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British Association for American Studies


Issue 8, Spring 2006: Article 5


Issue 8, Spring 2006: Article 5

U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal

Issue 8, Spring 2006

‘Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there’: Vietnam Combat Literature and the Limits of Authenticity

Simon Turner
© Simon Turner. All Rights Reserved

The publication of Paul Fussell’s breakthrough critical study The Great War and Modern Memory in 1975 represents a fascinating confluence of three moments of historical conflict. An analysis of the literary heritage of the First World War written by an American veteran of the second, The Great War arrived on the publishing scene in the same year that played host to the dying stages of America’s more recent military excursion in the Far East. [1] The work is an effort to elevate the firsthand experiences of veterans (or ‘true testifiers’ in Fussell’s terms) as they are transmitted through literature into popular memory. Residing behind this relatively modest aim, however, is the assertion (implied through illustration throughout The Great War, but more forcefully presented in a 2004 interview) that ‘people who haven’t been through [combat] are unfit to write military history books because what happens in close combat is absolutely unknowable – it’s so fantastic what it does to you’. [2]

The author’s choice of terminology in this passage is telling. What Fussell is arguing for in this instance is what I would term a hierarchy of authenticity: the trauma of combat effectively elevates the veteran to the status of a cultural and historical expert with an access to truths which are always already out of the reach of the non-combatant. Moreover, Fussell compounds this divisive conception of authority by emphasising the subjectivity of those experiences: war is essentially unknowable and fantastic, runs the thread of his argument, and therefore only those who have lived through one should be granted the opportunity to record it in the interests of posterity.

A comparable, though less bullish, valorisation of the veteran’s perspective can be detected in Milton J Bates’s distinction between the opposed viewpoints of ‘the man on the hill’ and ‘the man in the valley’. [3] Where the man on the hill – the journalist, the general, the historian – is privy to a sweeping overview of the lay of the land, but never experiences any of the essential ‘truth’ of war, the man in the valley, though his experience is partial, is afforded a privileged insight into precisely those ‘unknowable’ experiences that Fussell sees as comprising the main body of the collective narrative of conflict.

Bates’s conception of the ‘man in the valley’ is compellingly similar to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s assertion, in his Letters and Papers from Prison (1953), that history should ideally be written ‘from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled – in short, from the perspective of those who suffer’. [4] The ‘man in the valley’ who records the ‘authentic’ history of conflict – the American veteran and the ‘embedded’ journalist – is, of course, not nearly so oppressed or powerless as those against whom the war was prosecuted. However, the discourse of authenticity as it pertains to Vietnam necessitates that the ‘true testifier’ cast himself as the voiceless victim, both of the horrors of war, and the distortions of collective memory. My intention in this paper is to consider the implications of Fussell’s hierarchy of authenticity as it relates to the veteran-composed literature of Vietnam. Specifically, I will interrogate the various binary oppositions (text / film; popular memory / ‘authentic’ experience; history / fiction; old / new (postmodern) literary narratives) which form the basis of the discourse of Vietnam, as it is propagated by both authors and critics of the literature, in order to ascertain their validity and utility as terms. Finally, I will conclude with a consideration of Lewis Shiner’s ‘The War at Home’, a short science fiction story first published in the mid-1980s, as a possible model for an alternative mode of reading representations of the conflict in future.

Alfred Louvre and Jeffrey Walsh, the editors of Tell Me Lies About Vietnam (1988), discuss in their introduction the alleged mass amnesia of the American populace and publishing industry towards Vietnam. Citing the veteran-poet W. D. Ehrhart’s claim that in the ten years after the war it was virtually impossible to publish material on Vietnam, they go on to argue that, between 1975 and 1982 at least, the dominant image of the veteran was either as a psychopath (such as Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle) or as a passive and emotionally crippled victim of war (such as John Rambo in First Blood). [5] Not a great deal of this is borne out by the facts; the absence of sources for their argument, and the arbitrary choice of start and end dates for their analysis of the popular image of the veteran, are both telling. Ehrhart’s claim, in particular, smacks most resonantly of sour grapes. A brief glance at the publishing dates of the following novels and memoirs gives a very different account of the publishing environment of the time and, moreover, the climate of public reception:

The Bamboo Bed, William Eastlake (1969)

The Land of a Million Elephants, Asa Babar (1970)

Captain Blackman, John A. Williams (1972)

The Lionheads, Josiah Bunting (1972)

