Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 20 | Summary



With the landing zone cleared of North Vietnamese soldiers, Perry's squad finds themselves surrounded by ARVN soldiers trying to hold them off so that the high-ranking ARVN can be the first ones on the helicopters. Lieutenant Gearhart tells his men to drop their weapons and raise their arms, signaling the helicopters to come to their aid. The helicopters mow down the ARVN soldiers, and Perry's squad escapes.

When they get back to camp, everyone struggles to deal with what happened, losing sleep and writing letters to loved ones. Perry tries to figure out what to tell Kenny about the war, deciding whether to be honest about the horror and the excitement.


This scene depicts a complicated and tragic event in which the U.S. military and the ARVN—who are allies in the war—turn upon one another with terrible results. The previous chapters showed distrust and dissatisfaction in the relationship between the ARVN and the American soldiers, but the disagreement was limited to discontented murmurs. In this case, each military prioritizes their own interests, being willing to completely sacrifice the lives of the other's soldiers. The soldiers who the helicopter shoots down are following the orders of their commanding officer, who wants to be on the first helicopter extraction. Lieutenant Gearhart's plan saves his squad, but at the cost of the lives of many of their South Vietnamese allies. The scene is reminiscent of the village that the helicopters destroyed in Chapter 10, after which Perry reflects that these were people the army was supposed to be protecting. This scene clearly conveys why Perry and the other soldiers question their purpose in Vietnam, when the military sometimes ends up killing the people on whose behalf they are waging the war.

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