Fallen Angels | Study Guide

Walter Dean Myers

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Fallen Angels | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

Perry's platoon is tasked to go to a nearby village on a "pacification mission"—a visit to pass out food and persuade the civilians to like, trust, and support the American war effort rather than the Viet Cong. They are given food and other things to pass out and told to go to each hut and convince the locals that the Americans are the good guys. Inside one hut, Walowick finds jars of salves and Peewee manages to learn what some of them do. He buys some and takes them back to the camp. Perry sees Brunner steal a small statue and gets into a disagreement with him, but before Brunner can fight Perry, Johnson steps up to support Perry.

Back at the camp, mail brings news from home. Peewee's girlfriend cannot wait for him to come back, while Lobel's father disapproves of his choice to join the army. Kenny wants to join a basketball team but does not have the money, so Perry sends a letter back with the money right away. The squad hears news that a patrol headed to the village where they had just been on the peacekeeping mission was attacked by Viet Cong soldiers. Sergeant Simpson tells the squad that they are going to set an ambush outside the village.

Analysis

From Perry's perspective, the pacification mission is "the closest thing to a real answer about why we were in Nam." He does not explain what, precisely, he thinks is the goal of this mission. The answer that Perry thinks the pacification mission provides is only implied by contrast with their regular patrols. When the platoon is dispatched to a patrol, their goal is to hunt down and kill any Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers that they can find. For Perry, racking up a body count cannot be the true reason behind their mission. Rather, he seems to truly believe that the American forces can spread peace around the world and make people's lives better. Perry's discomfort with killing and his belief in pacification as the true purpose of their presence in Vietnam parallel the contradiction inherent in America's attempts to spread democracy and peace by force: peace achieved through war. This lesson is brought home as the squad hears reports that another company was hit by the Viet Cong in the village they had just "pacified." The squad gears up to "[p]acify them to death!"

The letters that the soldiers receive from their families show life continuing at home without them. Peewee's girlfriend cannot wait for him, even if she wanted to. Lobel still argues with his father. Perry's family still needs money for anything more than the essentials. The soldiers need something out in the "world" to keep them focused and keep their spirits up despite the war, but they are absent from the world, and the things they have in the world will not wait for them.

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