Search and Destroy

Written by Dean Hughes
Review by Ken Kreckel


Rick Ward, a confused boy from Long Beach just out of high school, drifts into the army. He may be running away from an overbearing father, a pointless existence of beach parties, or perhaps he just needs to do something meaningful. In that spirit he goes to Vietnam and volunteers for the Charlie Rangers, an elite group who infiltrate the jungle to beat the enemy at their own game. He wants to be tested, to experience life like his heroes, Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad. Most of all, he longs to be a man.

He discovers that nothing about war is what he or others had thought. He finds himself in a restricted world of just him and his team, trying to survive in a jungle hell, where the highest honor is not fighting for his country, or even just surviving, but helping a buddy to stay alive, to make it back to “the world.”

This is a powerful story about how war profoundly changes a man. The ugliness of war screams off the pages: its horror, hypocrisy, and utter futility. The author does a marvelous job of blending this with the larger realities of the Vietnam era, not shrinking from the controversies but not taking a stand either. The truth is too complex, too overwhelming for any one individual to understand. In the end, it is the individual’s humanity that counts.

This skillfully written book is highly recommended for teens and adults. Ages 12 and up.