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Johnny Got His Gun

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  36,468 ratings  ·  2,394 reviews
This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered - not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives...

This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and
Paperback, 309 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by Citadel (first published 1939)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  36,468 ratings  ·  2,394 reviews

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Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone feeling sorry for themselves
I read this book during my lunch breaks at the cafe of Barnes & Noble in Chelsea, NYC. I think I finished it in five sittings, with great big tears rolling down my face. While everybody around me was busy quaffing scalding hot lattes, I was trying to muffle the sounds of my agonized weeping into my scarf. Luckily, this is not seen as strange behavior in Manhattan, so I was able to finish the book unmolested.

Johnny Got His Gun sounds like it was written during the early stages of the Vietnam War
Ahmad Sharabiani
Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo (1905 - 1976)

Johnny Got His Gun is a novel written in 1938 by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and published September 1939 by J. B. Lippincott.

The novel is commonly viewed as one that promotes anti-war ideals, but when read deeper, it can be seen that Trumbo's opinions of war shed light on humanity as a whole, and not just on the horrible aspects of war.

Joe Bonham, a young American soldier serving in World War I, awakens in a hospital bed afte
Bill Kerwin
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A scathing anti-war novel, in which the main character is one of the profoundly, hopelessly wounded, the human wrecks of war.

It is told in the first person, by the voice of a person now voiceless, trapped in his mutilated body, confined to his hospital bed, and--as this person virtually unable to communicate communicates with the reader, telling us his story--we come to realize the true cost--and futility--of war.

This is an angry, honest book. Thoroughly memorable.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, american
Manufacturing Taste

The story of this story is probably its most interesting part. The idea for it started as a Canadian news article recounting a royal visit to a Canadian quadriplegic soldier who had been injured in World War I. Twenty years later Trumbo turned this idea into a book about an American soldier that included much autobiographical material. Seventy-five years after that, Larry Brown in his Dirty War of 2012 transformed it yet again into a hospital dialogue between two veterans of t
Steven Godin
Two days after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Johnny Got His Gun, one of the greatest anti-war novels ever, was first published. And when I think beyond WW2, and beyond Vietnam, right up to more recent wars and those who have been blown to bits, or living with without limbs, from serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the latest casualty of war out there somewhere right now, then this novel is depressingly timely, and probably always will be. Because let's face it, when are we ...more
Nandakishore Mridula
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
I simply have to read this book. It, including its author, has been cussed by Ann Coulter on her latest blog post. That is recommendation enough for me!

Devastating read! Review coming.

Detailed Review

This must be the most disturbing war novel that I have read – if not the most disturbing novel EVER. The reader is forced by the author to spend the whole length of time he reads this book inside the head of his protagonist. Why? Because the protagonist is an injured soldier, who has lost his l
Brett C
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww1
I thought this was OK. The setting is an American soldier, Joe Bonham, in a military hospital during WWI. While on the front, an artillery attack blew off his limbs and left him blind, deaf, and mute. This is all experienced through Joe's perspective as he slips in and out of his present-day reality, war memories, and various memories from childhood and adolescence.

Overall the book read quickly but I had to pay attention as reality and dream intertwined without warning. I would describe the wri
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, war
This novel about an American soldier who was severely wounded while fighting in World War I was so disturbing it took me several tries to get through it.

The novel is told in a stream of consciousness, with soldier Joe drifting in and out of memories of his parents, of girlfriends, of more innocent days. He slowly realizes that he has no arms, no legs and no face, and his cries are gut-wrenching. I listened to this book on audio, and the performance by William Dufris was so affecting that I had t
Esteban del Mal
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americana, novel, war, fiction
What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in the water?


What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs on a porch?


What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs on skis?


What do you call a novel about a guy who has no arms and no legs because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Johnny Got His Gun.


This works best as a character sketch. As poor Jon Bonham's consciousness recalls the events of his childhood, he simultaneously realizes he has missing append
Candace Whitney Morris
Jun 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with breath
Every time I read a book, I feel committed to it as if to a relationship. That relationship can be an infatuational fling, a carnal attraction, a passionate love, a committed best friend, a life partner...whatever form it takes will depend on how much I will remember it. Johnny Got His Gun got completely under my skin.

