Today marks the 45th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War measuring from the fall of Saigon. Remarkably, the death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. passed the death toll from the Vietnam War (58,220 by one count) this week. Jim Webb is better known around these parts for his entry in the Hillbilly Studies corpus, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, but he also wrote a very fine war novel that draws heavily from his personal experiences in Vietnam.
Hodges, the primary protagonist in Webb’s Fields of Fire is a young, cocky lieutenant fresh out of the Naval Academy (Webb went to Vietnam as a young, cocky lieutenant fresh out of the Naval Academy). Goodrich’s experiences when he returns to Harvard are reminiscent of Webb’s experiences at Georgetown University Law Center after he returned from Vietnam, as relayed in Born Fighting.