War Stories

Go read The New Yorker’s ‘Life During Wartime’ series:

There’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Sierra Leone, 1997:

It was the custom to “start a life” for your houseboy or housegirl, after he or she had been with you long enough. Fide was with us for twelve years. When my parents asked him what he wanted to do after he left us, they hoped that he would want to continue his secretarial studies. But Fide wanted to join the Army, and did so.
At first, he wrote excited letters, and sent pictures of himself in camouflage holding a long, gleaming gun. He took special pride in his boots and wrote about how he polished them with Kiwi polish, the way he had polished the shoes my father wore to his lectures. His handwriting was barely legible and his English was comic. “Hungry is killing me,” he said. He wrote about the poor state of the barracks. He wrote about not being paid. Slowly, the letters cooled.

Neil Sheehan writes about Vietnam, 1966:

In early 1966, I was catching a ride on a helicopter out to a battle on the central coast of South Vietnam. Once there, I intended to hook up with an infantry battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division that was going into action. Both of the pilots were lieutenant colonels, helicopter battalion commanders in the same 1st Cav. I was sitting on the bench seat behind them, with two enlisted machine gunners on either side of me. The colonels were amusing themselves by slapping the tops of the palm trees that covered the area with the skids of the helicopter. It was dangerous play. The slightest miscalculation could send the helicopter spinning into the ground under full power and we would all die. Jesus Christ, I thought. All I want is a helicopter ride and I draw two lieutenant colonels behaving like a pair of fucking cowboys.

Tony D’Souza writes about the Ivory Coast, 2000:

A few weeks later, a story about the marines began to circulate. One night, they were watching a new DVD together—my guess is porn, but who knows—when the doorbell rang. The marines were not alarmed, because they had African security-service guards screening visitors down in the lobby. So one of the marines set down his bottle of beer on the glass coffee table and went to answer it. At the door was a gang of African bandits with AK-47s.
The marines jumped up from the couch and put up their hands, and, for whatever reason, the bandits made them strip down to their briefs. The bandits went into the marines’ closets, got out their uniforms, put them on, and began to sing and dance. Then they stubbed out their cigarettes on the floor, stuffed their pockets with liquor bottles and DVDs, and left. They didn’t steal anything major—just sang and danced in the uniforms while the marines held their balls and shivered.





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