I was finishing the last page on an airplane and an 80 year old yoga teacher looked at me and quietly summed up this book. "I remember reading that. It blew my mind..." She had rea
I read this several years ago and I remember enjoying it. It was dark and frustrating - what would you do if trapped in your own body?

Also addresses the brutality of war as one on the outside might not understand.

What I thought of the most while reading it was the footage from the movie version that was used in the Metallica video for "One"

Lubinka Dimitrova
What a kick in the guts! As many have already pointed out, this should be a required reading for all those who sit in their nice sunny offices and send other people's kids to war...
I've discovered Trumbo very late, but fortunately not too late.
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unforgettable: one of the most original, clever and powerful novels I’ve ever read

Johnny Got His Gun was first published on 3 September 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland, and is about a 20-year-old American infantryman Joe Bonham who suffers a direct hit from a German shell in the last days of the Great War. Unsurprisingly, its powerful anti-war message also had a profound effect on Americans during the Vietnam era.

Dalton Trumbo conveys this anti-war message across 20 short chapters, e
Mel Bossa
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading this I thought it would be a cool little book written by a cool anti-war american screenwriter who liked to write in his bathtub with a drink and a cigar. It would be a bit macho, full of robust sentences and I'd be properly disgusted by all the bloody descriptions.

And I was wrong.

How can a man write a book whose narrator is a young guy with no arms, no legs, no face, blind and deaf and who is in and out of consciousness, never reliable, who spends his endless dark hours
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mary by: Mark
Shelves: fiction, 2013
Johnny rips its own heart out and throws it in your face. It's a nightmare. A freak show. It's claustrophobic and uncomfortable. It's so fucking necessary.
Paul Falk
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war
In remorseful detail, the author guided me on a sorrowful journey through the despicable ravages of war. In particular, I witnessed an up-close-and-personal visit with one of it's many casualties in a unique writing style I had not experienced before. It was a narrative that yearned to be heard.

1918 was not a good year in America to be a healthy male between the ages of 18 and 26. America was in the throes of the Great War. To meet the costly demand, bodies were desperately needed. It was time f
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018-read, usa
If you want to read a really good book about WW I - why young people decided to sign up for it, what it was like at the front, and what the war did to people - read Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, because Trumbo will tell you pretty much nothing about it. Honestly, I am pretty astounded that so many reviewers describe Trumbo's tale as a story about the atrocities of war, because it talks about the protagonist's life before the war (mainly about his family, friends, and girlfriend) and ...more
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a re-read -- after a number of decades -- because I wanted to see how it stacked up, in the end, against Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way. Trumbo's novel had been the exemplar for all anti-war novels, in my mind, until I read Barry's work a few weeks ago and he redefined my perception of excellence in this genre.

Joe Bonham is what Willie Dunne might have become, it struck me, as I was re-reading Johnny if he had not succumbed fatally to that final shell impact. There's the same strong r
Apr 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Great novel, with a message I completely agree with. WAR IS BAD. It did get just a little tedious at times and I didn't think the flashbacks and digressions added anything. Otherwise it was all good. Apart from the war. War is bad. ...more
Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
That there is not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please, God, wake me
Imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell
Has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

The famous lyrics from Metallica's "One" from the perspective of Joe Bonham, wou
Roy Lotz
Johnny Got His Gun was published at an awkward moment: 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. As the author says, it is probably the last anti-war novel about World War I to hit the market, and its timing could hardly have been worse. Observing that this war—against fascism—was quite different from the pointless bloodbath of a generation earlier, Trumbo himself urged his publisher to stop publishing it, and even reported some of the book’s early fans (Nazi sympathizers, apparently) to the FBI ...more
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Raúl Omar
Johnny Got His Gun. The paradox of fighting for liberty:how free can a dead man be?

