Michael Herr passed away on Thursday at the age of 76. His book, Dispatches was and remains one of the premiere books examining what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam. Herr was a war correspondent with the eyes and ears of a poet. In late 1967, Herr, working at Esquire, convinced his employers to send him on assignment to Vietnam. This was right before one of the deadliest and bloodiest battles of the war, the Battle of Khe Sanh. It was almost ten years until the book was published in 1977. After its publication, Herr worked on two of the most important films about the Vietnam war. He contributed to the narration on Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Apocalypse Now (1979) and co-wrote the screenplay, with Stanley Kubrick and Gustav Hasford, on Full Metal Jacket. The film was based on Hasford’s novel, The Short-Timers. Herr had met Stanley Kubrick in 1980 during an advance screening of The Shining. They became friends which evolved into a creative and artistic relationship.
Below is a paragraph from Dispatches.
“You could be in the most protected space in Vietnam and still know that your safety was provisional, that early death, blindness, loss of legs, arms or balls, major and lasting disfigurement — the whole rotten deal — could come in on the freaky-fluky as easily as in the so-called expected ways.”