22 Mar 2022


Vietnam War: The Dispatches by Michael Herr

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Academic level: High School

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Platoon , film inspired by Oliver Stone, portrays a close-to-real-life experience of the Vietnamese War. The movie sets a tone that shows a true picture of what many perceived as a realistic portrayal of a soldier’s life in the war. The motion picture refrains from accusing the Vietnamese as significantly uncivilized and cruel torturers, murderers, and puppets of the Russian roulette and instead considers the cruelties and massacres that the United States armed forces did (Stone, 1986). People credited the movie because of its sensitive and truthful account because it illustrated the Vietnam combat as it really happened. Stone, as director and writer, received large-scale praise and support from war veterans who were part of his audience. Platoon is more than a film that demonstrates the realities of the Vietnamese war, but it also depicts the complex cultural aspects such as the forces of good and evil, the reality and brutality of war, and colonialism.

The song by Joe Macdonald became a popular Vietnam song because of its truthful reflection of the situation in the Vietnam War. The song conveys its message through an ironical tone depicting how the soldiers send by “Uncle Sam” end up returning in a “box”. On can notice from the chorus of the song that people do not know why they are fighting. This represents the atmosphere at the time when Americans could not understand the reason why soldiers had to go to Vietnam to fight. The song also provides one with impression that generals thought that the only means to peace was through war. In addition, the song impresses on a person that the Vietnam War was an effort by “Wall Street” to make “plenty of good money”. The song depicts the themes of unwarranted death and means of seeking peace, which are similar to those in Stone’s movie.

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Similarly, the “Unknown Soldier” song demonstrates the life of a single unknown soldier in war. In this song, Jim Morrison shows the cruelty and reality of being a soldier. Soldiers face the reality of death in the line of duty. Being an “Unknown Soldier” is cruel because once he dies then “it’s all over” for him. The song also shows the theme of death and reflects the life of a single soldier, which is the close to the tone set in the Vietnamese War. Therefore, the song was popular because of its true and sensitive mirroring of reality of war, and in this case the Vietnam War.

Michael Herr, in the book Dispatches, narrates the stories of marine soldiers in Vietnam War with a profound sense of respect and admiration for what the soldiers did and their perception in a foreign country that safety was seldom guaranteed (Herr, 1977). The writer also tells about the propaganda of the Vietnam War drawing sketches of those promoting the official lines. Herr finds each marine valuable. His dispatches pay more attention to the men who depict a deeper impression and background of the war. Herr writes in a sardonic humor and demonstrates the themes of death and mayhem in addition to the legal and illegal activities regarding drug use (Herr, 1977).

A person can validate Herr’s claims that he went to Vietnam because he narrates the stories about the soldiers he personally interacted with truthfully. Dispatches describes his account of realistic experiences of soldiers and writes in such a tone that conveys the stench, filth and death that results from war. In short, he narrates the deep experiences and testimonies of soldiers and survivors who return back home. He captures the sounds, sights and the horrifying reality of war in addition to narrating the beauty present in the war-ravaged nation.

Herr (1977) felt comfortable with the marine grunts. He would take fire with the grunts, share canned rations with them in addition to listening to their stories. Herr discovered that all grunts had a story to tell and war provided an opportune moment to do so. On the other hand, Herr perceived the Viet Cong as hostile and enemies that were out to eliminate the marine grunts. He considers them as malicious people who would lie in wait just to cause someone harm and hence he had come to fear them. For instance, Herr (1977) asserts that the Viet Cong were “coming and going, moving and waiting, living out there just to do you harm”.

Herr stayed for as long as he did because he shared the profound and candid accounts of soldiers whom he had admired. He admired their open accounts and testimonies about the war in addition to establishing friendship with them from daily experiences. He stayed longer not because he liked war or the violence that was so pervasive at the time, but because he had the privilege of genuinely looking into the soldier’s lives. Through Herr, the reader can look at the situation from an honest and sane standpoint. The war had such a profound influence on him that when he returns home it seemed dull. Herr had enjoyed the intensity and adventure in addition to making money while travelling and experiencing what no one had experienced.

To summarize, the account of Herr narrates a truthful account of comradeship and the reality of war. Herr explains his stories with the intensity, brutality and language of war that no other journalist could have done. His honest account seems to be the result of his involvement in the lives of marine soldiers he interviewed. In short, he sought to understand their various perspectives, doubts, fears, excitement and the motivation regarding the war. Therefore, he was able to get truthful testimonies from them and got involved that he appeared as one of them. His comradeship with them has helped others to have a global view of battlefields and understand the mind of a soldier.


Herr, M. (1977). Dispatches . New York: Knopf.

Stone, O. (Director). (1986). Platoon [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Orion Pictures.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Vietnam War: The Dispatches by Michael Herr.


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