If I Die in a Combat Zone, Tim O’Brien (1973)

Dog Soldiers, Robert Stone (1974)

Parthian Shot, Loyd Little (1975)

No Bugles No Drums, Charles Durden (1976)

A Rumor of War, Philip Caputo (1977)

Dispatches, Michael Herr (1978)

If some examples from this selection – such as Loyd Little’s Parthian Shot and Asa Baber’s Land of a Million Elephants – are known only by academics who specialise in the period, other authors – Tim O’Brien, Michael Herr, Philip Caputo – continue to be widely read and republished. The conception of a readership unable or unwilling to digest the war in literary terms in the 1970s is as fraudulent as the portrait of a publishing industry refusing to publish material on the conflict. The ten year moratorium on Vietnam-themed literature that Ehrhart ascribes to publishers is essentially a mythology, as effective and as misleading in intent as the muscle-headed jingoism of Rambo or Reagan-era neo-conservative attempts to rewrite the war as a noble cause gone astray. Ehrhart’s narrative of publishing silence and collective amnesia is, in short, an attempt to transpose the victimisation and marginalisation of the Vietnam veteran from the social to the cultural sphere. The greater the alleged cultural marginalisation of Vietnam’s ‘true testifiers’, the greater the perceived achievement when they do manage to garner both a publishing deal and a sympathetic readership. Long after the war, according to Ehrhart’s narrative, veteran voices remained embattled and unheard, thus distinguishing them from the general of popular cultural misrepresentations of the war and its combatant protagonists.

The assumptions residing behind these assertions about the publishing industry are elaborated by Thomas Myers in his book-length study of the literature of Vietnam, entitled Walking Point (1988). Ascribing to veteran-authors such as Tim O’Brien and Philip Caputo the status of ‘point men’ – soldiers who head a column of troops into uncharted territory, and who, in the terrain of the imagination, act as ‘the author and caretaker of a credible collective memory’– Myers argues for a consideration of these authors and their works as providing a necessary corrective to the evasions, misrepresentations and outright falsifications of popular mythology. [6] Myers, in his introduction, cites Norman Mailer’s claim in The Armies of the Night that:

history is interior – no documents can give sufficient intimation: the novel must replace history at precisely the point where experience is sufficiently emotional, spiritual, psychical, moral, existential, or supernatural to expose the fact that the historian in pursuing the experience would be obliged to quit the clearly demarcated limits of historic inquiry. [7]

Myers does not go quite so far as Paul Fussell, who explicitly excludes anyone who has not experienced battle from entering into the field of historical inquiry. However, his distinction between the ‘pioneering’ personal accounts of his appointed literary ‘point men’ and the alleged shortcomings of ‘traditional’ historical narrative and popular cultural memory is equally limiting.

An irony of Myers’ scepticism towards history’s utility in relation to the Vietnam War is the adoption by a number of Vietnam authors of the paratextual trappings of non-fiction (maps, glossaries, field reports, and so on) as a means of bolstering their own claims to authentic representation. Thus, the paratextual information employed by writers such as John Del Vecchio, Josiah Bunting and Larry Heinemann is to be understood as just as vital an indication of their authenticity as their status as ‘true testifiers’ is. Moreover, aside from asserting their reliability as witnesses by employing ‘evidence’ in their fiction, the authors in question impart a ‘secret’ knowledge to their readership, which, whilst spuriously democratic in intent, helps to maintain the barrier of authenticity between author and audience. The glossary – which focuses on both official military jargon, and the fruity slang of the troops – is potentially the best example of this particular aspect of Vietnam paratexts, and can be found in a number of works, including Larry Heinemann’s Close Quarters (1977), The Lionheads by Josiah Bunting (1972), and James Webb’s Fields of Fire (1979).

