Friday, January 04, 2013

VIETNAM MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY

Advise & Dissent
Opinion BY GUSTAV HASFORD
From Penthouse, June 1987

The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is that a fairy tale begins with "Once upon a time" and a sea story begins "This is no shit." Listen up, people, this is no shit: History may be written with blood and iron, but it is printed with ink, and it is made real and dangerous when it is put on film, the alternate literature of our times.

When Joseph Heller went to the war he would later bring to life in his masterpiece, Catch-22, he says, "I actually hoped I would get into combat. I was just 19 and there were a great many movies being made about the war; it all seemed so dramatic and heroic. I remember my mother weeping as the trolley car pulled away with me on it. I couldn't figure out why she was so unhappy. I felt like I was going to Hollywood."

Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood--we've all been there. From the maudlin soap opera of The Green Berets to the cartoon slaughterhouse of Rambo, Vietnam veterans have remained strangely silent while bombarded with Technicolor counterfeits of the Vietnam War flogged off like swampland by Hollywood Jacuzzi commandos, a Vietnam War as true to the facts as a platoon of Parris Island recruits double-timing down the Yellow Brick Road into the Emerald City.

In First Blood, Rambo, John J., articulated in fluent growling-dog (suggesting that speech impediments may be an overlooked symptom of Post-Vietnam Syndrome) the civilian alibi for why three million Vietnam veterans are such a mess and a public disgrace: All of our best friends were blown up by Communist shoeshine boys. The gruesome deaths of some three million Communist shoeshine boys traumatized even us, the callous and dehumanized, and gave us defective headgear.

Rambo: First Blood Part II--the Triumph of the Will for American Nazis--is proof of the Marine Corps proverb that there is always some asshole who does not get the word. Even at this late date, Rambo argues that despite appearances, and despite the facts, the Vietnam War was a righteous cause. Rambo satisfies our pathetic need to win the war and gives us another coat of whitewash as bumbling do-gooders, innocent American white-bread boy, pulled down into corruption by wicked Orientals. We should have won, and we could have won, Rambo argues, if only the dumb grunts could have been saved by grotesquely muscled civilians who somehow skated the shooting war (we're the same age, Sly), all of whom seem to be Green-Beret-Medal-of-Honor winners packing James Bond hardware.

Hollywood Jacuzzi commandos are not men with paper assholes playing war, they're working the rubes, as usual. When we were kids and John Wayne charged up Suribachi, he was 40 feet high on the screen and tromping on wicked Orientals, a big white Godzilla, a hero of Homeric proportions, a winner. The genius of Hollywood is that it always knows which side of the bread contains the butter. For Vietnam War films, the smart money has always backed a policy of "reviling the veteran." The signing of a Big Millions deal for Rambo 3 and 4 says Hollywood is still on target and firing for effect, content to go on trivializing the war as long as it sells popcorn to U.C.L.A. coeds.

The phrase "reviling the veteran" was first quoted to me by Stanley Kubrick, the internationally acclaimed filmmaker, during the shooting of Full Metal Jacket, a film based upon The Short-Timers, my novel about Marine grunts fighting the battle for Hue City during the Tet Offensive. "Reviling the veteran" is a serviceable phrase.

Before the paperback edition of The Short-Timers was published, I received an author's proof of the cover. My civilian blurb writer, appealing to the prejudices of civilians everywhere, hailed my book as a story about "Vietnam violence freaks who kill and kill without a twinge of guilt." I put an arc light of angry objections across the hostile terrain of my publisher's intention. I was personally offended by the exploitative and factually inaccurate injustice of the blurb, which was obviously designed to sell books to civilians at the expense of veterans. Anticipating the appeal of Rambo by five years, the blurb was revised to read:"...a gung-ho bunch, some of whom kill and kill without a twinge of guilt."

The motivations that have made "reviling the veteran" a civilian hobby are complex. My theory is that civilians are jealous of Vietnam veterans because we can skillfully shoot up heroin, barricade the door, and adjust the scope on a sniper's rifle all at the same time--no easy feat, as we all know.

Another civilian alibi for branding us the children of Frankenstein and chasing us through newsprint villages with paper pitchforks with such neurotic intensity, for all these years, is because we are psychovets, trip-wire vets, walking time bombs.

Are we plain fucking crazy? Did we, in some black jungle, lose our grip on the burned edge of reality? Make no mistake, the civilians revel in painting us as crazy, at least in their own movies. Or is it because Vietnam was the education we never go in school? Do they hate us because Vietnam veterans are fierce witnesses to hard facts civilians lack the intestinal fortitude to confront, even second hand? Truth is stranger than fiction, but is has never been as popular. If we can be dismissed as Section Eights, we can be pitied and patronized, a civilian tactic to resist our expert testimony with a willful ignorance as hard as iron.

Do Vietnam veterans feel guilty? Only one individual in ten ever fired a shot in anger. Even Marines in the field rarely knew if they hit anything. Rambo has "59 confirmed kills," first tour, and scores another 90 during the film, for a total of 149, not counting blood trails, civilians, and water buffalo. My own score was perhaps more typical. In Vietnam I fired more rounds than the Stonewall Brigade fired at the Battle of Gettysburg. I was highly motivated, but my body count was a standing joke: I killed as many of them as they did of me. Looking back with flawless hindsight, I hope I hit nothing but trees, and I hope the trees lived. If I did kill a human being in Vietnam, it was a tragic accident or self-defense; I regret it, but I do not apologize.

