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Dispatches

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  7,794 ratings  ·  489 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 HerrWe Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Harold G. MooreAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. Cooper
Best Literature About the Vietnam War
3rd out of 195 books — 392 voters
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellUnbroken by Laura HillenbrandFlags of Our Fathers by James D. Bradley
Best Non-fiction War Books
21st out of 828 books — 1,047 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
AC
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....
Jordan
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.
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
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
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
Darwin8u
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
Ron
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
Micah
Jun 14, 2013 Micah rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Steve Kettmann
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
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.
Greg
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
Larry Bassett
For me, one book about Vietnam seems to lead to another. So I was lead directly from Fields of Fire to Dispatches. In spite of it position on the must-read list for a lot of people, I was not familiar with Dispatches. So I was a little disappointed when I discovered that the book is written through the eyes of a correspondent, a writer. Michael Herr was the Sebastian Junger (see WAR at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/75...) of Vietnam but maybe more so. As an independent journalist, Herr coul ...more
Paul
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
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
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
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
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
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
Charlie Brown
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
Scott
This might be the most famous book written about the Vietnam war and the American soldiers involved. It took me a while to deal with the rhythms and cadence of author Michael Herr's narrative, which is a bit of a hallucinatory word trip. But as the book went on, I adjusted and learned so much I did not know about Vietnam, from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the chaos of Saigon, the battle of Hue, the siege of Khe Sanh, the DMZ, Mekong Delta, etc. I didn't even know for sure the difference in the ...more
Dave
Fantastic view of the Vietnam war. Several views, actually--each section of the book slightly different in approach, but all equally stark, terrible, and visually immediate. I could write a whole essay praising Herr's ability to manage his nightmare story--switching emphases, tone and style from section to section, so that you never become numb to the horror. I don't remember the last time I read a book in which literally every paragraph delivered an impact. And within the paragraphs, single lin ...more
Salem Abdulkerim
Dispatches is a novel in which the author,Michael Herr tells what he thought of when he was at Vietnam War,way back in the 1960s. The war was really long and really treacherous.He mentioned in the story that many Vietnamese people died and even some American troops as well. Michael Herr did have a really tough time when he was away from America because he wasn't able to see his family, his friends, and he even couldn't get into contact with them. He had one of his brothers that did commit suicid ...more
Rich Kelley
Listened to Roy Porter's marvelous reading of this during a road trip this summer. The eight hours flew by. Porter inhabits the different characters Herr creates: British, French, slacker, Southern, and also gets the sometimes manic, sometimes exhausted, sometimes distantly ironic tone of Herr's writing just right. Herr was a war correspondent in Vietnam for less than two years -- 1967-1969 -- and he took some eight years to find exactly the right words to capture his experiences. The chronology ...more
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Joinnalobiahi 1 18 Jul 13, 2013 11:18AM  
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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
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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?” 7 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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