If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
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If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  4,468 ratings  ·  232 reviews

Before writing his award-winning Going After Cacciato, Tim O'Brien gave us this intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam. The author takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman's rifle, to walk the minefields of My Lai, to crawl into the ghostly t...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 1973)
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The Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienMatterhorn by Karl MarlantesDispatches by Michael HerrAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. CooperWe Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Harold G. Moore
Best Literature About the Vietnam War
10th out of 174 books — 336 voters
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenFlags of Our Fathers by James D. BradleyLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellThe Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Non-fiction War Books
70th out of 748 books — 918 voters

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Community Reviews

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May 22, 2013 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: blog
For me, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is the most powerful book that I have every read and it's the standard against which I judge all things O'Brien. In The Things They Carried, O'Brien utilizes a nonlinear and fragmented narrative structure, magical realism, and the power of storytelling to capture the visceral truth that telling the real story can't quite capture. For O'Brien, we must sometimes turn to fiction to capture what is "emotionally true" and, in doing so, be less concerned w...more
war bond

These fought, in any case,
and some believing, pro domo, in any case ..

Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later ...

some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some "pro patria, non dulce non et decor" ..

walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;

usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in pub
Larry Bassett
Tim O’Brien’s war story could have been me. A 1968 college graduate, Tim accepts being drafted in spite of his opposition to the war. He goes to basic training then infantry training, decides to desert to Sweden when it is clear that he is headed for Vietnam, changes his mind mid-desertion and goes off to war. As they say, the rest is historical fiction.

Can the foot soldier teach anything about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories.

This war story is If I Die i...more
Outstanding attempt to portray the experience of an infantry soldier draftee in the Vietnam War. Although it is a memoir, it is so carefully crafted in its sequencing of vignettes and selection of archetypical examples, it comes across as a fictional narrative. Nevertheless, it is compelling, simultaneously tragic and beautiful. It feels honest about the numbness and ambivalence of most soldiers fighting an unwinnable war, one in which the enemy was rarely seen and blended in so well with the ci...more
Dec 14, 2007 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those looking to find a little more despair in the world
War, what is it good for?

Requested this from my local library on Veterans Day, and just plowed through it on my daily Metro grind this week. I'm not much of a memoir-reader generally, but I thought that it would be appropriate reading in honor of Veterans Day (well, sort of). In some ways it was your typical Vietnam-dysfunctional story that we have all heard before. I think the thing that was most interesting though was the personalization of the dysfunctional war story, and the thinking of a r...more
Tim O'Brien is always haunting. Though I didn't love this quite as much as "The Things They Carried" (the ultimate Vietnam book IMO), or my all time love "In the Lake of the Woods" (words can't express the adoration I have for that chaotic beautiful mess), If I Die in a Combat Zone is disturbing and painful and written with the clarity and disdain the subject matter deserved.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be drafted into the war at a young age? Tim O’Brien experiences first hand the stresses and decisions that needed to be made when he first learned he was drafted for the Vietnam War in the summer of 1968. In the memoir If I Died in a Combat Zone: Box Me up and Ship Me Home, Tim O’Brien talked with his friends as he explains, “I was persuaded then, and I remain persuaded now, that the war was wrong. And since it was wrong and since people were dying...more
Compared to The Things They Carried, which is a compilation of war stories from Vietnam, and one of my favorite books, If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home is a much more personal account. It is O'Brien's memoir of his own experience in the war, and his own views on its morality. Thus, this work contains some drudgery that would not normally be seen in an action-packed war novel. But that is why I love it. The accuracy and honesty of the memoir, and O'Brien's dependable writing...more
Tim O'Brien's true reflection of Nam and being drafted despite objecting to war as a concept and especially Vietnam, is a good honest account of his feeling and fears.

