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Dispatches

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,688 Ratings  ·  624 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 218 books — 385 voters
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenHiroshima by John HerseyOn Killing by Dave GrossmanAll the Countries We've Ever Invaded by Stuart Laycock
Best Non-fiction War Books
42nd out of 946 books — 1,371 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 26, 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
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
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.
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
George
Aug 12, 2016 George rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Βαθμολογία: 9/10

Ο Μάικλ Χερ κάλυψε τον πόλεμο του Βιετνάμ σαν ανταποκριτής του περιοδικού Esquire, από κάποια στιγμή μέσα στο 1967, μέχρι το 1969. Έκατσε στο Βιετνάμ δεκαοχτώ ολόκληρους μήνες και είδε τα πάντα. Έδωσε παρών σε μικρές και μεγάλες μάχες, είδε πτώματα στρατιωτών, πεζοναυτών και αμάχων, είδε σοβαρά τραυματισμένους, είδε απίστευτα τοπία κατεστραμμένα από τόννους εμπρηστικών βομβών, είδε διαλυμένες πόλεις και εγκαταλελειμμένα χωριά, γνώρισε ένα κάρο τρελαμένους τύπους, που είτε ήταν τρ
...more
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....
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Mike
Jul 08, 2016 Mike rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites

"It would seem fitting, ordained, that they should live in the Highlands, among triple canopies, where sudden, contrary mists offered sinister bafflement, where the daily heat and the nighttime cold kept you perpetually, increasingly, on edge, where the silences were interrupted only by the sighing of cattle or the rotor-thud of a helicopter, the one sound I know that is both sharp and dull at the same time. The Puritan belief that Satan dwelt in Nature could have been born here, where even on t
...more
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
Lauren
Aug 29, 2016 Lauren rated it it was amazing
But of course we were intimate, I'll tell you how intimate: they were my guns, and I let them do it.

I wrote a poem to a coworker last Friday--long story--and in part of it, I tried to tell her how much I admired Dispatches and how deeply I responded to it: I said that the book itself felt like poetry, that it had that kind of density of insight. With any other form of journalism, this level of beauty would be condensation that fogged up the glass and made it harder to see the subjects, but wit
...more
Sunny
Aug 05, 2016 Sunny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war
if it wasnt bad enough to step into the heart of hell during day you got cat sized rats scampering over you at night. u can almost smell the camphor as you read.
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.
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
Charlie Brown
Aug 20, 2010 Charlie Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Herr captures the feelings, the violence, and the insanity of the late 1960s. In 1969 I went to college instead of Vietnam and I graduated the year it all came crashing down. A significant portion of my youth was spent trying to understand from journalism what was happening in Southeast Asia; only later would I realize that the understanding I sought was not and could not be available from file-at-five journalism. Herr was accredited to Esquire and was free of that pressure. He explains ...more
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
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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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“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.” 9 likes
“How many times did someone have to run in front of a machine gun before it became an act of cowardice?” 8 likes
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