Cover image for If I die in a combat zone, box me up and ship me home
If I die in a combat zone, box me up and ship me home
O'Brien, Tim, 1946-
Personal Author:
First Broadway Books trade paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Broadway Books, 1999.

Physical Description:
209 pages ; 21 cm
Reading Level:
830 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.8 8.0 56999.

Reading Counts RC High School 5.4 15 Quiz: 46955.
Personal Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS559.5 .O27 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS559.5 .O27 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DS559.5 .O27 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Before writing his award-winning Going After Cacciato , Tim O'Brien gave us this intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam. The author takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman's rifle, to walk the minefields of My Lai, to crawl into the ghostly tunnels, and to explore the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war gone terribly wrong. Beautifully written and searingly heartfelt, If I Die in a Combat Zone is a masterwork of its genre.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader's guide and bonus content

Author Notes

Tim O'Brien was born on October 1, 1946 in Austin, Minnesota. He graduated from Macalester College in 1968 and was immediately drafted into the U. S. Army, serving from 1969 to 1970 and receiving a Purple Heart.

Three years later, his memoirs of the Vietnam War were published as If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. Later works include Northern Lights (1975), Going After Cacciato (1978, winner of the National Book Award), and The Things They Carried (1990, winner of the Melcher Book Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

O'Brien's memoir of his days as a U.S. Army foot soldier fighting in Vietnam was released in 1973, although some segments were published while he was still enlisted. Although he recaps his own experiences, O'Brien speaks for legions of soldiers before and since as he discusses his small-town U.S. upbringing in a society that regarded combat as a male ritual that tested bravery and instilled character. He questions those traditions when recalling his induction and training, his detailed plan to go AWOL to Sweden, and his year of service as an infantry grunt humping it through Nam (the plethora of soldierspeak lends authenticity.) The memoir is peopled with both the career soldiers and short-timers he encountered during his tour of duty; some survived, others did not. Ultimately, he ponders the nature of courage and war and the morality of fighting when one does not believe in the cause. Narrator Dan Jon Miller's youthful voice is a perfect match for the material; O'Brien discusses the book in a brief bonus Q&A. -VERDICT O'Brien's powerful memoir remains highly relevant and should be standard issue to all military personnel and their families. Highly recommended.-Mike -Rogers, Babylon, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Days "It's incredible, it really is, isn't it? Ever think you'd be humping along some crazy-ass trail like this, jumping up and down like a goddamn bullfrog, dodging bullets all day? Back in Cleveland, man, I'd still be asleep." Barney smiled. "You ever see anything like this? Ever?" "Yesterday," I said. "Yesterday? Shit, yesterday wasn't nothing like this." "Snipers yesterday, snipers today. What's the difference?" "Guess so." Barney shrugged. "Holes in your ass either way, right? But, I swear, yesterday wasn't nothing like this." "Snipers yesterday, snipers today," I said again. Barney laughed. "I tell you one thing," he said. "You think this is bad, just wait till tonight. My God, tonight'll be lovely. I'm digging me a foxhole like a basement." We lay next to each other until the volley of fire stopped. We didn't bother to raise our rifles. We didn't know which way to shoot, and it was all over anyway. Barney picked up his helmet and took out a pencil and put a mark on it. "See," he said, grinning and showing me ten marks, "that's ten times today. Count them-one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten! Ever been shot at ten times in one day?" "Yesterday," I said. "And the day before that, and the day before that." "No way. It's been lots worse today." "Did you count yesterday?" "No. Didn't think of it until today. That proves today's worse." "Well, you should've counted yesterday." We lay quietly for a time, waiting for the shooting to end, then Barney peeked up. "Off your ass, pal. Company's moving out." He put his pencil away and jumped up like a little kid on a pogo stick. Barney had heart. I followed him up the trail, taking care to stay a few meters behind him. Barney was not one to worry about land mines. Or snipers. Or dying. He just didn't worry. "You know," I said, "you really amaze me, kid. No kidding. This crap doesn't get you down, does it?" "Can't let it," Barney said. "Know what I mean? That's how a man gets himself lethalized." "Yeah, but--" "You just can't let it get you down." It was a hard march and soon enough we stopped the chatter. The day was hot. The days were always hot, even the cool days, and we concentrated on the heat and the fatigue and the simple motions of the march. It went that way for hours. One leg, the next leg. Legs counted the days. "What time is it?" "Don't know." Barney didn't look back at me. "Four o'clock maybe." "Good." "Tuckered? I'll hump some of that stuff for you, just give the word." "No, it's okay. We should stop soon. I'll help you dig that basement." "Cool." "Basements, I like the sound. Cold, deep. Basements." A shrill sound. A woman's shriek, a sizzle, a zipping-up sound. It was there, then it was gone, then it was there again. "Jesus Christ almighty," Barney shouted. He was already flat on his belly. "You okay?" "I guess. You?" "No pain. They were aiming at us that time, I swear. You and me." "Charlie knows who's after him," I said. "You and me." Barney giggled. "Sure, we'd give 'em hell, wouldn't we? Strangle the little bastards." We got up, brushed ourselves off, and continued along the line of march. The trail linked a cluster of hamlets together, little villages to the north and west of the Batangan Peninsula. Dirty, tangled country. Empty villes. No people, no dogs or chickens. It was a fairly wide and flat trail, but it made dangerous slow curves and was flanked by deep hedges and brush. Two squads moved through the tangles on either side of us, protecting the flanks from close-in ambushes, and the company's progress was slow. "Captain says we're gonna search one more ville today," Barney said. "Maybe--" "What's he expect to find?" Barney shrugged. He walked steadily and did not look back. "Well, what does he expect to find? Charlie?" "Who knows?" "Get off it, man. Charlie finds us. All day long he's been shooting us up. How's that going to change?" "Search me," Barney said. "Maybe we'll surprise him." "Who?" "Charlie. Maybe we'll surprise him this time." "You kidding me, Barney?" The kid giggled. "Can't never tell. I'm tired, so maybe ol' Charles is tired too. That's when we spring our little surprise." "Tired," I muttered. "Wear the yellow bastards down, right?" But Barney wasn't listening. Soon the company stopped moving. Captain Johansen walked up to the front of the column, conferred with a lieutenant, then moved back. He asked for the radio handset, and I listened while he called battalion headquarters and told them we'd found the village and were about to cordon and search it. Then the platoons separated into their own little columns and began circling the hamlet that lay hidden behind thick brush. This was the bad time: The wait. "What's the name of this goddamn place?" Barney said. He threw down his helmet and sat on it. "Funny, isn't it? Somebody's gonna ask me someday where the hell I was over here, where the bad action was, and, shit, what will I say?" "Tell them St. Vith." "What?" "St. Vith," I said. "That's the name of this ville. It's right here on the map. Want to look?" He grinned. "What's the difference? You say St. Vith, I guess that's it. I'll never remember. How long's it gonna take me to forget your fuckin' name?" Excerpted from If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me up and Ship Me Home by Tim O'Brien All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.