Chapters of the book vary dramatically in their style, some being written in the field and some later from memory, some are reflecting on the meaning of courage and the concept of war. A lot is on his heavily planned desertion, prior to being shipped to Nam. Another gives a breakdown on all the types of booby trap and mine they enc...more
I really love "The Things They Carried", so I was so excited to start this one! I was really very disappointed :( It was very repetitive with hardly any "action", just long bouts of sitting or walking or talking about courage/morals/heros. A new concept would be introduced without any explanation, so I couldn't understand why "x" was the effect of "y" happening. Military terms, abbreviations, and names for weapons/trucks were used with no definition. For the most part, that was easier to work ar...more
Abbey Harlow
I really wanted to love this, because I love Tim O'Brien generally. But, I came away from this feeling like I had just listened to a bunch of random war stories about Vietnam and going to Vietnam, which I know was the point of the book. I guess it made it feel a bit cliched - at this point, we've heard all this before, but it was probably more shocking or new at the time it was written. I also think he took the whole idea of storytelling much further with "The Things They Carried." Those were al...more
Tim O'Brien is a great liar who always convinces me that he is deeply and sincerely -- perhaps even profoundly -- honest. If I Die in a Combat Zone is a memoir, but I went into it with both eyes open.

After all, one of the best parts of The Things They Carried is not actually reading the book (though it is a very good book). Instead, it's when you learn that Tim O'Brien does not have a daughter, let alone one named Kathleen.

He's pulling out the same tricks here. He writes with sincerity, self ana...more
Kyle Ohlsen
If I Die In A Combat Zone

If I Die In A Combat Zone was written by Tim O’Brien in 1969. The book was published by Clarendon Press. If I Die In A Combat Zone is about Tim O’Brien when he was in Vietnam in 1968. This book explains what soldiers went through in Vietnam and what it was like to look down the gun barrel at another human in combat.

If I Die In A Combat Zone is about Tim’s life from the time of his draft notice to when he returns home. He talks about the friends he makes during his traini...more
Ashlee Draper Galyean
I was shocked when I read this in high school but overall I'm grateful for a teacher who actually took the time to do a unit on Vietnam since the history teachers never got to it. Also one of two books that I never forgot since high school. I'm now teaching another Tim O'Brien book to my students because of this book and my own high school experience.
Jun 24, 2014 Ian rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: war
Pretty tame compared to his other works, reads more like a diary of his tour of duty and the days leading up to his being drafted. I suppose it is an accurate reflection of the way the Vietnam war was, with days of doing nothing, almost like a tropical vacation if not for the ever present potential for death and dismemberment. Scenes of gore and sudden violence in the form of mines and booby traps are depicted in a matter-of-fact dispassionate tone of voice perhaps alluding to the desensitizatio...more
Brilliant. Gave me the vocabulary to communicate better in Call of Duty. I tried reading Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls for the same purpose but his style didn't stick with me. I'm a warmonger and my dream is for the world to be engaged in perpetual conflict. Love war because War is Peace.
I've read a few other Tim O'Brien books, and this one did not disappoint. This felt even more intimate than his other books, in the glimpse it gave into the mindset of the 20-something year old young man, drafted, terrified, torn up about what is right, and as he is shipped out to Vietnam. His philosophical wonderings on bravery, courage, shame, loyalty, and the validity and morality of war and fighting in a battle you don't believe in are well executed.

Some points of thought I found interestin...more
I decided to read this book right after listening to The Things They Carried in hopes of seeing what parts of reality O'Brien borrowed when writing his fictional Vietnam tour. I saw flashes of inspiration here and there, but was also treated to a very solid memoir about Tim O'Brien's time in Vietnam.

Having a chance to actually read O'Brien this time, instead of listening, I was able to further sink into his short, snappy sentences full of meandering thoughts or frank commentary. The man's writin...more
If I Die in a Combat Zone is good, but this memoir proves the point O'Brien makes in The Things They Carried: story truth is more true than happening truth.
Brett Van emst
4.5. An excellent book that deals with one of the deeper issues a soldier faces: Courage. I almost hate to give it a rating because it is what it is. I loved his writing style.


"Those who point at and degrade [a soldier's] bitterness, those who declare it's all part of war and that this is a job which must done--to those patriots I will recommend a postwar vacation to this land, where they can swim in the sea, lounge under a fine sun, stroll in the quaint countryside, wife and son in hand....more
Tom Emory Jr.
I don't have a star rating on this book as yet since I still am processing how I feel about it.

