Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

A Viet Cong sniper hits a man in the camp, but the soldiers manage to kill the sniper. Alpha Company is scheduled to cooperate with the ARVN to take a hill overlooking a village called Phuoc Ha Two. The Vietnamese colonel insists that the Americans take the hill first. To get there, they cross a rice paddy that is exposed to enemy fire, but they manage to go up the hill before they are told to retreat to a tree line. The ARVN then tries to take the hill, hoping to get credit for the success, but the North Vietnamese attack, and a massive firefight explodes. They move toward the village in the hope of securing it and using it as an extraction point. The ARVN soldiers catch up to them and take the village, but there are many dead, including Sergeant Dongan.

Analysis

The sniper's ability to shoot a man standing within the U.S. Army's camp represents the lack of security that the squads faced, even within the supposed safety of their base. Perry notes that the sniper, who shot the same soldier twice, likely could have hidden and escaped if he had not fired on the squad that was sent out to search for him. The Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare tactics—which favored surprise attacks and sabotage to pitched battles—allowed them to terrorize the U.S. soldiers who were trained for more traditional confrontations.

The disagreements between the U.S. Army and the ARVN commanders reflect one of the primary difficulties of the war, both in the novel and in the historical war. In the war, the United States and South Vietnam were allies, but there were power struggles between the two. The war was in Vietnam, but the United States was much more powerful. In the novel, this conflict is represented in the way that the two militaries each compete for the most prestigious as well as the least dangerous assignments, and the friction between their commanders erodes trust between their soldiers.

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