Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 19 | Summary



In the village, after the firefight, there are too many dead Americans to be taken out on the helicopters. Lieutenant Gearhart says that the only thing they can do is to collect the soldiers' ID tags, strip the bodies, and burn them. As they leave, Gearhart asks for the tags and learns that the soldier in charge of their collection had left the ID tags in the burning hut; without them, no one will be able to tell the soldiers' families about their deaths. Perry's crew follows behind the ARVN soldiers, taking orders from Johnson, even when those orders contradict Captain Stewart's. When the squad happens upon some North Vietnamese soldiers in the open, Peewee defies Captain Stewart's order to chase them across the clearing, and Captain Stewart pulls a gun on Peewee. Johnson fires the big M-60 at the captain's feet, and the captain stands down.


This gruesome scene shows the tragedies and chaos of war in a particularly clear way. Many soldiers have died, and the remaining soldiers know that there is no way to carry all of the bodies back on the helicopters. The choice to burn the bodies seems cruel, but the soldiers see it as the only available way to honor the dead. In the historical Vietnam War, the Viet Cong soldiers would mutilate the bodies of deceased soldiers. Perry and his fellow soldiers try to prevent this from happening to the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

The plan to collect the dog tags—ID tags worn on necklaces around the soldier's neck—is intended as a way to document which soldiers have died and allow their families to be contacted. The soldier who forgets the dog tags inside of the burning hut makes this nearly impossible. The chaos of this event and the impossibility of contacting the family members of the deceased soldiers reflects a very real problem of the Vietnam War; the bodies of many soldiers were never found, and they were formally listed as MIA—missing in action—by the military.

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