Against the War
A novel of the Vietnam War era by Roland Menge

Synopsis of Novel

Against the War follows the intertwined lives of four young men, rowing teammates, who graduate from college at the height of the Vietnam War. Two become involved in the war, one as a combat medic and one as a fighter pilot and then prisoner of war in Laos. The other two of the four friends, in seeking to avoid military service and oppose the war, become involved in the “war on poverty,” the antiwar movement, and the counterculture that arises from the antiwar movement.

This novel is set in a precise historical timeframe of four and a half years (April 7, 1967 to October 15, 1971) with accurate descriptions of the cultural, political, and military events that the characters take part in or
take an interest in as they react to the war. All historical facts are based on references such as articles in the New York Times and these are cited by date and author in the novel's 50-page bibilography.

From a thematic viewpoint, Against the War divides into two parts based on a juxtaposition of the counterculture and the war

In the counterculture part of the novel, Against the War documents how the many individual efforts to avoid or oppose the war coalesce into the wider movement that brings such historic events as the 1968 demonstrations in Chicago, the 1969 Moratoriums Against the War in Washington D.C., and the Woodstock concert. The novel shows how this coalescence then collapses upon itself as the conflicts between its components grow too great to be overcome.
In the war part of the novel, Against the War contains factual accounts of several key military operations and battles of the war including the air campaign of  the "secret war" in Laos (upon which a greater tonnage of bombs was dropped than upon all of Europe in WWII), the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord (last major battle involving Americans as combatants), and the battle referred to as Lam Son 719 (first battle handled by the Vietnamese after "Vietnamization"). These military activities are put into context with such later revelations as the discovery of the My Lai massacre, the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and so on. The novel depicts the almost incomprehensible complexity that the war presented to many who fought in it; the great cultural impact of the war on Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos; and the transformational effect on individual participants.

The young people at the center of this story are all idealists who attempt to apply their idealism to the political and cultural issues of the time. The novel presents these issues in the same earnest spirit as they were discussed when they were new and untested, and presents them substantially through much original material from the Vietnam war era, including many news accounts that are quoted at length as the characters encounter them and try to process them into a determination of what to do in their personal lives.

Against the War presents an intellectual and cultural history of the early counterculture, and a view of the war from the perspective of those who because of the draft were forced to react to it and who in some cases were forced or chose to risk their lives in it.

Photo credit: yearsafter




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