Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Perry's squad and a few other squads from the platoon return to the "pacified" village to lay an ambush for the Viet Cong who shot at the other company. They set up outside the cemetery and successfully kill the Viet Cong who pass by them, finding a tunnel they used to appear near the corner of the cemetery. Sergeant Simpson drops a grenade into the tunnel, and they begin to head to the landing zone when a single shot takes Lieutenant Carroll down. The squad moves toward the village and waits for helicopters. Sergeant Simpson directs some men to shoot toward the village and "[k]eep their heads down!" in case there are any enemy soldiers taking cover there, and Johnson covers the trail with the M-60 machine guns. The choppers level the village on arrival, shooting down anything moving, and then extract the soldiers. The medic cannot find Lieutenant Carroll's wound, but back at camp, the squad is told it would not have mattered even if he had found it.

Analysis

The tragic events of this chapter evoke a sharp sense of futility to this war. The soldiers had been excited to go on a pacification mission because they thought that they were doing some good instead of simply killing the bad. However, the Viet Cong were able to track their movements, punish villages who helped the Americans, and then attack the next company that was passing by. Retaliation is met with retaliation as Perry's squad hunts down the Viet Cong. Then, as their lives are threatened, they kill an entire village of the very civilians that they are trying so hard to protect and save.

The murder of civilians reflects the real atrocities that occurred during the historic Vietnam War, such as the massacre at the village of My Lai, in which the United States killed 400 civilians. For Perry's squad, all of the good that they might have done in a whole day is erased by a few minutes of machine gun fire. As Perry puts it, "These were the people we had come to save, to pacify. Now it was ourselves that we were saving." Shocked to the bone by Lieutenant Carroll's death as much as by his own actions, Perry keeps repeating, "God have mercy." It is as if the events that transpire, as well as his own actions, are beyond his comprehension.

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