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Dispatches

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,064 Ratings  ·  576 Reviews
"He seems to have brought to this book the ear of a musician & the eye of a painter...the premier war correspondence of Vietnam."-Washington Post
"The best book I have ever read on men & war in our time."-John le Carre."
"Dispatches puts the rest of us in the shade."-Hunter S. Thompson
Breathing in
Hell sucks
Khe Sanh
Illumination rounds
Colleagues
Breathing out
Paperback, 260 pages
Published August 6th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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The Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienMatterhorn by Karl MarlantesDispatches by Michael HerrA Rumor Of War by Philip CaputoThe Quiet American by Graham Greene
Best Literature About the Vietnam War
3rd out of 213 books — 378 voters
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenHiroshima by John HerseyOn Killing by Dave GrossmanLone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
Best Non-fiction War Books
41st out of 914 books — 1,296 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 21, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam
”Flip religion, it was so far out, you couldn’t blame anybody for believing anything…Guys stuck the ace of spades in their helmet bands, they picked relics off of an enemy they’d killed, a little transfer of power; they carried around five-pound Bibles from home, crosses, St. Christophers, mezuzahs, locks of hair, girlfriends’ underwear, snaps of their families, their wives, their dogs, their cows, their cars, pictures of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Huey Newton, the Pope, C ...more
Gene
Jan 06, 2008 Gene rated it it was amazing
Having been in VietNam and having been in some of the Marine Units that Michael Herr writes about in "Dispatches" is the best depiction of war in general and VietNam in particular that I have ever read. It started me on the path to healing that I had kept hidden since I came back from Nam. Thank You Michael.
Chadwick
Jun 27, 2007 Chadwick rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who can stomach it
This is war reportage as heartbreaking poetry. One of the roughest pieces of writing I have ever encountered. Beautiful, angular and harsh stylistically. There is a wonderfully (and terrifyingly) immersive quality to this book.
Drew
Feb 20, 2012 Drew rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-eller-cellar
I'd never heard Dispatches mentioned in speech or in print until I got a copy of it in a package sent to me from my uncle, who'd died three or four days earlier. Imagine my surprise when I found it was the basis for not only Full Metal Jacket but also, to some degree, Apocalypse Now.

It's more or less what you'd expect: a war correspondent travels all around Vietnam for what seems to be several years (I'm not sure how long Herr was actually there), talking to the foot soldiers and the officers a
...more
Lowell Brower
Mar 27, 2008 Lowell Brower rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-ish-stories
Not only is this the most engrossing piece of journalism, the most touching memoir, and the most illuminating book on war I've ever read; it's also written as if Herr was on fire and being chased by literature-eating wolves. I read it twice in a row and would do it again.
Eric
Sep 01, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
Made me curious about the spectral kingdoms and extinguished dynasties of pre-colonial Vietnam, the spooky historical geography which haunts Herr from under the French place names and American grids. Contemplating an unreal old map in his Saigon apartment, Herr knows “that for years now there had been no country here but the war”:

The terrain above II Corps, where it ran along the Laotian border and into the DMZ, was seldom referred to as the Highlands by Americans. It had been a matter of milita
...more
Lisa Lieberman
Sep 30, 2015 Lisa Lieberman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, history
In two weeks I'll be flying to Hong Kong, setting sail for Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia to deliver a series of lectures on a luxury cruise ship. The topic I chose, "Asia Through Hollywood's Eyes," has exposed me to some wonderful films, a number of which I've reviewed on my blog or written about in my column for 3 Quarks Daily. And I've immersed myself in bios of Pearl Buck, Anna Leonowns (the real-life Anna of The King and I), Anna May Wong, Pierre Boulle, Somerset Maugham, along with books ...more
orsodimondo
Mar 29, 2016 orsodimondo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
UN CARTONE ANIMATO NOIR:
"TOPOLIN, TOPOLIN, VIVA TOPOLIN"

Questo libro contiene tutti i film sul Vietnam che ho visto e che sono stati mai realizzati.

Eppure è stato scritto prima di qualsiasi film sul Vietnam.
Il fatto è che chiunque abbia voluto fare un film sull’argomento ha letto ‘Dispacci’ con attenzione, è partito da queste pagine.
A cominciare da Coppola, che per “Apocalypse Now” lo volle cosceneggiatore (la voce off di Willard-Sheen è un parto di Herr), proseguendo con Kubrick, che lo coinv
...more
Jordan
Jun 26, 2007 Jordan rated it it was amazing
Fucking amazing. Supposedly the most famous journalistic account of the war in Vietnam... I wouldn't disagree. Nonfiction, but to me on par with any of O'Brien's work from a storytelling perspective, which is saying a lot. Outpaced the highest of expectations.
AC
Aug 09, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing
Powerful book...esp the first half...not just the content, which is raw, but the language and punctuation even that captures brilliantly the maniacal be-bop riot of this heart of darkness ride into the horrid past.... Easy Rider (as, in fact, Sean Flynn quite literally was) comes to Saigon, Khe Sanh, Hue....
Darwin8u
Apr 05, 2012 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2012
I could say this is one of the best memoirs I've read. I could also say it is one of the most brilliant books on war I've ever read. It would probably be easier, however, for me to just acknowledge I haven't read many books that have the power, the poetry, the intensity, the vividness, the bathos and the pathos that Herr pushes through every single page of this amazing book. This is a book that haunts you hard while you read it and resonates both the horror of war and the surreal qualities of wa ...more
matt

