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One Very Hot Day David Halberstam

One Very Hot Day

David Halberstam

Published 1967
216 pages
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 About the Book 

The war is defined by the heat and boredom of the Vietnamese soldiers and their American counterparts for the lack of action. The war also underscores the incompetence of third world soldiers because they did not have an ideology to die for as well the wages that would justify sacrificing their lives in the line of duty. This has huge implications in Afghanistan another 3rd world country that needs our help but I assume has just as incompetent soldiers as the South Vietnamese. The books main characters are Beaupre who is motivated by a survivalist instinct, Thuong once an idealist now a cynic who is fatalistic on what will befall his country, Anderson the idealist American who wants to do good in the world. It is fitting that the ending Anderson, the idealist gets killed while Thuong the fatalist and Beaupre the survivalist survive because in the end they are what the South Vietnamese army is made out of not American idealism. I give this book 3.5 stars for a good read which attempts a Heart of Darkness ambiance to it.Cpt. Big Williams was someone a black officer who boasted of his degree and many women and had good taste in music and beloved by the Vietnamese people. While the younger officer liked him b/c of his colorful attitude, the older officer disliked his showmanship and said that he is a typical nigger. This shows the racial divide between the generations showing the difference between differing attitudes considering integration of the military. Cpt. Williams is the head of the Rangers which he was able to corral into a fighting unit.The Colonel did not want the men to mess around with any of the local woman in order to keep the friendlies friendly. For Capt. Beaupre the heat is as much his enemy as the Viet Congs. I understand why Americans do not like being in an advisory position nor under the command of a foreign force b/c if Beaupre experience with Dang is any indication of how foreigners think about war, then I can see how professional soldier would think S. Vietnamese were unprofessional. Beaupre wished he had the authority of a real officer instead of the fake authority of man in an advisory position. Beaupre did not like the Vietnamese that he was suppose to advise b/c they had no sense of loyalty to each other. Beaupre continued to hate the Vietnamese b/c the enemies that he identified were fake nice to them while making fun of them behind their back. He is pissed by the way his army takes crap from the enemy instead of fighting them. I can see how troops in Afghanistan are not happy with being police instead of being soldiers. He did not like all the talk about winning the villagers hearts and minds.Beaupre was consumed with survival rather than Andersons idealism for this reason he opted out for the heliborne units b/c he believed that his chances of survival increases with a battalion rather than heliborne units in which they could be shot out of the sky at any time. He believed that his survival instinct was what kept him alive all these years while the Andersons of the world were brave but would surely die b/c of their bravery. Beaupre said that his success in Korea evading the enemy was due to luck nothing more but b/c the army wanted him as a counter-insurgent and he was bored with his life and wife he accepted the assignment in Vietnam.Beaupre resented that Anderson had a loyal wife while he did not, although Beaupre slept with prostitutes like there was no tomorrow. With one prostitute, Beaupre was nice to her because he was unable to perform and she had low self-esteem wanting to be compared to a playboy model in a magazine. Beaupre had a false pride that he hated b/c he was not going to be promoted yet he had pride enough to slug it out with the enemy that he did not want to fight in a war he did not believe in.The problem with fighting in a poverty stricken country like Vietnam is that people only concern is living thus they will tell people whatever they wanted to hear in order to live to the next day. Unlike WWII, Vietnam war there was no clear enemy so it felt like the men were walking in circles. For Beaupre, the issue is whom to trust in a world where people all lie and look alike. Like Beaupre, Thuong did not trust the intelligence that told him that a Communist area was actually a friendly so he doubted everything that his own people told him.Thuong was a northerner who was more industrious and more honest than their southern counterpart. During his time in the military, he was well decorated but people were suspicious of him because he was a Northerner and a Buddhist instead of a Catholic Southerner. While he admired the Catholics as a minority b/c of their quiet courage, he did not like their arrogance now that they were the majority in the South. He did not switch to the Communist side because he was too cynical for the Communist passion and commitment to their cause. He prided himself of his professionalism and not kissing ass to his superiors in order to be promoted. He had a fatalism about him that suggested thinks that are corrupt will