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Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 1 | Summary



On September 15, 1967, Private Richie Perry of the U.S. Army is aboard an army plane bound for Vietnam, where his unit has been ordered. Perry has a "medical profile" that says he should not be assigned to combat because of his weak knee, but a delay in processing means that he is dispatched to Vietnam anyway. On the flight from Massachusetts to Anchorage, Alaska, Perry meets a soldier named Gates, who later says he prefers to be called Peewee, and a nurse named Judy Duncan. After an overnight layover at a commercial airport in Osaka, Japan, the plane reaches its final destination: Tan Son Nhut.

Upon arrival, the soldiers, medics, and nurses line up in formation. The medical personnel are dispatched to Chu Lai immediately, and Judy blows a kiss toward Perry as she leaves. After roll call, Perry is assigned to the 22nd Replacement Company along with Gates, and they bunk next to each other in the barracks. Gates asks Perry to call him Peewee and then picks a fight with a big Army Ranger, which he wins with a sneak attack and a flash of his switchblade knife.


Perry forms two important friendships while traveling to Vietnam. First, he meets Peewee on the plane and immediately understands that he is a clown, but a key feature of Peewee's personality is also revealed at the end of the chapter. Peewee is a pretty small guy, but he chooses to pick a fight with a big, red-faced Army Ranger. Peewee seems eager to prove to everyone in the barracks that he is not easily intimidated. Even if he is smaller and appears less powerful, Peewee is a sneaky, clever fighter who will find a way to prevail.

Second, Perry meets the nurse Judy Duncan when she comes over and introduces herself. Perry seems romantically interested in Judy, but he does not yet make any move to form anything more than a friendship with her. Judy appears to return Perry's interest on some level, coming back to inform Perry about her assignment to Chu Lai when she receives it and taking a moment to wave goodbye to him as she departs for her posting.

Perry will rely on both of these characters throughout his months in Vietnam. Because he and Peewee are assigned to the same platoon, they stick together and watch each other's backs as much as possible. Perry thinks fondly of Judy and checks up on her whenever he has the chance, seeming to remain hopeful that he will be able to reconnect with her under better circumstances.

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