Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Perry is on loan to the fourth platoon of Charlie Company for a patrol, and Lieutenant Doyle assigns him to be an ammunition feeder for Scotty, the machine gunner. The platoon reaches the landing zone by helicopter and then fans out and waits. They see gunfire, and everyone starts shooting, including Scotty with the machine gun. After a while they stop, and although there is no more gunfire, Lieutenant Doyle calls for a round of white phosphorus, an artillery round with a chemical agent that burns everything it touches. Suddenly, in the middle of the barrage of white phosphorus and machine-gun rounds, Lieutenant Doyle shouts for everyone to stop. Perry and the rest of the fourth platoon realize they have just "shot the shit out of the first platoon." They cross the field and try to help medics care for the injured soldiers; more than 15 are carried away in body bags. When Perry returns to his barracks, he finds a gift to send to his younger brother Kenny for his birthday and then asks Brew to borrow his Bible so that he can look up the Lord's Prayer.

Analysis

When Perry goes out on patrol with the fourth platoon of Charlie Company, everything seems quite the same as with his own platoon. Each soldier has his job, and they obey the orders of their lieutenant. What is different is the lieutenant. Whereas Perry's Lieutenant Carroll is a cautious and kind man who looks out for his crew, the fourth platoon of Charlie Company has Lieutenant Doyle. Lieutenant Doyle was drafted, but he tried to escape the draft and was forced to Vietnam when caught by the FBI. He does not want to be there, and he does not want to die there, so he calls in white phosphorus even if he is not certain.

Myers casts Lieutenant Doyle as a draft dodger who makes poor decisions because he does not want to be there, and those decisions get men killed. However, Myers simultaneously complicates that narrative. The soldiers fire on movement ahead of them, without being able to really see what they are shooting; the situation is quite similar to the one in Chapter 6, when Perry and his squad fired on the one Viet Cong soldier without being able to see him but relying on Monaco's report. The major difference between the two incidents is that when Perry is in Charlie Company, they know that there are three other platoons in the field. In effect, it is the lack of communication among the platoons that is responsible for the tragedy. For Myers, even if Lieutenant Doyle made a horrible mistake, it is the ineptitude and the inefficiency of the U.S. Army that lies at fault because better organization would have prevented the unnecessary slaughter of American soldiers.

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