I Pledge Allegiance: Vietnam #1, by Chris Lynch, as you might expect in a series, builds the background for what follows—the experiences of four friends: Morris, Ivan, Rudi, and Beck. This first book depicts the perspective of Morris. The setting is Boston in the late 1960’s when the Vietnam War is raging, the draft is national policy, and every young man of a certain age is (or should be) worried about being sent to Vietnam. Morris continually dreams the same dream. He is in Vietnam in a vicious firefight and his three close friends are there too. They’re all shredded to bits. They might die in different ways and in a different order, but they all always die. The four friends have stuck together through all their school years and by this time have become close. When one has a problem, they all have a problem.
And Morris’ dream is a problem. For years the friends made a pledge to help each other whenever a situation arose. As the boys come close to graduating from high school, Morris (because of his recurring dream) gets the others to pledge that when one of them is drafted and goes to war, they must all go. He convinces them this is the only way they can look out for each other. So when the first of them inevitably gets his draft notice the rest drop college plans, etc., and sign up.
Okay, this is where the book became really weird for me because each of the four joins a different branch of service. I never recovered from this unlikely action through the rest of the book. To begin with, I found it impossible to believe four friends would join different branches of the service in order to look out for each other. While this may provide a vehicle for a writer to put out a series of books describing an experience in each military service, the practical effect would be that the four boys would be scattered throughout the country or at sea with little possibility of contact. Additionally, their enlistment terms would be of different lengths, they would probably not all be serving in Vietnam at the same time, and some would do more than one tour there.
Beyond this, I couldn’t get myself to buy into the all-for-one and one-for-all premise that boys putting themselves into the same difficulty as their friends is “looking out for each other.” I was of this exact age in this era, went through the experience myself, and can tell you I didn’t know anyone who believed something this far-fetched. If anything, we looked out for each other by encouraging our friends to try to avoid going to Vietnam.
But back to Morris. He joins the navy and his first experience is sea duty off the coast of Vietnam on a large ship. Later he is assigned to a small riverboat and sees his first action. The author describes Morris’ life in the military by a mix of letters and narrative, and includes a scene or two with Morris briefly tasting combat. Unfortunately, I never developed any feeling for the character or his story, perhaps because there was no real plot. You may feel differently about the book.