Richard "Richie" Perry is the novel’s protagonist and narrator. He is a 17-year-old African American man from Harlem who has enrolled in the army right after finishing high school. Perry once harbored dreams of being a writer like James Baldwin. His grades were good enough to attend City College, but he could not afford to go. He joins the army as a way to give structure and meaning to his life, leaving behind his younger brother, Kenny, and their single mother. Perry is a skilled basketball player but sustains a crippling knee injury during his army training. Due to a clerical error, though, he finds himself on a plane to Vietnam in 1967 - the height of the Vietnam War. Perry is a contemplative soldier, often analyzing his decision to go into war in the first place and questioning the moral reasoning behind the American presence in Vietnam. However, Perry's time at war changes him. He forms a tight bond with the other members of his squad, especially Peewee, and earns two Purple Hearts for being twice injured in the line of duty. Most importantly, Perry realizes the importance of human connection and family. Myers loosely based all of the characters in Fallen Angels on his own experience as a young soldier in Vietnam.
Harold "Peewee" Gates quickly becomes Perry's best friend in Alpha Company. He is also African American and is from the South Side of Chicago. He has grown up poor and joined the army because every soldier starts out on equal footing. Peewee is brash and sarcastic, and his larger-than-live bravado is what helps him cope with the horrors of war. He often makes inappropriate comments and does not like to be told he is wrong. However, he and Perry form a deep bond, especially when they are separated from their squad and nearly face death together. Peewee leaves Vietnam on medical leave at the same time as Richie.
A young, pretty army nurse whom Perry meets on the flight to Vietnam. They are separated when she is stationed at a different base. Perry sees Judy again when he is being treated for an injury sustained during combat. When Perry is about to leave Vietnam, he learns that Judy has died because VC forces bombed the field hospital she was assigned to after Chu Lai.
Mabel Perry is the single mother of Richie and his younger brother, Kenny. She has trouble providing for her family she has a history of alcoholism and depression. She and Perry exchange infrequent letters while he is in Vietnam, but Mabel has a hard time telling her son that she loves him - she instead chooses to relay the sentiment through Peewee.
Kenny is Richie Perry's younger brother. Richie is protective of Kenny and uses his army wages to pay Kenny's school fees. Kenny is not as smart or as athletic as Richie, but he looks up to his older brother. Meanwhile, Richie worries about Kenny being at home with their alcoholic mother and the younger teen's habit of mouthing off when he is provoked.
An African American soldier who initiates a blood oath to signify solidarity between the African American soldiers in Alpha Company. Peewee and Perry refuse to participate, but later come up with a less painful version of Rings's oath: they spit on their palms and rub their hands together.
Jenkins is a member of the same squad as Perry and Peewee. A nervous and skittish young man, Jenkins has joined the army because his father, a colonel, wants his son to have a military career. Jenkins steps on a mine during his first patrol and Perry watches him die - the experience is profoundly devastating for all the soldiers.
The Sergeant who oversees Perry's squad is close to the end of his tour of duty. He is very active in trying to preserve the privates' safety, but during every patrol he insists that he cannot die because of how little time he has left in Vietnam. He constantly clashes with Captain Stewart about the older man's habit of volunteering Alpha Company on reckless assignments in order to increase the platoon's body count. After Lt. Carroll's death, Captain Stewart pressures Sergeant to extend his tour by 30 days. Simpson agrees but then changes his mind and returns to the U.S. soon thereafter.
The commander of Perry's platoon, Lt. Carroll is 23 years old and has a pregnant wife back home in Kansas. He is well liked among the soldiers and cares about their well being. After Jenkins's death, Carroll describes the young deceased soldier as a "fallen angel warrior" because he was an innocent boy fighting a grown man's battle. Perry becomes especially close to Carroll and describes his demeanor as "gentle." After Carroll dies in combat, Perry and the other members of his platoon are completely devastated.
Stewart is the leader of Alpha Company who is vying for a promotion to Major. He is obsessed with "body count" and often fudges the number of VC killed on a particular patrol to make himself seem more effective. Later, Sergeant Singer accuses Stewart of putting the Alpha Company soldiers at risk by volunteering them for the most dangerous missions simply to increase his kill count. Stewart's immoral tactics work, however, and by the end of the novel he has successfully been promoted to Major.
An Italian-American soldier who is a member of Perry's squad. He was a baseball and football star in high school and often questions authority. While Monaco is in Vietnam, his girlfriend proposes to him in a letter. The squad encourages him to accept and Monaco insists that all of them must attend his wedding. After Peewee and Perry risk their lives to save Monaco from a VC ambush, the three of them become particularly close. Monaco is one of the few original members of Perry's squad to remain on the ground when Perry leaves - the rest have been killed or injured. Monaco is about to return to the boonies when Perry and Peewee prepare to fly home to the U.S.
Another member of Perry's squad who is a devout Christian and has plans to attend theology school after finishing his tour of duty. He is killed in combat at the same time that Perry sustains his first injury.
A curly-haired Jewish man from California who has joined the army to prove to his father that he is not gay (the truth about his sexuality remains unclear). He distances himself from difficult situations by pretending to be a character in a movie. He is entrenched in the Hollywood fantasy, which he prefers to the reality of his life. Lobel pledges his support to the African American soldiers when they are facing Sergeant Dongan's racial prejudice.
An unpleasant soldier on Perry's squad who is single-mindedly focused on moving up the army ranks. He frequently kisses up to his superiors and shows disdain for those below him.
A smart and thoughtful medic to whom Perry grows close. Jamal has his ear to the ground and always tells Perry the truth about what is happening around them. Due to a shortage of soldiers, Jamal has to go out on patrol. He is terrified of being in combat, though, and shakes violently the whole time.
The commander of the Charlie Company platoon that Perry accompanies on patrol.
Johnson, a well-built African American soldier, is responsible for the sixty (the machine gun) on Perry's squad. He is a natural leader and earns the other soldiers' respect.
A soldier from Illinois who is on Perry's squad. He and Perry often play chess together. Walowick wants to attend Knox College after returning from Vietnam.
Gearhart takes over leadership of Perry's platoon after Lieutenant Carroll's death. He is from Wilmington, Delaware and played football for Delaware State. Gearhart is trained in reconnaissance and his inexperience in the field becomes clear when he makes a grave error during battle - which leads to Turner's death.
An African American soldier who is on Perry's squad for only a short while. He dies in battle after Lieutenant Gearhart accidentally sends up a flare and gives away the squad's position. Perry writes the letter to inform Turner's parents of their son's death.
Dongan commands Perry's squad after Gearhart. An experienced soldier, Dongan knows how to keep himself alive. However, he is clearly racist and frequently puts the African American soldiers in the most dangerous positions on patrol. He is killed in battle.
Earlene is Peewee’s girlfriend from Chicago. She writes to tell him that she has married another man because she cannot wait for Peewee to return from war.
Fallen Angels Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fallen Angels is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Sergeant Simpson tells Perry and Peewee that their commander, Captain Stewart, is vying for a promotion to Major, which will only happen if he "picks up his body count" . This, Simpson explains, is why the squad may have some very dangerous...