12 20 5 A Doctor's Year in Vietnam Author:John A. Parrish M. D. Marked by the extradordinary compassion of its author, a yound doctor who reluctantly accepts a military commission and spends a year behind the front lines in South Vietnam, 12,20 & 6 is not a book about political ideologies, but rather a haunting memoir of one man's agonized confrontation with war. — Assigned to the Marine base camp at Phu Bai,... more » Dr. John Parris slowly sheds the naivete of the raw intern and amidst the steady whine of mortars and the crack of machine guns, beings to gain confidence in his skills. Parrish's work is punctuated only by the arrival of the next helicopter bearing more men, the wounded and the maimed, the dying and the dead. With each arrival a corpsman announces three numbers: litter-borne wounded, ambulatory wounded and dead. "One casualty is all it takes to break your heart."
After four months in the field, Parrish goes on R & R. Along with a buddy, he spends five days in Bangkok, five days defined by how drunk one can get, how many women one can pick up, how much one can forget. Yet even the sex and drinking are framed by violet fears and recurrent nightmares. A leave cannot erase the knowledge that any minute could be the last.
In a journal that reads like a novel, Parrish brilliantly captures not only the ravages of war, but also the camaradie of men under fire, their bawdy humor and great courage. His hoochmates (bunkmates) emerge as unforgettable characters: Bill, the tough cheif surgeon; Myron, the shy internist; Prince, the dandified division psychiatrist; Roland, the bantering chief of the motor pool. Unforgettable, too, are the women, the bargirl, Sun; the prostitute, Suzy; the nun, Maria - who assuage his loneliness during a terrible year.
Readers of 12,20 and 5 will be reminded of Catch 22 and M*A*S*H. It is a blistering portrayal of the folly of war. But John Parrish's book is as poignant and heart-breaking as it is funny and tough. AND IT IS TRUE.« less