I'm writing this review after reading the book for the second time (I read it in high school [10 years ago, OMG]) and totally confirmed that this is a great piece of fiction, absolutely worth reading.
Before my second reading, a lot of details were blurred, and I barely remembered important fragments. I was only sure that I really liked this novel and that, certainly, it´s a book different from the fiction I use t
Connie G
Dec 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Connie by: BYT group read
Author Dalton Trumbo was inspired by a newspaper story about a Canadian soldier in World War I who had lost all his limbs and all his senses except for the sense of touch. He created Joe Bonham, a soldier whose mind was still active, but who was unable to communicate with the outside world except for tapping his head. The story takes us inside Joe's head to his stream of consciousness thoughts, sometimes thinking about ideologies and often flashing back to the past. For example, his thoughts go ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Reading this book really makes you realize that war is real. It isn't the crisp uniforms of army officers, the fast, air force jets, or the big boom of navy guns that we see in commericals for the armed forces; images that paint a distorted picture of the reality of war.

War it dirty, dispairing, desperate, and destructive.

War is death.

Johnny Got His Gun is a book that shows another face of death. One that is mortally infinite. A death that you live, and can never escape.

It's a kind of death whe
Candice T
Feb 16, 2009 rated it did not like it
I finished this book in December of '07, Johnny Got his Gun, and it made me want to shoot myself in the face.
It is written in second person limited, which is annoying enough if not for the added limitation of narrating through a character with no eyes, nose, ears, mouth or limbs. Written primarily in stream-of-consciousness, I simply wanted to cut my eyes out so that I could at least fall asleep on my 5-hour flight. Johnny was supposed to be an anti-war novel, receiving a mountain of praise for
BAM Endlessly Booked
I don't agree with the main sentiment in this book. There IS nobility in death, in dying for principles, for those who are weaker.

Having said that, I was still moved by the frustration and disability of the main character. His strong desire to live and his poignant acceptance of loss were communicated not only literally but also figuratively through his flashbacks to happier times in his life, to the terms before the war and his body's destruction.

The author takes a passive stance toward battle
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This novel is horrific. Johnny gets his own pack of shells during the war, result being losing parts of his body, huh wait most parts of his body. He loses his arms, legs, blind, deaf and dumb and everything else ,..except his life. But he can think alright, which was more than enough, because he thought like this,

“did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god i'm glad i'm dead because death is a
I saw the movie a few years back and I never really got over it. I have nothing to say about the book. Just read it, teach it, preach it, worship it, do something with it. It's one of those that should by no means be lost in oblivion. When there are no more people reading it, this world will be a really bad place. You don't believe me? Look around you...
7 stars.
John Byrnes
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Probably the most formative book from my youth. A grim tale of the horrors of war, of the realities of violence and fragility of life and existence. Grim but important.
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Dalton Trumbo worked as a cub reporter for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, covering courts, the high school, the mortuary and civic organizations. He attended the University of Colorado for two years working as a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera and contributing to the campus humor magazine, the yearbook and the campus newspaper. He got his start working for Vogue magazine. His first publi ...more

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“did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god i'm glad i'm dead because death is always better than dishonor? did they say i'm glad i died to make the world safe for democracy? did they say i like death better than losing liberty? did any of them ever say it's good to think i got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? did any of them ever say look at me i'm dead but i died for decency and that's better than being alive? did any of them ever say here i am i've been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it's wonderful to die for your native land? did any of them say hurray i died for womanhood and i'm happy see how i sing even though my mouth is choked with worms?” 105 likes
“Of course a lot of guys were ashamed. Somebody said let's go out and fight for liberty and so they went out and got killed without ever once thinking of liberty. And what kind of liberty were they fighting for anyway? How much liberty and whose kind of liberty? Were they fighting for the liberty of eating free ice cream cones all their lives or for the liberty of robbing anybody they pleased whenever they wanted to or what? You tell a man he can't rob and you take away some of his liberty. You've got to. What the hell does liberty mean anyhow? It's a word like house or table or any other word. Only it's a special kind of word. A guy says house and he can point to a house to prove it. But a guy says come on let's fight for liberty and he can't show you liberty. He can't prove the thing he's talking about so how in the hell can he be telling you to fight for it? No sir anybody who went out and got into the front line trenches to fight for liberty was a goddamn fool and the guy who got him there was a liar.” 85 likes
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