Beautifully renderd account of tagging along as a journalist in Vietnam. The writing is fierce, hallocinogenic, searing, and very subjective. Herr is an Emersonsian transparent eyeball in this book, recording his impressions and imaginative reactions to the chaos and strange beauty surrounding him everywhere.

Some very interesting characters: Sean Flynn, son of Errol, who does war photography because he wants to truly see the world. Tim Page, who can't be summed up here let alone in the dozen or
...more
Pierce
Jan 28, 2009 Pierce rated it really liked it
I'd kind of heard of this, but didn't know its significance and avoided reading about it while reading it. Turns out he later wrote the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now, which makes sense because Vietnam film is 100% rooted in the language and stories of this book. I'm conflicted because it tells things as horribly as they were and yet within this book is the seed for the romanticism of the Vietnam war. All those movies and all those people I always felt were enjoying them for ...more
Ron
Apr 02, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
My hat's off to anyone who can sum up this book in a review. It is beyond anything I've ever read in its portrayal of men at war as witnessed by the war correspondents who accompany them on the front lines. Unlike the embedded journalists of our own time, the writers and photographers who covered Vietnam were much closer to being free agents, restricted only by their ingenuity and fearlessness to seek out the action that would represent the essence of America's military presence in southeast Asi ...more
Ken
Oct 17, 2015 Ken rated it really liked it
The thing about war books is how timeless they are, from Homer to Homs. So it's odd reading a "dated" book about Vietnam to find that it's Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever grunts shoot and get shot at. The blood, the fear, the thrill, the sarcasm, the black humor, the superstition, the body bags, the music, the enemy, the drugs, the killing, the being killed.

The book roars out of the gate with a great opening. The longest section, on Khe Sanh, is classic Vietnam lit. Sometimes it's toug
...more
Michal Mironov
Feb 19, 2016 Michal Mironov rated it it was amazing
This book is very special. I wouldn't recommend it to any newbie as introduction to Vietnam War. It's raw, biased, consisting of handpicked mosaic of worst insanity. Herr doesn't care about analyses, he doesn't go to archives, he even admits that he doesn't give a fuck about politicians, diplomats, or other stakeholders – he can't even speak to them as they use “different language”. Also, the book almost completely avoid topic that mattered the most – ordinary Vietnamese, their faith, struggle, ...more
Greg
Jun 29, 2010 Greg rated it liked it
Overall a very good book, that sits up there with any Vietnam story ever told. I think I expected a little more from the book that was the basis for the screenplays of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, but... When it came down to it, all that was taken from this book for those films were very minor details, short anecdotes and characters. There was so much of the book that was left untouched by Hollywood.

But the stories were good, and Herr's experience was very unique. There were angles on t
...more
Micah
Jun 14, 2013 Micah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: box-f
Michael Herr's Dispatches is war reporting of the first order, but it's also a stunning memoir. That is, it's one of the most compelling works of New Journalism I can think of.

The story Herr tells is the tragic tale of a nation (the United States) gone utterly mad on war. What was simultaneously horror and exhilaration--and all too often grave injury and death--for grunts in the field was an abstract game of dissimulation for those at the top of the military hierarchy, and especially the politi
...more
Michael
Riveting and brilliant account of the chaotic and stressed out world of the soldier in Vietnam as digested by an embedded journalist. From nearly 10 years of hindsight, Herr writes from his experience as a correspondent for Esquire for a one year period from 1967 to 1968, a time of major escalation in the war, including the Tet Offensive and major sieges of Hue and Khe Sahn. The quality of the writing is solid and renders a great balance between the visceral experiences of combat (the terror, me ...more
Barnabas Piper
Nov 29, 2015 Barnabas Piper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've never read a better depiction of war, one that so made me feel it's terror and elation and insanity. Herr portrayed the fruitlessness of Nam and the strength of our every day marines and soldiers masterfully. For these reasons it wasn't an enjoyable book - but it was masterful
Steve Kettmann
Mar 15, 2010 Steve Kettmann rated it it was amazing
Sometimes it's not a bad thing to wait to read a book. I started having people urge me to read this one in, let's see, the summer of 1983, and it was only recently that I finally got around to it. I picked up a copy at the former Hanoi Hilton, where John McCain was held prisoner, now a museum, and read the first half on my way from Hanoi to Danang to Saigon (OK, Ho Chi Minh City). There is a fierce originality and honesty to the book, coupled with such intense subject matter, that made reading t ...more
Pierre Verwey
No matter what I choose as adjectives to describe Dispatches, it could not amount to anything other than diminishing the raw brilliance of Herr's writing to some tired clichè. Dispatches is unlike any book Ive read or anything I could have imagined. It is in a class of its own. It has been claimed as the finest personal account of war ever written. Im not arguing.
Raegan Butcher
Apr 12, 2008 Raegan Butcher rated it it was amazing
Michael Herr's stunning account of his time as a correspondent in Vietnam. This is the best book i've ever read. Period. Herr's command of language is awesome.
Paul
Oct 06, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A combat journalist's account of his time in Vietnam, "Dispatches" combines harrowing realism with insightful observation, often unwound in stream-of-consciousness prose. It is an exercise in what is sometimes referred to as "New Journalism", and while it is more memoir than hard history, it is an invaluable immersion into the Vietnam conflict that lends depth and color to more traditional works on the topic.