Meanwhile, I want to give FIVE STARS to Audio Book Reader Dan John Miller. He is more than a Reader and more than a Narrator. Dan John Miller is what I would describe as an Oral Interpretive Actor, using his many voices and his acting skills to give a true performance of the book. I always have held Edward Herrmann, David McCullough and Emily Woo Zeller as the finest at the audio voice craft. Dan John...more
Mar 23, 2011 Linda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: war
The stewardess serves a meal and passes out magazines. The plan lans in Japan and takes on fuel. Then you fly straight on to Seattle. What kind of war is it that begins and ends this way, with a pretty girl, cushioned seats and magazines?
You add things up. You lost a friend to the war, and you gained a friend. You compromised one principle and fulfilled another. You learned, as old men tell it in front of the courthouse, that was is not all bad; it may not make a man of you, but it teaches you t...more
This is one of the books I used for my exhibition project but i finished reading it completely after that and it was very helpful and deep/meaningful book.

This is a paragraph from my exhibition,
"In If I Die in a Combat Zone, Tim O’Brien is very obedient with orders and does not express much sympathy towards the Vietnamese civilians or enemy. In Chapter 5, “Under the Mountain”, Tim is in training camp with his friend Eric and they form a coalition based on an idea: “The idea, loosely, was to pre...more
Josh Duggan
If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home marks my third foray into Tim O'Brien's Vietnam War experience. Going After Cacciato was a compelling trip into the haze of 'Nam. The Things They Carried was one of the most deeply affective books I've ever read. This third trip into Vietnam from perhaps the most accomplished author on the subject (at least in the realm of fiction) is a much more personal book.

Unlike his books to follow, If I Die in a Combat Zone is memoir. It is his account...more
Steve Woods
This was one of the earliest and most powerful accounts of one man's tour in Vietnam. He served in the same area and just after the My Lai massacre. There are some interesting observations of the reactions of a long term serving soldier as well as his own personal response. The destructive and poisonous nature of the experience for this man comes through clearly. There is so much here that is common to every account I have read from American servicemen and while others may hold together better a...more
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Jordan Erlanson
If I Die in a Combat Zone is about the author from The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato, Tim O'Brien. He tells his story of being drafted to go to war in Vietnam and it is a good book so far, I like war books so I think it will be good and also its an easier read. Tim O'Brien didn't want to get drafted and he doesn't think of himself as a soldier the only thing he wants to do now is go to Europe to write books and travel and see the world and not to go to war.

Tim O'Brien is...more
Danny J
I'm not that far into the book, but so far Tim O'Brien is about to be ship off to war. His mind is fully on the war. He has been talking about with his friends paying to attention to the news to hear about the war. I think he is nervous about what is going to happen in his life in the soon future. I'm excited to see what happens next. 09/26/12

10/17/12 Im on page 133 and the war is heating up. He has been seeing the other side to the war. He has been resectly injuried and has been in the barracks...more
Houston Miller
This book is a lot better then i thought it would be, i'm 44 pages into it and it's had quite a bit of action in it and some boring parts. But some parts seem pretty real, kind of scary how things were back then, in the boot camps and such was not good back then.
i'm much farther into this book now and it is still getting better, he's getting into the war part now and from what he says vietnam wouldnt be the place for me, he seems like a good guy soft hearted and all and i kind of...more
Gripping and Intense
In this memoir Tim O'Brien recounts the testing of his moral principles and the continuing broadening of his understanding of the concepts of courage and bravery. The author successfully presents the reader with compelling insights into the moral dilemmas encountered by a young man dealing with the entirety of serving as an American soldier in Vietnam, including, the draft, the expectations of family and a small mid-western town versus his views on being a part to an immoral...more
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Tim O'Brien matriculated at Macalester College. Graduation in 1968 found him with a BA in political science and a draft notice.

O'Brien was against the war but reported for service and was sent to Vietnam with what has been called the "unlucky" Americal division due to its involvement in the My Lai massacre in 1968, an event which figures prominently in In the Lake of the Woods. He was assigned to...more
More about Tim O'Brien...
The Things They Carried In the Lake of the Woods Going After Cacciato Tomcat In Love July, July

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“With a hangover and with fear, it is difficult to put a helmet on your head.” 9 likes
“CEASE FIRE,' Captain Johansen shouted. 'Cease fire, what's wrong with you guys? Stop wasting the goddamn ammo. CEASE FIRE!'
Cease fire,' the lieutenants hollered.
Cease fire,' the platoon sergeants hollered.
Cease the goddamn fire,' shouted the squad leaders.
That,' I told Barney, 'is the chain of command.”
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