If I Die in a Combat Zone

by Phoebe Adams
by Tim O’Brien. Delacorte/Seymour Lawrence, $5.95. Straightforward sketches of the author’s reluctant service in Vietnam. Although Mr. O’Brien disapproved of the war—he very nearly bolted to Canada to avoid it—he went, he fought, and he came out an honorably discharged sergeant with seven medals, disapproving of the war even more severely than he had in advance. What he debates throughout the book, sometimes directly and sometimes by implication, is the nature of courage. He had the kind that makes a good combat infantryman, but not the kind required to face exile and loneliness in the name of principle. The difference continues to bother him, and while his speculations are not profound, they must represent the feelings of many men who did their traditional duty in a war which they privately despised.