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Elsewhere Than Vietnam
By Steve Krug (reviewer)
Elsewhere Than Vietnam: A Story of the Sixties
by David Schwartz
(Sticky Earth Books, 2019)
The title of the book comes from a 1971 article in the Armed Forces Journal in which the state of the US forces is talked about, which bears repeating: "The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the US Armed forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possible in the history of the United States.By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden and dispirited where not near mutinous. Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious."
The book is presented as a work of fiction, even though the author's bio looks amazingly like the main character: Steven. Steven, in the first chapter (spoiler alert !) takes part in a gang rape, while he is conscious of his wrong doing, he does it anyway. He feels he cannot stop his friends from raping because he is "not his friends keeper". So he knows what he is doing is wrong and permits his friends to do wrong. This becomes the theme of the character Steven throughout the book. Even as he becomes more politically aware and active, he rarely stands his ground or suffers any consequences. Steven says of himself that he is not a hero, in the telling of the story he has difficulty rising to even anti-hero status. When he finally does stand up to the war by going AWOL, he is still given the opportunity to renege on his actions and get an Honorable Discharge.
I am not sure what we are supposed to expect from works of historical fiction. If I view this book as a story, it is well enough told. It is, in part, a love story: can finding love in wartime over shadow a character's other shortcomings?
Steve Krug is an equally proud of being a member of VVAW and a conscientious objector.