), but we readers cannot help but come away with a better understanding of the War's diverse human pieces.
(A movie is in the works for 2013.)

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