Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-9

Chapter 7:

Perry learns from Jamal, a medic, that it is common practice for the company's upper echelon to inflate the number of Viet Cong killed during each mission. The official report from the patrol the previous day says that 3 Viet Cong were killed, even though Perry knows there was only one. Perry wonders if the dead VC had a family and if he knew he was going to die. He passes his free time by thinking about Kenny and playing chess with Walowick.

Perry wakes up early one morning with terrible stomach pain, which turns out to be an unpleasant gastrointestinal illness colloquially known as "Damn Nam Jungle Rot." Needless to say, the condition is very uncomfortable and causes Perry to miss a day of patrol. During his recovery, Perry thinks about the prospect of a truce and reads Peewee's magazines. Later, Johnson and Walowick get into a fight in the barracks. Lieutenant Carroll tries to intervene but breaks his tooth in the process. Captain Stewart calls Perry in as a witness to the fight and he shares what he saw, which ultimately reignites the conflict between Johnson and Walowick. Later, Perry helps Peewee write a letter to his ex-girlfriend, Earlene, who has married someone else. After Perry has recovered, Lieutenant Carroll informs him that he will be filling in an empty spot on a patrol with Charlie Company because of his absence on the last one.

When Perry meets up with Charlie Company, he is assigned to the fourth platoon, which will be providing backup for the first platoon. Perry's duty is a to feed ammunition to Scotty, the machine gunner. Perry feels nervous while on patrol with this group of strangers, even though the LZ is supposed to be secure and Lieutenant Doyle, the platoon leader, has proclaimed that they are "not looking to get into a firefight." However, Perry's fears are validated when he hears the sound of shots being fired. Doyle lets his men undertake a lengthy and vicious retaliation against the shooters, even though they are somewhat hidden. He even approves the use of white phosphorus to ensure that the enemy has been sufficiently cleared. However, about 15 seconds after the white phosphorous attack, Doyle screams for a cease - fire. Sure enough, the mystery attackers are not the enemy at all - they are the members of the first platoon. The fourth platoon of Charlie Company has mowed down their own men.

Perry and the other members of the fourth platoon search the bushes and the surrounding area for wounded first platoon soldiers. The medics are overwhelmed by the carnage and must abandon the seriously injured men in favor of those they have a chance of saving. At the end, Perry counts at least fifteen body bags. Back in the Alpha Company barracks, Perry's squad mates are curious about all the firing they heard over the radio. Perry shocks his colleagues with his revelation that the firefight took place between American soldiers. As the holidays approach, Perry recalls that Kenny's birthday falls on Thanksgiving that year and regrets not having planned for a gift sooner. Upon hearing this, Lieutenant Carroll gives Perry a jacket he bought in Saigon that will fit Kenny. At night, Perry can't sleep because he keeps thinking about the men who died in friendly fire during his patrol with Charlie Company. He asks Brew to borrow his Bible in order to find a prayer to recite.

Brunner informs the squad that they will be going on a pacification mission. Monaco questions Brunner's authority, sparking an oral argument between them. In a fit of anger, Monaco pulls the pin from a grenade and throws it into the barracks. Everyone screams and takes cover, but eventually, Walowick realizes that the grenade does not have any gunpowder in it. Monaco laughs while the rest of the squad curses him out. Brunner screams the loudest, insisting that Monaco is a kid, not a soldier.

Even though their mission is a peaceful venture, Perry is still haunted by his experience with Charlie Company. A helicopter takes the squad to a small hamlet, where the soldiers are supposed to walk around and socialize with the townspeople. Perry feels like a giant amongst the small-statured Vietnamese and wonders if they see him as a killer. He realizes that the goal of the mission is to convince the Vietnamese that the Americans are the "good guys," but he wishes that everyone would know they are good guys without their having to advertise it. Peewee and Perry meet a group of Vietnamese women selling homemade medicinal salves, and Peewee buys salve for his hair and his feet.

When Perry and his squad return to camp, Lieutenant Carroll informs them that they will be going on a similar pacification mission the next day, but then recants his announcement an hour later. Monaco claims that Stewart cancelled the mission because "you can't get a body count on a pacification run." During mail call, Perry learns that Lobel only joined to army to convince his father that he is not gay. Perry, meanwhile, receives a letter from Kenny in which his brother explains that he wants to join a youth basketball league but does not have the money for registration. In response, Perry mails Kenny the money and reassures him that he will be good at basketball. He thinks about how Lobel volunteered to become a killer because he thought that it would prove his masculinity, while Perry was willing to kill because he wanted to get away from home so badly.

Two female American Red Cross workers come to the barracks and all of the soldiers flirt with them. Soon thereafter, they learn that two Americans were killed during a pacification visit to the same hamlet that Alpha Company had gone to, and now they will be going back - but this time, their mission will not be friendly.


During this section, Perry's experiences lead him to develop stronger opinions about the American army and their purpose in Vietnam. Perry is especially haunted by his patrol with Charlie Company, during which his platoon uses white phosphorus in a savage attack against their own men. This incident embodies the vagueness and chaos that defined the American effort in Vietnam and comes at a time when most of the soldiers are losing control over their emotions. Lobel talks about killing his father. Monaco scares his squad with a fake grenade. Walowitz and Johnson come to violent blows over a singly insulting epithet. The Americans are trying to control an enemy they rarely even see, Perry is trying to control his emotions and doubts, and the other soldiers on the squad are trying control their actions - but everyone seems to be reaching his breaking point.

One of the most difficult aspects of Perry's war experience thus far is the casual approach to death. Jenkins is always in the back of Perry's mind, but nobody else seems to remember who Jenkins was or how he died. Death is so pervasive and omnipresent on the battlefield that the soldiers have become immune to it - but Perry cannot imagine becoming so jaded. In his romanticized version of war, every soldier dies bravely and receives the appropriate respect after he or she is gone. However, the reality is that in Vietnam, human lives are reduced to statistics. In Charlie Company's case, a communication error between platoons comes at the cost of 15 American lives.

Concurrently, Perry starts to understand the level of corruption involved in the American war effort through the character of Captain Stewart. Stewart is trying to earn a promotion, and can only do so by delivering a high "body count," which means that his company has to kill as many VCs as possible. However, nobody is double-checking the validity of Stewart's reports, so he is able to inflate the body count on paper. At one point, Perry questions whether or not the Vietnamese man they slaughter on patrol is even a VC at all. At this point, the act of killing Vietnamese has become a kind of sport for some of the more jaded American soldiers.

Perry is also realizing that his tour of Vietnam will forever set him apart from his friends and family back home. It becomes increasingly difficult for Perry to relate to his former life in Harlem, or "the World," as the soldiers refer to their civilian lives. Instead, Perry starts to feel a kinship with the men on his squad. Upon hearing Lobel's rant about how he only joined the army to prove his heterosexuality to his father, Perry sees a parallel in his own experience. He reflects on the fact that Lobel is willing to kill human beings in order to prove his point, while he, Perry, agreed to become a killer just so he could get away from home. He feels a twinge of sadness and regret when he reads Kenny's letter, but Peewee helps him take his mind off it - knowing that there is no turning back for any of them.

During the pacification mission, Perry experiences the moral ambiguity inherent in being an American soldier in Vietnam. Their mission is supposed to convince the Vietnamese civilians in the hamlet that Americans are polite and friendly - the "good guys." Before coming to Vietnam, Perry had assumed the American soldiers were the good guys. However, as he walks through the quaint Vietnamese farming town in his uniform carrying his heavy artillery, he realizes that the Vietnamese have every right to be afraid of him.