Cover image for Friendly fire : American images of the Vietnam War
Friendly fire : American images of the Vietnam War
Kinney, Katherine, 1959-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford, [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
viii, 221 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. 193-214) index.
Indian country revisited : the persistence of John Wayne -- Imperial allegories : American exceptionalism and empire -- "Between the devil and the deep blue" : black historical authority and the Vietnam War -- Grunts : the vernacular of postmodernism -- Humping the boonies : women and the memory of war.
Reading Level:
1430 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS228.V5 K56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Hundreds of memoirs, novels, plays, and movies have been devoted to the American war in Vietnam. In spite of the great variety of mediums, political perspectives and the degrees of seriousness with which the war has been treated, Katherine Kinney argues that the vast majority of these worksshare a single story: that of Americans killing Americans in Vietnam. Friendly Fire, in this instance, refers not merely to a tragic error of war, it also refers to America's war with itself during the Vietnam years. Starting from this point, this book considers the concept of "friendly fire" frommultiple vantage points, and portrays the Vietnam age as a crucible where America's cohesive image of itself is shattered--pitting soldiers against superiors, doves against hawks, feminism against patriarchy, racial fear against racial tolerance. Through the use of extensive evidence from the filmand popular fiction of Vietnam (i.e. Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July, Didion's Democracy, O'Brien's Going After Cacciato, Rabe's Sticks and Bones and Streamers), Kinney draws a powerful picture of a nation politically, culturally, and socially divided, and a war that has been memorialized as acontested site of art, media, politics, and ideology.

Author Notes

Katherine Kinney is at University of California, Riverside.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This critical study offers a forceful, yet nuanced, reading of important literature and film concerning the Vietnam War. Ostensibly, the work examines friendly fire (war deaths attributed to same-side attacks, inadvertent or intentional) as a metaphor for the breakdown in many areas of understanding that American armed services as well as social and mythic structures underwent during our corrosive military involvement in Vietnam. Through powerful readings and analysis, Kinney deconstructs the John Wayne myth, the concept of the Other, and the loci of sense and senselessness permeating the literature. The "wounded body" is a dominant theme, with important mythic contrasts offered to illustrate the continuing trauma of Vietnam versus the fairly simple and linear narrative line of WW II. Some of the works covered include: O'Brien's Going after Cacciato, Didion's Democracy, Maxine Hong Kingston's China Men, John A. Williams's Captain Blackman, A.R. Flowers's Dmojo Blues, Herr's Dispatches, Rabe's Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and Streamers, Mason's In Country, and Le Ly Hayslip's When Heaven and Earth Changed Places. This is a major work of criticism in the field, offering in clear, well-written prose new and startling insights into even worked-over pieces such as Dispatches. Highly recommended for all levels. B. Adler Valdosta State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 3
Chapter 1 The Persistence of John Waynep. 11
Chapter 2 American Exceptionalism and Empirep. 43
Chapter 3 Black Historical Authority and the Vietnam Warp. 81
Chapter 4 The Vernacular of Postmodernismp. 105
Chapter 5 Women and the Memory of Warp. 143
Conclusionp. 187
Notesp. 193
Indexp. 215