Casualties of WarThe searing account of a war crime and one soldier’s heroic efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice
First published in the New Yorker in 1969 and later adapted into an acclaimed film starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn, Casualties of War is the shocking true story of the abduction, rape, and murder of a young Vietnamese woman by US soldiers.
Before setting out on a five-day reconnaissance mission in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, Sergeant Tony Meserve told the four men under his command that their first objective would be to kidnap a girl and bring her along “for the morale of the squad.” At the end of the mission, Meserve said, they would kill their victim and dispose of the body to avoid prosecution for abduction and rape—capital crimes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Private First Class Sven Eriksson was the only member of the patrol who refused to participate in the atrocity. Haunted by his inability to save the young woman’s life, he vowed to see Meserve and the others convicted of their crimes. Faced with the cynical indifference of his commanding officers and outright hostility from his fellow infantrymen, Eriksson had the tenacity to persevere. He went on to serve as the government’s chief witness in four courts-martial related to the infamous Incident on Hill 192.
A masterpiece of contemporary journalism, Casualties of War is a clear-eyed, powerfully affecting portrait of the horrors of warfare and the true meaning of courage.
- Pub Date
- Open Road Integrated Media
“The best piece of writing to come out of the war.” —The Boston Globe
“A classic statement of the horrors of the Vietnam War.” —The New Yorker
“Casualties of War could resurrect issues that transcend Vietnam. That one enlisted man rejected the madness . . . is the affirmation which peculiarly elevates this horror story.” —New York Post
About the author
Daniel Lang (1913-1981) was an award-winning journalist and author. He was a staff writer for the New Yorker for forty years, covering World War II in North Africa, Italy, and France. After the war he reported extensively on nuclear weapons and the morality of military science, and his articles were collected into several books, beginning with Early Tales of the Atomic Age. Casualties of War, the account of the brutal rape and murder of a South Vietnamese girl by US soldiers and the obstacles Private First Class Sven Eriksson faced in bringing his platoon mates to justice, won a Hillman Prize and was adapted into a Brian De Palma film of the same name. In addition to his journalistic work, Lang wrote poetry, children's literature, and the libretto for an opera, Minutes to Midnight.