Who Shot the Water Buffalo?
This is the story of a man who wasn’t all that strange – at least until after his Vietnam experience. Tomas, the narrator, was born into a family whose men customarily went into the military as a final rite of passage. Breaking the family’s Army tradition, though, he chooses the USMC, where he learns to fly helicopters. (He’s candid about being mostly “left seated.”) His closest buddy, “Gorilla” Cochran, is a natural born pilot – and a natural born anarchist. The young soldiers hit Vietnam cold, and both “the country” and the military system are equal conundrums. Tomas relates stories about big wigs Vietnamese and American, about his superiors and his peers, about R&R binges, and even one about how a sergeant saves a dog from becoming the Thit Cho course when they visit a village – all familiar fare. There wasn’t much about the flights or flying, as I’d expected from a guy who’d made pilot, although a nearly fatal crash ends the book. As a reader I was engulfed by a feeling of disassociation, as if I watched puppets in some dire, meaningless and occasionally terrifying play. The feeling seems to convey exactly what this particular Marine is able to say about his 1960s “dirty little war.”
If Vietnam is an interest, or if you just plain like war stories, I’d certainly take a look at Who Shot the Water Buffalo? It’s a strongly individualistic tale of wartime experience from a man who served there. You’ll know right away whether it’s your cup of tea.