Standing on PrinciplenJames Webb: A Sense of Honor;nPrentice-Hall; Englewood Cliffs,nNew Jersey.nby Robert C. SteensmanWhen the definitive history of thenVietnam War is eventually written, itnwill probably bear little resemblance tonthe melange of half-truths and propagandanfoisted upon the American publicnby George McGovern—who called thenwar “a blot upon American history” andncompared the American effort there tonHitler’s holocaust against the Jews—nand his intellectual groupies during thenlast fifteen years. And while the historiansnassemble and assimilate their materialsnabout the conflict in SoutheastnAsia, the novelists, particularly thenyounger ones who fought there, willnprovide accounts of what the agony wasnreally like. The old stereotypes about thenwar have already begun to crumble innseveral recent books. In A Rumor ofnWar (1977) Philip Caputo shows thenhorror of the war as seen by a group ofnmarines betrayed by both the politiciansnand the public. A few months ago, innEverything We Had: An Oral Historynof the Vietnam War, Al Santoli convincinglyndestroyed the McGovern-JanenFonda myth of the barbaric Americannimperialist trying to destroy a saintlynHo Chi Minh and committing genocidenagainst the Vietnamese.nJames Webb, a 1968 graduate of thenNaval Academy and a highly decoratednMarine officer in Vietnam, has publishedntwo novels dealing with thenAmerican military experience duringnthe war. The first, the widely acclaimednFields of Fire (1978), challenged thencliches of the antiwar movement bynshowing that the marines in Vietnamnwere men far more humane and com-nDr. Steensma is professor of English atnthe University of Utah.nplex than the caricatures created by thenmedia. This novel may well become onenof the classics of American militarynfiction. Webb’s second and more recentnnovel, A Sense of Honor, concernsnVietnam only indirectly in that its settingnis the Naval Academy in Februaryn1968 when, thousands of miles away,nthe Vietcong and the North Vietnamesenwere launching the Tet offensive.nWhile the men in the novel strugglentoward spiritual maturity, the Red attackngrinds down to disaster as the com­nMilitary RevelationsnTime magazine recently attracted ournattention to a book by a certain HelennRegan, entitled Mixed Company: Womennin the Modem Army, which, in thenopinion of the magazine’s perceptive editors,nis “groundbrfeaking.” Time elaboratesnon the book’s re^elationary characternand the precision of its insights:nThe women’s physical standard wasnslightly different, mainly becausenmen are generally larger and possessngreater upper-body strength.nThe discovery that men are generallynlarger is indeed awesome. What bedazzlesnus even more, however, is the statenment’s invitation to deductive reasoning.nShould we infer that, in contrast tonmen’s upper-ho6y strength, women possessna superior lower-body strength? Cannthis acute observation change the naturenof warfare or the Pentagon’s planning.’nBut Time has more to tell us:nKeeping the women the Army alreadynhas is a problem. Many leavenbecause of pregnancy (about 87o anyear get pregnant). The solutions,nRogan believes, are child care andnLIBERAL CULTUREnnnmunists leave 45,000 of their own deadnon the battlefields, a humiliating defeatnwhich the American press managed tontransmogrify into a communist victory,nfinally turning the American publicnagainst the war.nA Sense of Honor centers aroundnfour characters: Bill Fogarty, singlemindednsenior midshipman who seeksna commission in the Marine Corps andnassignment to Vietnam; John Dean, anbright young plebe who hasn’t yet cutnbetter provisions for pregnancynleave.nWe can perceive the dire difficultiesninherent in these concerns, but theynseem to us solvable, given Ms. Regan’snexpertise and zeal. The establishment ofna belt of day-care centers on a perimeternof, say, 15 miles from the front, may donthe job. After all, it would be cruel tondeprive fighting mothers of a refreshingnvisit to their tots after a day of slaughter,nkilling and mayhem. Why shouldnwomen be forced to commute anynfarther.’ nni3anJanuary/ February 1982n