"Dispatches" should not be the only book you read about the Vietnam War, but it very def
...more
Bennet
Mar 06, 2011 Bennet rated it it was amazing
Worth reading for the remarkable voice and language, but also because there is nothing comparable when it comes to examining "when things go wrong in a war," in particular the Vietnam War:

"When the talk had passed, the only thing left standing up that looked true was your sense of how out of control things really were. Year after year, season after season, wet and dry, using up options faster than rounds on a machine-gun belt, we called it right and righteous, viable and even almost won, and it
...more
Peter
Sep 02, 2015 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
Dude can write!!! The first full chapter, “Breathing In”, is a breathless masterpiece putting you right in the swirling mess of it, reaching out to all aspects of the war and pulling them in as it sucks you in with it. But this is not all. In “Khe Sanh” Herr changes pace for a slower, more sparsely populated narrative, which despite the lower octave does not let up in intensity or observation, and finally breaks out of the surrounded marine base and shifts to a series of grimly funny scenes with ...more
Tom Bensley
War is fucked. It's inhumane and disgusting and disturbing and nightmare-inducing and just thinking about it, that it exists and keeps happening and is supported by certain folks, is enough to make me want to give up on the whole "being a part of society" thing and find one of those livable caves everybody talks about.

But oh my, it's so interesting. Which is also kind of fucked. I saw Michael Herr (the author of this book) in an interview, saying that he didn't support the Vietnam war but he was
...more
Jake
Dec 25, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, travel
If you grew up, as I did, in the 1980s, Vietnam was the scar that defined our culture. It divided the hippies from the squares, dashed the 60s dreams of a better world, and queued up the orgy of self-involvement and political conservatism that defined the Reagan administration. But what was it? If you were born after 1975, you only knew it from the movies. And that means you knew it from Michael Herr, who wrote parts of Apocalypse Now and all of Full Metal Jacket, and before any of that wrote "D ...more
Mac
Aug 17, 2011 Mac rated it really liked it
I'm surprised it took me this long to hear about this book - one of the better bits of New Journalism and one of the best books about the Vietnam war I've read.

At first, I was actually put off by the book, which is very stylized and seemed to be making this Esquire correspondent's experience of the war somehow the most important experience to be had, but Herr's logic grew on me a bit. He argues, at one point, that he was as responsible for what he had seen as the soldiers he wrote about were re
...more
Kurt
Jul 27, 2010 Kurt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm almost finished with this undeniable classic. I can hardly breathe. Seriously. Herr has come to my attention as a guy who worked closely with filmmakers in the decades after the Vietnam War (Coppola and Kubrick, e.g.), and he even did a few screenplays that are impressive pieces of writing. This book is written in an almost poetic, stream-of-consciousness manner, but it gels perfectly and is incredibly well informed. You can tell that the journalism is spot on -- it contains hundreds of well ...more
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Writer and former war correspondent, best known as the author of Dispatches (1977), a memoir of his time as a correspondent for Esquire magazine (1967–1969) during the Vietnam War. The book was called the best "to have been written about the Vietnam War" by The New York Times Book Review; novelist John le Carré called it "the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time." Herr later was c
...more
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“How many times did someone have to run in front of a machine gun before it became an act of cowardice?” 8 likes
“I keep thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by seventeen years of war movies before coming to Vietnam to get wiped out for good. You don’t know what a media freak is until you’ve seen the way a few of those grunts would run around during a fight when they knew that there was a television crew nearby; they were actually making war movies in their heads, doing little guts-and-glory Leatherneck tap dances under fire, getting their pimples shot off for the networks. They were insane, but the war hadn’t done that to them. Most combat troops stopped thinking of the war as an adventure after their first few firefights, but there were always the ones who couldn’t let that go, these few who were up there doing numbers for the cameras… We’d all seen too many movies, stayed too long in Television City, years of media glut had made certain connections difficult.” 6 likes
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