The Warriors andnthe Warnby Neal F. FreemannThe Long Gray Line: ThenAmerican Journey of West Point’snClass of 1966nby Rick AtkinsonnBoston and New York: HoughtonnMifflin; 576 pp., $24.95nIn the spring of 1962, the great Irishnwit John F. Kennedy journeyed tonNew Haven to accept an honorary degree.nHe was in good form. “I now feelnthat I have the best of both wodds,” hentold the graduating class. “A Harvardneducation and a Yale degree.” With thenaudience crawling into the palm of hisnhand, the President went on to describenhis world view and to summon thenyoung men to a life of service along thennation’s new frontier. One new graduatenin the front row, answering the callnpreemptively, reached across the back ofnhis chair and shook hands with a friendnin the second row, sealing their pact tonjoin the Peace Corps. The atavistic,noxymoronic Peace Corps. Pure Kennedy,nthe Ivy League imperialist.nIn that same spring, the Presidentnspoke to another graduating class, thisnone at the United States Military Academynat West Point. For this audience,nhe put aside the suave circumlocutionsnthat had served him well in New Haven,nCambridge, Georgetown, andnother capitals of the New Class. For, asnhe looked out over the serried ranks ofnfreshly-minted second lieutenants, hendid not see just another class of campaignnaides and briefcase toters. No,nthese men would bear any burden andnfight any foe. He saw something special,nand to them he vouchsafed hisnideas on how to fight a new kind ofnwar. As he saw it, this new war wouldninvolve not just military convention,nbut diplomacy, maneuver, counterinsurgencyn— nation building. To picknand win these wars would require annew kind of military leader, and ton38/CHRONICLESnREVIEWSnproduce this new breed the Commandernin Chief enjoined the academynto design “a new and wholly differentnkind of military training.” The President’snwords were addressed to thenWest Point class of 1962, but theirnimpact would fall on another group ofnyoung men ^-the plebes who wouldnbe inducted just a few weeks later intonthe hellhole known as Beast Barracks,nthe class of 1966. The Vietnam class.nSo begins Rick Atkinson’s story. ThenLong Gray Line. It is the story of theirnlives, these bright young men, and thenstory of our times. For these cadets,nmore even than for the rest of us, thendilemma of youth carried into rniddlenyears: how to push aside the shade ofnDouglas MacArthur and find a substitute,nany substitute, for victory.nFor the reporters among you, preparento have your professional jealousiesnaroused. Atkinson is a fine writer.n(It’s also a pleasure to note that thencopyediting is respectfully fastidious.)nHe introduces to us, with studied casualness,na cast of characters who engagenus in their lives and, finally, make usncare about what happens to them:n*The Reverend James D. Ford, thencivilian chaplain, is not a fussy cleric,nbut a man whose life is one longnmoment of truth — when he counselsnthe nerve-stricken plebe to hang on,nwhen he marries the second lieutenant’nin a turnstile ceremony under crossednswords, and when he buries the dead innthe West Point cemetery high aboventhe Hudson River. More than 50nmembers of the class of ’66 would dienin Vietnam.n*Buck Thompson, the cadet whonmore than any other fired the imaginationnof his classmates. One of the firstnmembers of the class killed in Vietnam,nThompson’s name brings a cheernalmost two decades later when, in thenrecitation of names at the VietnamnVeterans Memorial, a classmate intones,n”Richard W. ‘the ImmortalnBuck’ Thompson.”n*Marcia Bonifas. Unlike most authorsnof books about war and the mennwho make it, Atkinson is equally inter­nnnested in the quirky heroism of militarynwives. And in Marcia Bonifas, whosenhusband. Art, having survived combatnin Vietnam, is axed to death by jumpynNorth Koreans at “demilitarized” Panmunjom,nAtkinson finds his heroine.nLeft grief-ridden with three small childrennand $500 per month, she sets outnfor Colorado to start all over again.n(You will remember the Bonifas incident.nThe newsphotos were horrifying:nKim II Sung’s crazies hacking thenfallen American to pieces. For a moment,nthe world seemed to teeter onnthe edge of war. Then the U.S. respondednboldly … by cutting down antree blocking South Korea’s view ofnthe DMZ.)nAnd then there are the three principalnfigures through which Atkinsonntells the story of West Point hazing,nVietnam battles, career crises, andnpersonal journeys:n* George Crocker. At the bottom ofnhis class at the Point, he becomes thenconsummate professional soldier, thenman you would pick first to share yournfoxhole.n*Tom Carhart, the charismatic maverick—nyes, even West Point has themn— suffers from a terrible auto crash,ngrievous wounds in Vietnam, and anself-destructive streak in what willndoubtless be a lifelong search for informingnprinciples.n*Jack Wheeler, son and grandson ofnprofessional soldiers, bounces from divinitynstudies to business to law tongovernment, trying to find a place tonstand so as to move the earth.nIn the end we see Crocker, havingnput down the resistance on Grenada:n”George watched the helicopters liftnthe students, cheering and waving, intonthe overcast sky. His soldiers wavednback, some with tears in their eyes.nThings have sure changed, he thought.nThe war was over. And this time henwasn’t thinking about Grenada.”nAnd we see classmates Carhart andnWheeler, the one a decorated veterannand uncertain citizen, the other ansmooth technocrat who had avoidedncombat command, battling furiouslyn