John M. Del Vecchio’s The 13th Valley (1982), in particular, employs paratextual devices of verification much more extensively than any other Vietnam fiction. There are, for example, twelve maps scattered throughout the novel, as well as other techniques designed to signpost Del Vecchio’s authority as a chronicler of the Vietnam experience, including a glossary, tables of military hierarchy, a final ‘tabulation’ of the body count racked up within the novel’s pages, and a ‘brief’ history of Vietnam (which is more inclusive than perhaps necessary, running from 2879 BC to 1975, and which, moreover, lends a startlingly teleological shape to Vietnamese history, suggesting that America’s struggle to ‘contain’ Communism was in some way a culmination, the final glorious act, of Vietnam’s perpetual struggle for independence and self-government). The brief postscript to Del Vecchio’s mammoth novel, however, is extremely telling if we are to read his paratextual insertions as markers of authority and verifiability. ‘Although a novel,’ writes Del Vecchio (or, perhaps, his publisher), ‘The 13th Valley is a real place where American soldiers fought and died in August of 1970; the author did participate in some parts of the operations upon which the story is based. During the writing of the book, copies of the U.S. Army topographic maps of the area were consulted and these became the basis of the battle maps printed along with each Significant Activity report’. [8]

Further ironies inherent in Myers’s strict segregation of allegedly opposed forms of cultural production – whereby the literature of Vietnam authors is afforded a cultural high ground where it might act as a caretaker for the nation’s collective memories, unsullied by contact with popular (mis)representation – can be ascertained when considering the complex series of interrelations that have taken place between the literary and cinematic representations of the Vietnam War. A brief and by no means comprehensive list of Vietnam authors who have dabbled in screenwriting might include: Michael Herr, who co-wrote the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket (1987) with Stanley Kubrick, which was in turn based on Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short Timers (1978), as well as composing Martin Sheen’s voiceover for Apocalypse Now (1979), another literary adaptation, this time from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Ron Kovic, whose memoir Born on the Fourth of July (1984) was later filmed by Oliver Stone (himself a veteran) with Tom Cruise in the lead; and James Carabatsos who has had work adapted and has, on a number of occasions, written screenplays himself, including Hamburger Hill and Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge. Vietnam literature’s relationship with its cinematic equivalent is evidently of greater complexity than the strict binary conceptions of representation or misrepresentation that Myers asserts can allow for.

What these binary distinctions indicate is not so much an assertion of the authenticity of Vietnam narratives authored by ‘true testifiers’ as an anxiety over the possibility of authenticity itself. This is borne out by a general concern, on the part of Vietnam authors themselves, as to the utility of memorial writing. A certain degree of futility is often written into the texts. Philip Caputo, for example, opens the preface to his memoir A Rumor of War (1977) with a negative statement of intent – ‘This book does not pretend to be history’ [9] – and concludes the same preface with the admission that his work ‘ought not to be regarded as a protest’ as ‘[p]rotest arises from a belief that one can changes things or influence events’. [10] Tim O’Brien, too, in If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973) expresses a similar degree of resignation as to the usefulness of his endeavour when he asks (of himself and of his reader): ‘Can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there?’ His answer is as bleak as Caputo’s renunciation of protest: ‘I think not. He can tell war stories’. [11]

O’Brien’s particular reaction to the essential futility of storytelling, is, I would contend, both instructive and problematic in relation to the culturally authoritative position which is afforded to the veteran’s perspective on conflict. A distinct trajectory can be traced throughout the writings in which O’Brien tackles the subject of Vietnam. If I Die in a Combat Zone is ostensibly a memoir, though, like all memoir, it is written with a novelistic eye for composition and narrative structure. Going After Cacciato (1978), his second novel proper after Northern Lights (1975), adopts the trappings of magic realism in its portrait of a platoon tracking an AWOL soldier all the way to Paris. It is The Things They Carried (1990) and In the Lake of the Woods (1994), however, which offer O’Brien’s most radical statements on the malleability of information and the essential impossibility of accurate knowledge. Both works push at the limits of fiction and fact, blurring them to such a degree that they become indistinguishable. Moreover, O’Brien suggests in both works that information (specifically information on the Vietnam War) is open to an almost infinite number of interpretations. Everything, and by extension nothing, that one might wish to say or write about the conflict is true. [12]

