Tim O’Brien received the 1979 National Book Award in Fiction for “Going After Cacchiato”. “In The Lake of Woods” was a national bestseller, received the James Fenimore Cooper prize from the Society of American Historians, and was selected as the best novel of 1994 by Time Magazine
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED
They carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages, ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, sterno, LRRP – rations, and C-rations stuffed in socks.
They carried standard fatigues, jungle boots, bush hats, flak jackets and steel pots.
They carried the M-16 assault rifle.
They carried trip flares and Claymore mines, M-60 machine-guns, the M-70 grenade launcher, M-14’s, CAR-15’s, Stoners, Swedish K’s, 66mm Laws, shotguns, .45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets, rockets, and choppers, and sometimes the sound of silence.
They carried C-4plastic explosives, an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25 radios, knives and machetes. Some carried napalm, CBU’s and large bombs; some risked their lives to rescue others. Some escaped the fear, but dealt with the death and damage. Some made very hard decisions, and some just tried to survive.
They carried malaria, dysentery, ringworm’s and leaches. They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots. They carried stationery, pencils, and pictures of their loved ones – real and imagined. They carried love for people in the real world and love for one another. And sometimes they disguised that love: “Don’t mean nothin’!” They carried memories and, for the most part they carried themselves with poise and a kind of dignity.
Now and then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed or wanted to, but couldn’t; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said “Dear God” and hugged the earth and fired their weapons blindly and cringed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping not to die. They carried the traditions of the United States military, and memories and images of those who served before them.
They carried grief, terror, longing and their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear: the embarrassment of dishonor. They crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced under fire, so as not to die of embarrassment. They were afraid of dying, but too afraid to show it. They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world.
THEY CARRIED EACH OTHER
©Copyright 1990 by Tim O’Brien
From his book, “The Things They Carried”: First Broadway Books trade paperback edition published 1998