Pictured: (Top) Author Tim O'Brien, who was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Americal Division in Vietnam, from 1969 to 1970. O'Brien later authored critcally-acclaimed books like The Things They Carried, blurring the lines between fiction and reality.
On January 18th, The Pritzker Military Museum & Library aired Fiction of War, an insightful discussion by Vietnam veterans and award-winning writers Tim O'Brien and Karl Marlantes on the subjects of literature, war, politics, and writing. O'Brien and Marlantes' use of story-telling blurs the lines between fact and fiction, and explores the different ways of speaking about war to an audience.
VVMF is a proud sponsor of the episode.
The Vietnam War was perhaps the most divisive armed conflict of the 20th Century. A civil war in essence, allies of the belligerent nations became involved to protect or advance their own interests amid the start of the Cold War.
As the war escalated through the mid-1960s, it grew increasingly unpopular among the American people—many of whom openly questioned the motives and judgment of their government in committing so many troops and resources to a controversial cause. But the war raged on, and as more men were needed, more were drafted—with nearly 650,000 draftees serving in Vietnam by war’s end, or about 25% of the more than 2.7 million Americans deployed.
Among them was a young Tim O’Brien, who received his draft notice in 1968 immediately after graduating from tiny Macalester College in Minnesota. Opposed to the war, O’Brien nevertheless did his duty and reported for service with the U.S. Army’s Americal Division as an infantryman.
From 1969 to 1970, O’Brien’s platoon served a tour of duty in Vietnam’s Qu?ng Ngãi Province—site of the infamous My Lai Massacre a year earlier—where he gained the experiences that would later shape his career as a best-selling author.
At nearly the same time, an Ivy League athlete and Marine Corps officer named Karl Marlantes left his Rhodes Scholarship after one semester at Oxford, volunteering for active duty out of a sense of moral obligation to his friends and fellow servicemen. He too would be impacted physically and emotionally by his time in Vietnam, ultimately finding a form of therapy in writing about his experiences.
A great look into history and experience, VVMF is proud to have partnered with The Pritzker Military Museum & Library for this episode. Fiction of War debuted on Chicago PBS and is now available for view here.
The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is also a proud supporter of The Education Center at The Wall.
Source: Pritzker Military Museum & Library.