Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 17 | Summary



Perry rejoins his squad at Tam Ky, where he finds that Johnson cannot accept Brew's death, and Sergeant Simpson has returned to the "world" because his allotted time was up. His replacement, Sergeant Dongan, changes the order on patrols so that Peewee is on point, and Johnson is in the rear with the big gun. The soldiers feel that Sergeant Dongan is racist, putting African American men in the most dangerous positions. Although Perry agrees with them about Dongan's racism, when he is put on guard duty with Sergeant Dongan, he notices the man's skilled and clever fighting tactics. The squad gets orders that are then cancelled, but they hear that they are supposed to "maximize destruction" whenever they engage the enemy. A woman and two children are brought into the camp, and Peewee tries to be kind to them, making a doll for the children. As Peewee finishes the doll and starts to walk over to give it to them, the woman hands a child to a soldier and detonates the explosives strapped to one of the children, killing the soldier.


The soldiers in Perry's squad have encountered casual racism throughout their time in the army. Sergeant Dongan's choice to put African American soldiers on point and in the rear is, however, a more dangerous kind of racism. Perry trusts Johnson's opinion about Sergeant Dongan, which is that the sergeant is a smart and capable man who knows how to get himself through the war in one piece. However, he seems willing to do so by jeopardizing the lives of African Americans.

The woman who brings the child into the camp strapped with explosives offers a glimpse into the difficulties faced by soldiers in the historical Vietnam War. The Viet Cong and people who sympathized with the cause of the North Vietnamese government could be women or men, dressed as soldiers or in plain clothes, holding obvious weapons or hiding them, and willing to sacrifice children to inflict damage. American and South Vietnamese soldiers often had a difficult time knowing whom they could trust and who might be an enemy.

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