One, but by no means the only reason for Tim O’Brien’s continued popularity amongst both readers and critics is the extent to which he engages with (in fact, actively embodies) one of the key interpretative models which has come to dominate the critical reception of Vietnam literature. The postmodern concern with the discovery and perpetuation of new narrative paradigms in literature and film has proven to be a fertile ground for discussion in relation to a war which has routinely been considered a conflict requiring a new language of representation in order to contain it. Fredric Jameson, one of the leading theorists of the postmodern, tackled this subject, succinctly but suggestively, in his landmark essay ‘Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’, originally published in the New Left Review in 1984. In a perceptive, but all too brief, consideration of Michael Herr’s Dispatches, Jameson ascribes the author’s postmodernism – which resides specifically at the level of his ‘linguistic innovations’ – to ‘problems of content’. Jameson claims that: ‘This first terrible postmodernist war cannot be told in any of the traditional paradigms of the war novel or movie’. [13] Elsewhere, Michael Bibby has taken Jameson to task for the vagueness and ahistoricism of his use of the term ‘postmodernism’ in this instance. [14] My own concern, however, is with the degree to which Jameson falls foul of his own argument. Earlier in the same essay, Jameson posits ‘a new and original historical situation in which we are condemned to seek History by way of our own pop images and simulacra of that history, which itself remains forever out of reach’. [15] History in the postmodern era, according to Jameson, has been reduced to a text. Specifically, history has retreated into its own textual remnants, and can only be recovered and understood through them. The character of any historical event, therefore, is determined by the aesthetic principles of the works (such as Herr’s Dispatches) which have been produced to record it. Vietnam, in short, only becomes postmodern post facto, and Jameson fails to proffer any evidence that this is other than the case.

Jameson’s take on postmodernism in relation to Vietnam War literature is spuriously democratic. Postmodern Vietnam authors such as Stephen Wright and Michael Herr, whilst gesturing towards the possibility of an infinitely malleable and interpretable historical text, continue to set up the same binaries of ‘authentic’ and ‘inauthentic’ representation as their predecessors, but go further in implicating pre-postmodernist methods of literary representation as the co-conspirators of the ‘inauthentic’. The primary aesthetic of Vietnam postmodernism – the quest for more disruptive and open-ended narrative paradigms – is openly and inextricably bound up with the naked aggression of canon formation. More than this, if history is to be reduced to a text, or rather a collage of postmodern texts, then it will be subject to the same evasions and omissions as the texts themselves. The intolerance towards alternative (or older) models of historical documentation – including ‘traditional’ history itself – that recurs in the postmodernist thought and literature of Vietnam can only be damaging to understanding and empathy, creating, in place of a measured historical account, a partial and fragmentary mosaic of individuated voices.

Postmodernism in its Vietnam manifestation reveals the essential fallacy of the distinction between authentic and inauthentic representation. It is not coincidental that, as the cultural stock of firsthand accounts of the Vietnam War was on the rise, authors such as Herr, O’Brien and Stephen Wright – and their critical supporters such as Jameson and the New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani – began to insist upon the essential impossibility of accurate representation. The conception of authenticity in Vietnam combat literature is by nature embattled; it can validate itself only by positioning itself in opposition to the perceived inauthenticity of official historical narrative and popular memory. Where the Reagan era saw a swing towards support for and recognition of the Vietnam veteran – with the opening of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial on the Mall, and the popularity of movies such the Rambo series representing two extremes of this cultural shift – it could be argued that the most prominent authors of this period adopted postmodernism chiefly as a defence mechanism to evade being co-opted into the dominant culture of valorisation. Certainly, postmodernism, as it has been employed by Vietnam authors, has served to reinforce rather than critique the perceived authentic perspective of the ‘true testifier’. If Jameson is correct, and a new language has necessarily been invented and adopted in order to accurately represent the war, then the terms of Vietnam literature’s discourse have remained markedly similar: authentic experience remains a sacred territory that must be protected against encroachment from all sides.

Michael Herr’s Dispatches, the sole illustration that Jameson deploys in his discussion of postmodern Vietnam literature, is useful here as a concrete example of the embattled authenticity which I have delineated above, as much of the work’s subject matter is concerned with the process of composition; it is a ‘metatext’ that openly reveals its intent through its self-reflective technique. Moreover, Dispatches, published in its entirety in 1977, but composed chiefly of articles that Herr wrote for Esquire and Rolling Stone in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, is characterised not only by self-reflection, a common component of the postmodern turn, but also self-justification. Herr does not need a Jameson or a Kakutani as a champion for his ‘linguistic innovations’ and New Journalistic tics, as he defends his own aesthetic decisions tacitly within the confines of his own writing.

