Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Lieutenant Carroll leads the squad in a prayer after the death of Jenkins, telling Perry that he picked up the term "angel warriors" from his father, who called soldiers that "[b]ecause usually they get boys to fight wars." Perry gets to know some of the older soldiers in his squad, including Brew, who wants to go to theology school, Brunner, Walowick, and Lobel. Peewee happens to encounter a Viet Cong prisoner within the camp and mistakes him for a friendly Vietnamese, almost enabling the man's escape.

The squad goes on a public relations deployment to a nearby village, where they meet a young girl named An Linh, pass out medicine, and eat with some locals. On the way back, Brunner calls the Vietnamese "gooks," and Johnson accuses him of being a racist. Sergeant Simpson shares the news that Captain Stewart is up for promotion to major and that the soldiers under his command should be prepared for the captain to send them out on missions that will increase his "body count" of enemies killed in order to improve his chances for advancement.

Analysis

Lieutenant Carroll's prayer and naming of the soldiers "angel warriors" highlights the young age and implied innocence of the soldiers, suggesting to the reader that it is unjust to ask such young men to take on the responsibilities of war.

Lurking around Lieutenant Carroll's words and behind each man's story of their voluntary choice to join the military is the inequity of the system by which men were drafted or encouraged to volunteer for military service in this time period. While the draft was intended to be fair and equitable to all, deferments for college or specialized occupations (usually requiring a college degree) offered middle-class men an opportunity to avoid service that was unavailable to poor and working-class men. Moreover, in 1966, the Defense Department opened up voluntary enrollment to previously ineligible men from poor and minority backgrounds in an effort to "rehabilitate" them. The high proportion of African American men in Perry's platoon—at a time when the military was just 9 percent African American—reflects the impact of the "New Standards" program that sent most of these minority men into the infantry in Vietnam.

Sergeant Simpson's last statement is full of foreboding for the squad. He says that Captain Stewart is up for promotion to major, and in Vietnam, he has an opportunity to show his superiors why he should be promoted. Simpson says that Stewart needs to "pick up his body count," which means that Stewart needs to show that the soldiers under his command are killing high numbers of the enemy. Simpson implies that Stewart will willingly send U.S. soldiers into danger for the sole purpose of increasing his chances for promotion.

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