remain corrupt. He liked Dang as his incompetent commanding officer b/c it reinforced his world view that the injustices and corruption is endemic to Vietnam and would never go away.Lft Thuong began to dislike the interrogation whereas when he was an idealistic new recruit he thought that he had better rapport with the people since his family came from a poor background like himself. Unlike the VietCong who believed in the communist message that Ho was supplying to them, Thuong had no illusions into what he was doing to these people thus he hated it. Everyone in Vietnam is getting angrier and angrier. Unfortunately for the Vietnamese soldier, they were not paid for their services so how do they expect them to be loyal if they are not paid and not raid their own population.Thuong was initially hopeful that the Americans would come and change Vietnam but in the end he was disappointed that they could not change the country themselves. Although Americans come into everything with a healthy dose of idealism, they leave with the fatalism of the Vietnamese soldiers. While he thought Anderson was the best officer he has seen, he thought Beaupre was a condescending prick. For Thuong, truth was a luxury that the people that he interrogated did not like to make since it means death to many while lies means rewards. He did not trust the hierarchies intelligence because he thought it was filled with falsities with their own agendas that he was not aware of. Thuong used to be angered by betrayals that his own people would bestow upon his troops but the higher ups just laughs at him and tells him to grow up. So, he now doubts any information that comes from intelligence.Like Lft Thuong, Lft Anderson coming from West Point had high hopes for changing Vietnam but has been disappointed with everyone in Vietnam. Anderson had high hopes with being friends with Thuong who was the best officer in the entire corps but Thuong when he invited Anderson to dinner that Vietnamese were not easy people for the Americans to save. Thuong stated that the Vietnamese cannot save themselves. Anderson hoped his friendship with Thuong would grow deeper having a respect for a Vietnamese and having hope for Vietnam. Anderson wanted to know Thuongs background but since Anderson was an officer of the first order, Thuong was formal towards him and did not open up to him as Anderson would had liked.Anderson distrusted Beaupre for his lack of ambition and fatalism, while Beaupre distrusted Anderson for his ambition, youth and inexperience, and his idealism that the army was a sacred duty to save Vietnam. Anderson seems to have a love hate relationship with Beaupre in that he occasionally thinks Beaupre is an unprofessional drunk that is not a good example to what an American officer is suppose to be but in other times Anderson feels for the boredom that Beaupre must undergo. Anderson was captivated with the idealized beauty he has for the Vietnamese women. He did not like the slow plodding nature of the war as an advisor. While in the water, Anderson got leeches on him that sucked his blood.Cpt Williams placed his and Cpt. Beapre death in perspective in that while his would be met with derisive comments by the white population, Cpt. Beaupre death would be met by a heros parade. Cpt. Williams brought Cpt. Beaupre to a black bar which he felt uncomfortable foreign and out-of-place in even more foreign than the fact that he was an American in Vietnam. He was so uncomfortable that he wanted to leave but was scared that he would look like a racist. B/c of his experience, he wondered how it would feel being a negro entering a white world.The military was walking in ambush after ambush as it was the VC who was drawing the path for them to follow so in order not to tip the enemy off, Beaupre ordered Anderson to tell Command that he everything should proceed as planned and ordered Thuong to do the same. Thuong was pissed that a good officer Chinh was murdered. Chinh admonished Thuong for having contempt for the reason American fight instead of appreciation for how they fight which Thuong admires.Beaupre was angered that Dang did not properly equip his decoy party for fear for being reprimanded by his superiors for losing an automatic weapon. The decoy party seemed oblivious to their fate and happy unlike professional American troops. Finally the ambush started with a long gun machine gun fire killing the troops he is with instantly. Although Dang might still be alive, Beaupre was the unofficial commander in charge of the operation due to Dangs ineptitude. Beaupre found Anderson shot and Dang in shock which left Beaupre and Thuong in charge. Beaupre was shocked to learn that HQ was leaving their to die.Thuong expected yet was amazed by the lack of back up response to their ambush yet he expected the level of undisciplined incompetence of the South Vietnamese army of not returning fire against the Viet Cong. Thuong was discouraged by the look of fear from Beaupre. Beaupre was lucky that Thuong stood up and rallied his troops to return fire. In the end with all the carnage brought on Vietnamese army, they killed one maybe 2 Viet Congs with machine guns. Beaupre commanded the T-28 to kill the main Viet Cong battalion that ambushed the diversion army.