Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home” as Want to Read:
If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  9,473 ratings  ·  486 reviews
Alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here


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 mi
Paperback, 225 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Broadway Books (first published 1973)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Be the first to ask a question about If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,473 ratings  ·  486 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Since I am finally viewing the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary I have dreaded seeing, I decided to listen to this memoir O'Brien began writing in Nam thru his journal and letters. He actually published pieces of it soon after he returned to Minnesota. Like me, O'Brien read deeply into the war and took a principled stance against it, but unlike me he actually went, citing cowardice as his main reason for finally agreeing to go. In his story he is almost matter of fact about the horrors these young ...more
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I love Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried and I love this book, the memoir of his Vietnam War experiences, even more. All at once it's an adventure tale, a meditation on the meaning of courage, a social history of mid-20th century America (the dreaded Major Callicles, a U.S. Army officer who despises sideburns, mustaches, and marijuana, serves as the book's scourge of the 1960s counterculture) and an uncompromising indictment of U.S. military intervention in the Vietnam conflict. On top ...more
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
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
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An awesome piece of writing. Harrowing, thought provoking, raises many questions about humanity. Why wasn't this book on the school syllabus when I was growing up? ...more
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
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. ...more
Larry Bassett
Apr 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
Using the audiobook version makes it good getting the emotional voice of a Vietnam solider/veteran.

After surviving Vietnam, it was nice to see Tim graduate from one of Boston's best... Harvard University.

The Things They Carried By Tim O'Brian work is even a more popular Vietnam work.
Taylor *Sits on the Top Shelf*
I love Tim O'Brien. In this book he talks a lot about bravery and courage and how most people don't have it, but what does it really mean, and is it a life-defining moment? Does one act of bravery make someone brave for life? Does one act of cowardice make them a coward for life?

Thank you, Mr. O'Brien, for having the bravery and courage to write your books sharing your experiences.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-vietnam
Some veterans I know don't like O'Brien's books because they say they are not true. O'Brien's supporters say he should know. Maybe, but they are often novels. The dialogue seemed pretty true to the soldiers I knew in Vietnam. In all, a great book about being a foot soldier.

He made interesting use of expressions like FNG (Fucking New Guy) and REMF (Rear Echelon Mother Fucker).

He expressed the incredible fear of getting lost in the jungle, so you had to follow the guy in front of you with all yo
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have the time, I highly recommend reading this book alongside the marvellous and gripping Ken Burns documentary about Vietnam in which the author plays a prominent role. In the documentary we get snippets of the fear, the absurdity, and at times the adrenaline rush of what being a combat soldier in Vietnam felt like. Majestic as the documentary is however, it is here in O’Brien’s memoir of his experience of the war, that it is fleshed out and truly comes to life. In these pages he loses ...more
Carol Storm
Some good sketches of combat in Vietnam, but the author spends way too much time trying to convince you he's above it all -- the poetry references, the anti-war posturing, the easy sneers at boot camp and military discipline. The NEW YORKER loved this book, and the inside cover blurb describes the author as "intelligent and thoroughly nice." 'Nuff said? ...more
Chris DiLeo
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would have finished this book a week ago, but I've been down with the flu. I completed the book in the throes of a relentless fever, that still persists as I write this, but that fever might have added the unknown ingredient a reader needs to embrace O'Brien's work: a sort of light-headed vulnerability. O'Brien's memoir of his tour in Vietnam, some of which was written while he was there, and the rest written immediately after he was home, is visceral and introspective, unadorned and critical. ...more
Lasse Larsen
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Insanely good! O’Briens terrifying first hand accounts are beautifully written and feel more real than any pictures or statistics of the war could. Without trying to deduct any preconceived meaning out of the events he simply tells the stories of the common soldier on the ground. Just read it.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-nonfiction
Tim O’Brien is the only author writing about the Vietnam War that I have read. While that prevents me from drawing comparisons with other authors writing on the same topic, I’m willing to wager that O’Brien sets a respectably high standard. If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home is a gritty, no-holds-barred exposé of the horrors and brutality of war, what it does to people, how it changes them irrevocably.

O’Brien wrote part of this book during his term in Vietnam, so the authentici
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Giordano Makholm
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
His first book right? War wasn’t even over. Seems he really needed to get this off his chest. On the adequately dubbed Mad Mark’s chest, you’d find the necklace of dead Vietcong ears, literally. Read it for more painfully detailed descriptions of gore. Rape too. Less detailed, thankfully.
No but it’s really not about that. It’s about courage, or wise endurance, wrestling with desertion. It’s about the military sense of humor (which includes fake ambushes on April fool’s day) and landmines (do yo
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Absolutely HATED this book. The writing was long and dull. The story (actually it is a memoir) is just another anti Vietnam rant. I will NOT be reading any of his other works and DO NOT recommend that anyone read his stuff. It is awful!
Nothing new to add to old review. Was rereading for a class.
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.
Ronald K. Woods
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned from this book. I missed the Vietnam draft by a day. I turned 18 at just the right moment. I appreciate this book for showing me what I missed. And I’m so grateful I did. Thank-you, Mr O’Brien, for the priceless information. I am glad you came home safely.
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnam
a military memoir of Tim O'Brien's tour of duty in the Vietnam War.....a year as a foot soldier in Vietnam ...more
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Good job it wasn't me out there. Poor bastards...
O'Brien did a good job of this book. I wonder how the American GI's ever could get over it?

Why have I not read a VC account of the war?
Claire McLoughlin
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I get so mad thinking about the fucking US Army putting Tim O’Brien in harms way
Cody Gonzalez
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an amazing book. This being the second of Tim O’Brien’s books I have read I have found both to be insightful, dramatic, as well as disturbingly peaceful. This author takes you into his mind, body, and spirit in a way few writers can. Describing the horrors of war, in a war that he never wanted to participate in. I can only imagine his feelings are mirrored by so many who participated in this brutal conflict. This cathartic experience, of putting pen to paper, to try to explain and address h ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Dispatches
  • In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War
  • A Rumor of War
  • Chickenhawk
  • The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War
  • Matterhorn
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat
  • Fields of Fire
  • Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War
  • The Short-Timers
  • War
  • Acceptable Loss: An Infantry Soldier's Perspective
  • The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars
  • Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy
  • Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth
  • The Sorrow Of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
  • With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
97 likes · 20 comments
“With a hangover and with fear, it is difficult to put a helmet on your head.” 10 likes
“I would wish this book could take the form of a plea for everlasting peace, a plea from one who knows... Or it would be fine to confirm the odd beliefs about war: it's horrible, but it's a crucible of men and events and, in the end, it makes more of a man out of you.

But, still, none of these notions seems right. Men are killed, dead human beings are heavy and awkward to carry, things smell different in Vietnam, soldiers are afraid and often brave, drill sergeants are boors, some men think the war is proper and just and others don't and most don't care. Is that the stuff for a morality lesson, even for a theme?

Do dreams offer lessons? Do nightmares have themes, do we awaken and analyze them and live our lives and advise others as a result? Can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories.”
More quotes…