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date: 14 June 2024

O'Brien, Timlocked

O'Brien, Timlocked

  • Judith Kitchen


For America, the Vietnam War is the war that does not end, and the name of Tim O'Brien has come to be synonymous with its continued examination. In 1967, when the war was at its height and 40,000 protesters were staging a rally at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Tim O'Brien was knocking on doors in Minnesota with petitions for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, who was running on an antiwar platform. In March 1968, when Lieutenant William Calley was leading a platoon that massacred between two hundred and five hundred civilians at My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam, O'Brien was about to graduate from Macalester College with a major in political science. In 1969, just as Richard M. Nixon was announcing the withdrawal of twenty-five thousand U.S. troops from Vietnam, O'Brien was an infantryman, fighting in Quang Ngai—Pinkville, as it was dubbed because of its color on army maps. In 1970, after four student demonstrators were killed at Kent State University and Lieutenant Calley had been court-martialed and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, O'Brien returned from his stint in Vietnam with a purple heart. And in 1973, as the Paris Peace Accords were being signed, and two years before the fall of Saigon and the frenzy of the final helicopter flights from the roof of the U.S. embassy, O'Brien published a memoir entitled If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973).


  • North American Literatures

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