The story happened on the year 1969 when the Vietnam War was in its regard. Although some of the young men enter the Marines on their own accord, most of them were forcefully pushed to join the Marines. Along with the other Marines, Snake, Hodges and Senator entered the service for various reasons. Snake has always been a rebellious and tough guy. It was hard for him to compromise, a reason why he fought with the people around him. At an early age, Snake learned to keep guard of his emotions. His violent upbringing partly became Snake’s motivation to enlist in the service.
To completely justify his tough image, he had a tattoo which said “Death Before Dishonor”, and to him, it was a guiding principle. On the other hand, Hodges joined the Marines because of the continuous scrutiny that came from his own family. His father was a soldier who got killed during a war. This was primarily the reason why Hodges joined the Marines. He actually never meant to take revenge for his father’s death, but he felt that he was also somehow responsible to continue his father’s legacy. Senator was a dropout from Harvard and came from a prominent family.
He unintentionally enlisted in the service for he had no choice. Unlike his friends, he wasn’t able to escape the draft and so he enlisted, without actually knowing what awaited him in Vietnam. The other Marines also have their own stories of their lives. Though almost all of those stories were far from conventional, it’s a fact that all of them were meaningful in its truest sense. Amidst the feeling of doom and helplessness, the Marines still struggled to fight the “gooks” or the Vietnamese soldiers. Everything always turns out to be gruesome and brutal, as dead bodies flew around.
It was carefully depicted how the Marines vigilantly devised plans to kill the gooks. However, a day wouldn’t pass by without a person being killed and it’s all just typical for everyone except for Senator. Senator was the only one who tends to be explicitly emotional when someone’s badly hurt. But he gradually learned how to put his mind first before his heart. The challenges that the soldiers face everyday were also described in a picture that’s full of terror and grim. It was detailed how the soldiers wade in high water that’s full of leeches and all the things that they’ve been doing for survival.
As the days transitioned, the number of the soldiers also boiled down because of the voluminous killings. There were times that the Marines would taste victory, but that period of victory would be diminutive, as grief would come once again to take some of the soldiers’ lives. What’s even worse is the brutality of death given to their comrades. There’s the case of Ogre and Baby Cakes wherein they were killed by a single bullet between the eyes and were buried afterwards. In the end, most of the Marines who fought for the country died in torment and affliction.
Though they weren’t able to receive their merits, the heroic stand that they took for the country was more than enough. Their families, amidst the grief that they felt, were also proud of them. Snake’s mother who abused him when he was young was proud of his son’s courage, it was evident with the excitement that se felt upon knowing the fact that the medal would be given to her. It’s just sad that Snake wasn’t there to witness that for the first time in his life, he was able to bring joy to his mother’s eyes.
In general, James Webb clearly wants to point out that being a soldier is indeed excruciating and those who are outside the battle field should also have their own moral responsibilities. James Webb wrote the book in a very evocative manner. It’s as if that you were really a part of the story because you can really feel the intensity of the events. The reason why Webb could write and describe the Military life in such way is that he was also a part of that life before. Both sides of Webb’s family have a strong military tradition. His father who was an Air Force officer primarily influenced him to embark on that field.
James Webb was never wrong in his chosen field because he truly excelled in it. Some of the major awards that he received were the Superintendent’s Commendation for outstanding leadership, the Navy Cross, the Silver Start Medal, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts. His professional excellence in the government was also given a wide array of recognition which includes the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Medal of Honor’s Society Patriot Award, the American Legion National Commander’s Public Service Awards, the VFW’s Media Service Award, and the Marine Corps League’s Military Award.
James Webb has written six best-selling novels with almost the same repertoire. Alongside with this, “he also served as a combat Marine in Vietnam, a full committee counsel in Congress, novelist, journalist, screenwriter, high-ranking Pentagon official, international business consultant and political commentator. ” 1 The two decades of Webb’s wide-ranging careers gave him an extensive scope regarding national defense issues. He was also known for his blunt frankness yet unshaken integrity. He was a leader who’s full of immeasurable thoughts towards his own country.
Basically, the author’s purpose for writing “Fields of Fire” is to show the people the moral elusiveness and torture not just of the Vietnam War but also the other wars. Though the primary context of “Fields of Fire” is fictional, it still never strayed far from reality. The ironies that were included in the book were all sad and sorrowful realities. ____________________ 1. www. jameswebb. com The most compelling evidence the author has used is the diverse characters in the book. The characters that were entwined in the book all seemed so real.
