Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

Just before Christmas 1967, the squad believes that the war will be over before the holiday. Walowick is sent away to get a rash treated. There are rumors that the truce established for Tet—Vietnamese New Year—will be extended. Christmas comes and goes, but the soldiers hear of more fighting instead of less. Walowick returns just in time to join the squad as they head out for their first patrol led by Lieutenant Gearhart, a nighttime "interdiction patrol" to obstruct passage between two villages. They are joined by two new "brothers"—African American men—named Nate Turner and Darren Lewis. Lieutenant Gearhart sets them up for the ambush, but everything goes wrong. The squad manages to retreat to the pickup chopper, but the squad has made many mistakes. Gearhart mistakenly threw the flare, Perry had set the claymore mine backward, and Walowick's gun went off as he entered the helicopter, shooting the medic. Nate Turner was shot and dies in the helicopter before it reaches the camp.

Analysis

The men are wary to head out under Lieutenant Gearhart, whom they do not trust as much as they did Lieutenant Carroll. They have good reason, because he is trained in surveillance, not in leading ambushes. His mistake in throwing the flare revealed the positions of everyone on the squad and subjected them to fire from the enemy and likely led to the death of Nate Turner.

Perry's mistake would have been worse than Gearhart's, in that it would have led to the death of more soldiers, but at least he is not in a position of power. The claymore mines are designed to explode in a single direction, and Perry should have set it to explode away from the squad. When the flare goes up, Simpson and Perry both see a Viet Cong soldier moving away from the claymore. The Viet Cong had seen it and turned it so that when it exploded, it should have fired toward Perry's squad. However, Perry had set it the wrong way, so the reversal ended up being to their advantage.

Walowick's mistake was in some ways the smallest. Overwhelmed by the events that had transpired, Walowick forgets to engage the safety on his gun as he enters the helicopter. His shot wounds the medic but does not kill anyone.

Complete chaos marks the attempted ambush and subsequent firefight. The person in charge makes a critical error. Forgetfulness and rushing lead to Perry's error. Terror and lack of organization cause Walowick's error. Both Perry and Walowick's errors could have been prevented by better leadership. Myers uses these events to draw an eloquent picture of the way that a lack of qualified soldiers and leaders contributed to unnecessary deaths during the Vietnam War.

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