This defence primarily takes the form of critiques of other modes of representation, which are either accused of actively falsifying reality, or are seen as incommensurate to the task of recording it. Herr writes of his fellow journalists, for example, that ‘it would be as impossible to know what Vietnam looked like from reading most newspaper stories [written by them] as it would be to know how it smelled’, whilst Hollywood, in the normal course of events a fertile breeding ground for war movies, had, at the time of writing, ignored Vietnam altogether due to the ‘awkward’ nature of the subject. [16] ‘[I]f people don’t even want to hear about it,’ writes Herr, cynically though truthfully, ‘you know they’re not going pay money to sit there in the dark and have it brought up’. (153)

Comparably ‘awkward’ is Herr’s abortive interview with General Westmoreland. The general’s opening gambit is to enquire of the author whether he is going to write a ‘humoristical’ piece for Esquire, whilst Herr’s lasting impression of one of the chief prosecutors of the Vietnam War is of ‘a man who touches a chair and says, “This is a chair,” points to a desk and says “This is a desk”’. (175) This scepticism towards the general’s ‘realist’ outlook at first appears irreconcilable with Herr’s critique of military high command as primarily a manufacturer of technical jargon, anodyne euphemisms and ‘fictional kill ratios’ (173), but the satirical undermining of Westmoreland is clarified by the author’s assertion of a basic collusion between ‘conventional journalism’ (175) on the one hand, and the combined official distortions of the government and the armed forces on the other. What results is ‘a cross-fertilization of ignorance’, an environment where words ‘had no currency left as words’, and the press ‘never found a way to report meaningfully about death’ (173) as a result of this communications breakdown.

Herr, by implication, remains exempt from this critique. Indeed, his repeated interrogation of the utility and capability of more ‘conventional’ forms of representation (or misrepresentation) are the necessary foils to Herr’s validation of his own aesthetic. The binary conception of authenticity persists. ‘Conventional journalism’ is limited, cosmetic, incapable of representing the ‘secret history’ of Vietnam, and has, in fact, been instrumental in the transformation of this ‘most obvious, undeniable history’ into something innately hidden and elusive (175), ‘hiding low under the fact-figure crossfire’ of ‘all the books and articles and white papers’ written on the subject. (46) Herr’s brand of journalism, we are led to understand, is potentially more truthful, though it is a troubling form of literary honesty that asserts that, ‘It doesn’t matter that memory distorts; every image, every sound comes back out of smoke and the smell of things burning’ (91), as it seems to implicate Herr in the same processes of historical obfuscation that he ascribes to his peers.

Like Fussell, Herr seems intent on asserting the unknowable and fantastic qualities of warfare in order to bolster his own position as an authentic witness. Much of the war is ineffable, ‘impossible to convey’ (53), which suggests that the limitation of conventional representation is only half the story: language, even Herr’s, is always already incommensurate to the task of assembling the chaos of Vietnam into a literary order. It seems appropriate, then, that Herr should place, close to the beginning of his narrative, a soldier’s recounted story, ‘as one-pointed and resonant as any war story I ever heard’. It reads, in its entirety: ‘Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened’. (13-14) This is the archetypal Vietnam narrative: utterly ‘unknowable’ and unrepresentable due to the death of its sole authentic witness. The most secret, and ostensibly authentic history, is, implicitly, the very same one which has passed beyond recall.

With these caveats towards Vietnam postmodernism in mind, I want to conclude with a brief consideration of a short piece of speculative fiction by Lewis Shiner entitled ‘The War At Home’. The story, originally published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in 1985, and anthologised as part of In the Field of Fire, a collection of science fiction and fantasy narratives of Vietnam, offers, I think, a fascinating, though troubling, counter-narrative to the rigid demarcations of experience that can be detected in other literary and critical treatments of the war. Shiner opens his narrative with a burst of jagged and kaleidoscopic prose, whose setting should be immediately recognisable:

Ten of us in the back of a Huey, assholes clenched like fists, C rations turned to snow cones in our bellies. Tracers float up at us, swollen, sizzling with orange light, like one dud firecracker after another. Ahead of us the gunships pound Landing Zone Dog with everything they have – flex guns, rockets, and .50-calibers – while the artillery screams overhead and the Air Force A1-Es strafe the clearing into kindling. We hover over the LZ in the sudden phosphorous dawn of a flare, screaming, “Land, motherfucker, land!” while the tracers close in, the shell of the copter ticking like a clock as the thumb-sized rounds go through her, ripping the steel like paper, spattering somebody’ brains across the aft bulkhead. Then falling into the knee-high grass, the air humming with bullets and stinking of swamp ooze and gasoline and human shit and blood. Spinning wildly, my finger jamming down the trigger of the M-16, not caring anymore where the bullets go. [17]

The reader is on recognisable terrain in these opening passages. However, Shiner immediately subverts expectations (albeit in a deliberately trite manner) with the revelation that these events are a dream; the protagonist wakes up sweating beside his wife, complaining of Nam flashbacks. A further reversal is engendered when the narrator’s wife reveals, in turn, that he has never visited Vietnam, much less seen combat. [18] His ’Nam flashbacks are, rather, a product of mediated collective experience: news footage, movies, photographs and literature have all impacted upon his imagination to produce all the outward effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, with none of the actual ‘authentic’ experiences to back it up.

