Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-6


Perry is tasked with bringing a body bag to Sergeant Simpson and Lieutenant Carroll from the supply closet. While watching his superiors place Jenkins's body in the bag and zip it up, Perry feels like he is going to "throw up." Afterwards, Lieutenant Carroll leads the squad in a prayer for Jenkins, whom he calls a "fallen angel warrior." Perry writes another letter to his mother but decides not to mention Jenkins, since he does not want to upset her. Instead, he writes more about Peewee.

Jenkins's death continues to plague Perry's thoughts. Meanwhile, a VC is at the camp, awaiting questioning. Peewee strikes up a conversation with the prisoner, who speaks perfect English. Peewee and the VC even smoke a cigarette together until the captain catches them - which is when the VC jumps on Peewee and tries to take his pistol. This catalyzes the subsequent transfer of the VC to the intelligence unit. Later, the squad members speak about their lives in "the World." Lobel, a curly-haired Jewish soldier from California, likes comparing the reality of war to Hollywood movies. Brewster is also African American and planning to apply to theology school. The foul-mouthed Sergeant Simpson likes to hunt, and Monaco was a star athlete in high school.

The squad's next assignment is a public relations mission to a nearby village as part of a program called "Chieu Hoi." The Americans bring food and medical supplies to the Vietnamese townspeople, spreading the message that any Communist defectors are welcome on their side. Perry and Lobel become attached to a young Vietnamese girl named An Linh. A Vietnamese woman offers the soldiers rice - Lobel accepts but Perry refuses because he is afraid of being poisoned, though his fear turns out to be unfounded. Peewee spends most of his time in one particular hut. Later, he buys bottle of wine from a Vietnamese family. Overall, the mission goes smoothly. The squad returns to their base for dinner. There, 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" [56]. This, Simpson explains, is why the squad may have some very dangerous missions in store for them.

Rumors continue to swirl that Alpha Company will soon be transferred to Hawaii because of the ongoing peace talks. Perry receives a letter from his mother, warning him about the food, and Peewee receives correspondence from his girlfriend that makes him upset. The next few days are quiet; the squad watches a Julie Andrews film and then rigs a screen in the village so the children can watch it as well.

These peaceful days come to an end when American jets start firing at a nearby target. Alpha Company is tasked with retrieving Charlie Company from the landing zone, where they are outnumbered against "a battalion - size movement" of VC. As the men charge into battle, Perry is nervous about his knee holding up. Ultimately, though, they do not encounter any Viet Cong and return to the base unharmed. Afterwards, Lieutenant Carroll speaks to Perry about his knee and gives him the option to transfer out of combat. Perry decides against leaving, though. He feels more confident that his knee will hold up, but he has now started considering "the real question... what I [am] doing, what any of us [are] doing in Vietnam" (69).

Perry and Lobel have guard duty from 8 p.m. until midnight. Perry is nervous about being so close to the edge of camp and starts thinking about Jenkins. Lobel calms him down by talking about their lives as a movie, trying to figure out the fate of their characters. Lobel describes all of the cliched depictions of soldiers in movies, warning Perry against trying to be the romantic hero because that character always gets killed. Perry thinks about life at home and how his mother wanted him to stay there to help manage the household; we learn that Mabel Perry has a drinking problem.

The next day, Captain Stewart brings a television crew to the base area. He asks each soldier to make a statement on camera about why he is fighting. Perry says that fighting in Vietnam keeps the war from coming to the streets of America. The television crew then accompanies the squad on patrol, embedding themselves within the group of soldiers. Carroll spots a Viet Cong and the whole platoon opens fire, eventually killing him. Perry's gun doesn't go off, because, as Lieutenant Carroll gently observes, Perry failed to put in a new clip of ammunition. When they return to the base area, Perry watches the news crew photographing the dead Viet Cong and comments that the man is the same size as his younger brother Kenny.


In these chapters, Perry sees some actual action on the battlefield and becomes acquainted with the other members of his squad. After Jenkins's untimely death, Lieutenant Carroll leads the surviving soldiers in a prayer for him. He calls Jenkins a ‘fallen angel warrior,’ which is the basis for the title of the novel. Carroll explains that this description refers to the extreme youth of the soldiers - these are boys, not men, fighting the battles. The theme of youth and lost innocence is omnipresent throughout the novel. It is a product of Myers’ own experience in the Vietnam War and the fact that the average age of the soldiers who died in combat was less than 20 years old.

The theme of myth vs. reality also becomes prominent in this section of the novel. The United States emerged victorious from both World War I and World War II, and those triumphs perpetuated the common belief that whomever the United States fought must be thoroughly evil and easily surmountable. The image of a soldier as a dignified hero crumbled during the Vietnam War, where maliciousness of the enemy was abstract and the fresh-faced soldiers did not even know what they were fighting for. The first VC Perry encounters face-to-face is killed in a standoff against an entire platoon, and on camera, no less. When Perry sees the VC's body up close, he comments that the dead man is possibly even smaller than his brother Kenny. Perry realizes at this moment that his expectation of the enemy (and the images the media keeps feeding the American people) does not at all align with the reality of what is happening in Vietnam.

While Perry experiences the myths of American patriotism crumbling under the harsh light of reality, Lobel finds comfort in fantasy. He likes to pretend he is playing a role in a movie because that gives him a sense of control over his situation. He sagely advises Perry not to be the romantic lead because that character always dies tragically while trying to undertake some heroically risky act. By imagining himself as an actor, Lobel is also able to distance himself from the fact that he might be killed at any moment. Thinking about the war as a film helps Lobel to see it as finite - a contained arc of drama that will soon be over.

Perry begins to understand that his preconceived notions of heroism are inaccurate and the concept itself is much more complicated than he had previously believed. When he faces enemy soldiers firing shots intended to kill, he is paralyzed with fear at the prospect of death and fights back for the purpose of self-preservation. He realizes the American motive for fighting the VC is not as clear-cut as what American civilians are being led to believe, an epiphany hastened by the arrival of the television crew. This gradual enlightenment and heightened understanding of war is embodied in Perry's decision to undertake a dangerous mission in spite of his injured knee. Perry wants to help protect the friends he has made in the squad, a motive that is surprising to him until he realizes that while the American mission might be problematic, his relationships with these men are real and worth fighting for.

The structure of the novel mirrors the divided realities that Perry and his fellow soldiers experience. Perry tries to write a letter to his mother about Jenkins's death but he cannot communicate how he feels. Perry yearns for a confidante to help him process his feelings about Jenkins, but he knows that his relationship with his mother cannot transcend their drastically opposing circumstances. He does not know how to comprehend the constant chaos and violent tension of war, much less communicate it to those who are so far away.