All of the Marines have their own nicknames such as Baby Cakes, Ogre, Phony, Bagger, and Cannonball, which were all lifted from their stories or from the manly faults that they have committed before. Throughout the book, the Marines showed the gruesome dehumanization that they’ve experienced while battling. Aside from the physical horror that they were experiencing, it was also shown that most of them were worried with their families. There were still lots of things that they wanted to do with their lives, supposedly after the Vietnam War, but sadly, most of them never made it.
Some of the characters also indirectly addressed their pain towards the huge gap in their society. It was never mentioned that there were members of the middle and upper class who were there in the bush. Probably except for Senator, but his story of how his friends made up reasons to escape the draft was already enough to depict the inequality. The inhumane description of the soldiers’ struggle for survival would make readers be bothered about them. I personally think that James Webb never failed to use that particular context as the evidence of his viewpoint.
His viewpoint has been proven because the context of the characters was accurate enough to show their experiences. The descriptive passages of their actions were clear enough to convey their true feelings. There are also numerous books which support James Webb’s viewpoint. John Del Vecchio’s “The 13th Valley”, gives a detailed story of the Vietnam War. Like “Fields of Fire”, it was also written with flair of compassion for the characters. However, unlike “Fields of Fire”, which contemplated closely on the physical and psychological effects of fighting the enemy, this novel also tackled the military and philosophical aspects of the war.
It supports Webb’s viewpoint because Vecchio’s evidence is also close to his. “The 13th Valley” illustrated the horror and danger of the jungle in a way that you could really feel that you were there. Another example is “We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Darang- the Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam” by Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway. It’s also an outstanding account depicting the major battle between American and North Vietnamese forces in the Vietnam War. “Like Fields of Fire”, it was told in a dramatic yet real detail.
The authors of the book also have an experience with a close combat. They have drawn not just their personal experiences but also their encounter with their former enemies. “We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Darang- the Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam” It gives verification to Webb’s viewpoint because it tells the story of the lives of the soldiers and this has to be the closest book that has a lot of similarities with “Fields of Fire”. The book “Lost Soldiers” is another account of James Webb himself.
It has an exhilarating plot, and most importantly, an outstanding characterization. “Like Fields of Fire”, James Webb was able to maximize his characters’ exposure and he made them delicately differentiated from each other. In conclusion, James Webb did a great job with “Fields of Fire”. All the parts of the book were indeed compelling because it just not showed how the soldiers fought valiantly, but it also conveyed all the bitterness that they felt. It was also a moving book for its realistic and descriptive stand on what it was like to be in the field in Vietnam.
The battle scenes also painstakingly left a twinge in me for it portrayed each detail in an agonizing manner. This is a worth-reading book for it will make you realize how difficult and how challenging is it to be in the soldiers’ positions. Although the book’s theme is quite heavy to handle, it will help you to be aware of the brutality that entails a war. “Fields of Fire” didn’t talk about military procedures or politics; it just talked about the truth on how the soldiers dealt with life despite the physical and mental conflicts that they already have.
The characters in the novel can be considered as ill-fated not completely because of the battlefield, but because of the people they promised to defend for. Although they never admitted it, it was really hard for them to accept the fact that their comrades were gradually turning to casualties. They remained firm and consistent but the sight of the maltreated bodies of their comrades was giving them more reasons to become less sane. Senator’s last line on the book which was addressed to the students on the peace rally was indeed very profound, it said: “How many of you are getting hurt in Vietnam?
I didn’t see any of you in Vietnam. I saw dudes, man. Dudes. And truck drivers, and coal miners and farmers. I didn’t se you. Where were you? Flunking your draft physicals? What do you care if it ends? You won’t get hurt. ” It simply meant that the people whom the soldiers rely on deserted them in time of need. These are the moral responsibilities James Webb is trying to point out in his novel- that people must have a sense of obligation not just for their countrymen bust most especially to their country.
If they were able to enjoy the good things that the society is giving them, then they must also be willing to carry the gruesome burdens of the country in times of trouble. “Fields of Fire” is undeniably one of the most excellent novels of all time. Yes, the book is miserable and depressing, but it’s the reality. We don’t have the power to change what is really going on. It is not only applicable to Vietnam War but also to other countries that now have the same fate.
The book mostly depicts grim realities, but it is also very touching that amidst everything, there are still people who are willing to sacrifice their lives just to protect and uphold the country’s honor.
Moore, Harold G. , and Joseph Galloway. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang- the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. New York: Random House, 1992. Del Vecchio, John M. The 13th Valley. New York: Saint Martin’s Press. 1982. Webb, James. Lost Soldiers. New York: Dell Publishing. 2002.
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