Yesterday, the Washington Independent Review of Books published my review of Ray McPadden’s We March at Midnight (Black Stone Publishers, 2021). You can read it at http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/bookreview/we-march-at-midnight-a-war-memoir
Just before taking on Midnight, I read and reviewed Stephen Dando-Collins’ Conquering Jerusalem (Turner Publishing Company, 2021—review at http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/index.php/bookreview/conquering-jerusalem-the-ad-66-73-roman-campaign-to-crush-the-jewish-revolt). Both books detail the bloodthirstiness of war at the very moment I’m reading in the press of death and destruction in Afghanistan. All these reminders have made me think back on my own record on the battlefield. Much of the time in my 35 years of government service was spent assisting U.S. and friendly forces in combat on the battlefield by providing information on the enemy derived from the intercept and exploitation of his radio communications. Although I never once fired a weapon in combat (I carried a 38-caliber revolver), I was, nevertheless, complicit in the killing.
I remember that during the Vietnam war we rarely found enemy bodies after a battle. The North Vietnamese always cleared the battlefield of their own dead. On the few occasions when I did see bodies, I was struck by the tininess of the Vietnamese. They were so small that it felt like viewing the remains of children. The GIs always referred to the Vietnamese as “the little people” for good reason.
I forgive myself for my participation in combat by reminding myself that my purpose was not to kill but to save lives. I was there to help my comrades avoid death by warning them of what the enemy was doing, where he was, and what he planned to do. I did in fact save many lives, although sometimes my warnings were ignored and men died as a consequence.
More next time.