I grew up during the Vietnam War, watched television news of soldiers fighting in fields and protestors marching on the Capitol. My father, who served in both WWII and Korea, said nothing, held the newspaper high enough to block the television. My brother’s eighteenth birthday began a time of doctor appointments, serious conversations about the draft and college and the National Guard. My mother cried when my Dad drove my brother to register for Selective Service
Split tear ducts nabbed my brother a 4-F classification. Neighborhood guys, healthy with no intention of going to college, were swept off for compulsory service in Vietnam. The youngest of the 40 Thieves: Saipan Marines were eighteen and nineteen. They carried themselves with a swagger, learned to fight the enemy hand-to-hand, were trained to silently kill. Not old enough to drink or vote, they were old enough in war to fight, to be injured, to die.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the reality of very, very young men as Joseph Tachovsky and I wrote 40 Thieves: Saipan. These boy-men without knowledge of adulthood trained diligently to become hardened fighters. And when the war was finished they were sent home, the age of new college graduates, with screaming nightmares and few regular life skills. They were expected to return to family dinner tables, to girls who didn’t know the horrors of battle, to churches that felt hollow. They could not unsee the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater or forget how well they carried out orders to kill. Some said they saw it all again every night.
40 Thieves: Saipan will be available from Regnery History in May 2020.
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