Though Shiner’s speculative fiction operates chiefly at a metaphorical level – the protagonist’s delusions are a perfect illustration of the processes of popular or ‘prosthetic’ memory (to employ Alison Landsberg’s term) [19] – his story also succeeds as a radical critique of the binary oppositions (between image and text, memory and history, popular and literary culture) upon which, as we have seen, much of the literature and critical theory of Vietnam rests. Effectively, Fussell’s hierarchy of authenticity is abolished; the popular memory of Vietnam is as traumatic, in Shiner’s fictional world, as the events themselves. This represents a radical, though strangely logical, extrapolation of Jameson’s conflation of the historical and the textual. If history is text, then the textual afflatus of any given historical event ceases to be merely representation; it must also by definition become an enactment of those events, weighted with equal significance.

Authorial intention is, of course, notoriously difficult to infer. My own intention in this paper has been to delineate and critique what I perceive to be the self-limiting and reactionary discourse of embattled authenticity as it is manifested in the literature of Vietnam, and Shiner’s fantastical take on the postmodern imagination simply fits the schema of my discussion. Robert Olen Butler’s A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (1992), which expands the autobiographical template of much Vietnam War literature to compose a mosaic of narratives detailing the neglected Vietnamese experience of the conflict, might have served equally well as an illustration. [20] What both works have in common is the suggestion that the paradigm of jealously guarded ‘authentic’ experience, the existence of which depends upon the constant reiteration of perceived ‘inauthentic’ forms of representation, is ultimately exclusionary and indefensible as a literary strategy. Where Shiner is flip and satirical, Butler is sincere in his effort to render the Vietnamese experience for a primarily American audience, yet the two narrative modes employed by both authors point towards a more inclusive literary environment, where the ‘secret history’ propagated by Herr, O’Brien and their fellow ’Nam authors, and the restrictive binary discourse upon which it depends, will no longer be the dominant mode of representation.

University of Nottingham


[1] Susanna Ruskin, ‘Hello to all that’, Guardian (London), 31 July 2004 <,,1272911,00.html > [accessed 12 November 2005]

[2] Ruskin. My emphases.

[3] Cited in Mark Taylor, The Vietnam War in History, Literature and Film (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), pp. 28-29.

[4] Cited in Vaclav Havel, Letters to Olga, trans. by Paul Wilson (London: Faber, 1988), p. 3.

[5] Tell Me Lies About Vietnam: Cultural Battles for the Meaning of the War, ed. by Alf Louvre and Jeffrey Walsh (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1988), pp. 5-6.

[6] Thomas Myers, Walking Point: American Narratives of Vietnam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 7-8. My emphases.

[7] Cited in Myers, p. 9.

[8] John M. Del Vecchio, The 13th Valley (London: Sphere, 1983, @1982), p. 607.

[9] Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War (London: Pimlico, 1999), p. xiii.

[10] Caputo, p. xxi.

[11] Tim O’Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone (London: Flamingo, 2003), p. 32.

[12] Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (London: Flamingo, 1991); Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods (London: Flamingo, 1995).

[13] Fredric Jameson, ‘Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’, New Left Review, 146 (July/August 1984), 53-92 (p. 84). <> [accessed 12 November 2005]

[14] Michael Bibby, ‘The Post-Vietnam Condition’, in The Vietnam War and Postmodernity, ed. by Michael Bibby (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), pp.143-172 (p. 148).

[15] Jameson, p. 71.

[16] Michael Herr, Dispatches (London: Pan Books, 1978), p. 79. Subsequent references appear parenthetically in the main body of the article.

[17] Lewis Shiner, ‘The War at Home’, in In the Field of Fire, ed. by Jeanne Van Buren Dann and Jack Dann (New York: Tor, 1987), pp. 325-326.

[18] Shiner, p. 326.

[19] Alison Landsberg, Prosthetic Memory: the Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

[20] Robert Olen Butler, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (New York: Grove Atlantic, 2001).