"You that never done nothin’ But build to destroy You play with my world Like it’s your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly” -- Bob Dylan, “Masters of War” (1963)
“‘The bitterness I feel when I remember carrying the lifeless bodies of close friends through the mire of Vietnam will probably never subside. I still wonder if anything can be found to bring any purpose to all the suffering and death.’” -- Jan Scruggs, former U.S. Infantryman, as quoted in BOOTS ON THE GROUND
The upbringings of my Boomer contemporaries and I were framed by the Vietnam War, or, as the Vietnamese called it, the American War. From my perspective the men of my generation can be identified by their relationship with the war. Some volunteered or were forced to go to Vietnam and died; some volunteered or were forced to go to Vietnam and survived; some had the resources to work the deferment process and avoid being forced to go to Vietnam; and some left the country or went to jail to avoid being forced to go to Vietnam. Then there were those like me, who had the luck to come of age just after the military draft was abolished.
Although it seemed like ancient history, World War II was chronologically closer when I studied it in high school than the Vietnam War is now. It took something special to understand the war: fathers, uncles, family friends or, in my case, a history teacher who’d served and brought it to life.
For my generation’s children and grandchildren Elizabeth Partridge’s BOOTS ON THE GROUND will bring the now-long-ago Vietnam War to life.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND vividly reveals the Vietnam War from the perspective of Americans who fought in it, American presidents who oversaw it, American citizens who protested it, and Vietnamese refugees who survived it. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that this is a book that could change lives and and alter futures for the young people who are fortunate enough to encounter it.
The power of BOOTS ON THE GROUND results from extensive interviews that the author conducted with machine gunners, medics, nurses, protest singers, and refugees. There are also chapters of third-person history, including stories about JFK, LBJ, and MLK that reveal the messy ways that powerful human beings affect and are affected by world events. The writing is elegant and engaging, and the story is chunked into digestible pieces that keep you wanting one more. To pick up and open the book is to be hooked.
Anyone familiar with Ms. Partridge’s background in the world of photography and her previous nonfiction books for young people won’t be surprised by the high quality of the photographs that accompany the chronicles.
“Some folks inherit star spangled eyes Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord And when you ask them, ‘How much should we give?’ Ooh, they only answer ‘More, more, more’” --John Fogerty, “Fortunate Son” (1969)
As a grandfather and a citizen who is terrified by the manner in which the ship of state is being captained by one of its “fortunate sons,” I consider this book about America’s past to be as timely as it gets.
224 pages 978-0-670-78506-3 Ages 13 and up
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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