Michael Herr's Dispatches and Vietnam

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Americans have a script in their minds about war. Movies, television, books, newspapers, and music have led society to form these scripts, which in turn has created a romanticized notion of war. Michael Herr's, Dispatches completely dispels the myth of idealized combat, and instead presents in part what he refers to as a secret history of the Vietnam War. This secret history is not the official history prepared by the government, or the mass media, but rather it is a history of first-hand experience. It is the chronicle of grunts, of young men who have no convictions about the domino theory or communism, and simply want to finish their tours alive. As Herr writes, "Conventional journalism could no more reveal this war than conventional firepower could win it, all it could do was take the most profound event of the American decade, and turn it into a communications pudding, taking its most obvious, undeniable history and making it into a secret history. And the very best correspondents knew even more than that (218). In many ways the reader gets a sense that the author's secret history could also be referred to as real history, and that when Herr writes of secret history he is only shedding a dim light on what he has seen. Moreover, in this reader's opinion, the author presents a fully realized account of the secret history he saw as a correspondent in the films he co-wrote, Apocalypse Now, and Full Metal Jacket. These motion pictures are far removed from the previously produced sentimentalized portrayals of war. Realistic armed conflict jumps off the page, and off the screen in such a way that the audience becomes scared; while also thankful that they will never personally experience the horrors of war. Prior to Vietnam, the American public's view of war was un-authentic. War was macho, it was cowboys and Indians brought to life, and where boys became men. Herr's, Dispatches are genuine in that they present the grunts as scared, and unsure if today,...
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