Civilians, weaned on recreational gore, do not understand that unreconstructed Vietnam veterans are not misfits. We're the first team, the varsity; we may not have been the brightest (the trouble with real life is that it's all first draft), but we were the best. Maybe we didn't have the money to buy our way out, but we had the balls to go to war, just as others had the balls to go to prison or Canada. What hurt us was coming home to confront civilians who were pale shadows of--and poor substitutes for--our loyal brothers in Vietnam. Civilians will never understand that if Vietnam veterans have been tortured, it was not by the Viet Cong but by the wives who still don't know we were there, the parents who demanded that we not express our pain, the sisters who were afraid to let us hold their babies, and the girlfriends who believed that if they made us angry we would kill them, because that's what the Vietnam veterans on television would do in the movies of the week that have been manufactured like cheese to accommodate the most irrational prejudices of a civilian audience.

Before patrols, we said, "I think I'm going to hate this movie." Today, Vietnam veterans have not overrun the movie industry, but there are sappers in the wire. Besides Oliver Stone's acclaimed Platoon--and, of course, Full Metal Jacket, with a screenplay by Kubrick; Michael Herr, an honorary Marine and the author of the literary classic of the Vietnam War, Dispatches; and myself, Corporal, U.S.M.C., Retired--there's Hamburger Hill by James Carabatsos and 84 Charlie Mopic by Patrick Duncan, both in production, with more films by veterans on the way, many, many of them.

Fighting history is a ball-breaking hump, and it is not for everyone. But Vietnam veterans who get tired of sipping their beer will be forced to accept the bitter, insufficient truth: We were not G.I. Joes passing out gum to orphans. John Wayne never cried, Audie Murphy never died, and Gomer Pyle never dipped a baby in jellied gasoline. Being young is the art of survival without weapons, but we had weapons, and we used them to burn Vietnam alive. Why did we go to war? They've been trying to figure that out since Hitler was a corporal. We were young, and the young love to travel.

In Vietnam, we sometimes lacked grace under pressure, but we stuck it out, just the same. We died for Nixon's pride. We were an Orwellian army, it's true, but then in Vietnam nice guys didn't finish as all. It was Victor Charlie's land, and we were on it, and he made us get off. Not since my great-grandpappy was in the Georgia Militia have American soldiers been defeated. So the V.F.W. pretends that we're not veterans. And we try to pretend that Vietnam was an exceptionally noisy frat party in the hootch with warm beer, and not a cross between a gang-bang and a Chinese opera. Vietnam means never having to say you're sorry. We don't like to see ourselves as the last of the Keystone Kops. But there is no discharge from that war. We weren't Rambo, betrayed by C.I.A. spooks. It was a fair fight and we lost. That's some cold shit, man, but there it is.

Now pogue historians want to embalm us and put us on exhibit, more gargoyles for the museum, while Rambo fans in the White House, who think they are Wyatt Earp and that Russian is Ike Clanton, yearn to provoke another Vietnam, somewhere, anywhere; same song, second verse. It's amazing how brave some people are willing to be with other people's sons. It's time to stop sipping our beer and get wired and hit back at all these silly people who presume to define us, our actions, and our motives. It's time to throw off the leper's bell of the Vietnam veteran. It's not enough to touch the names on the Black Wall and remember. Our finest tribute to our fallen dead would be to convince their sons that we were not Rambo and neither are they.

Vietnam veterans have been buffaloed by self-serving civilians long enough. It's time for us to come out of the closet, to join ranks, to stand tall, lean, and mean--we are United States grunts, and we've come down here to battle. Stop patronizing us, keep your pity, do not presume to condemn us for things you know nothing about, stop telling us who we are, shut up while we sound off--all together now, girls, by the numbers--because, as the Spanish say, there is only one man who knows, and that is the man who fights the bull.

Plato said only the dead have seen the last of war. Now war drums in the Rambo movies call us to another nightmare of lies and death. More than anyone, Vietnam veterans know what that means in hard facts. To the current crop of teenage cannon fodder, Vietnam is some kind of Chinese breakfast food. We've got to force them to listen to us. We owe it to them because we know their fathers. And we owe it to ourselves.

If H.G. Wells was right about human history being more and more a race between education and catastrophe, we've got to denounce this silly but dangerous Rambo myth before some miscalculated O.K. Corral renders the entire continental United States into radioactive powder. If we can fight against the Rambo in each of us, the Rambo in our American bones, then, as Rambo says, maybe this time we'll win, and be soldiers on the good side, walking point for America again, until the stage blood dries and the future is a cold LZ.

History is not over yet, and history collects its debts.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Letter to U.S. Customs Office, 1987

January 2, 1987
Letter to U.S. Customs Office
From Gustav Hasford, Australia

To: U.S. CUSTOMS OFFICE, LOS ANGELES and Leaseway International Corporation, Carson, California

SUBJECT: Shipment from London, England, 124 pieces, 120 Royal Mail mailing cartons and four blue metal trunks

This letter is intended to be both an official customs declaration (as per form 3299) and my authorization to the U.S. Customs and to Leaseway Corporation for the purpose of naming my friend Robert M. Bayer my representative in the matter of clearing my shipment through customs.

Actually, I do not understand why this procedure cannot be delayed until my return to the United States, but since it is necessary for me to remain in Australia until the end of March, I see no alternative but to inconvenience my friend Bob, who has kindly agreed to deal with the paperwork.

CONTENTS OF THE SHIPMENT: First, I will tell you what it does NOT contain. There are no plants, animals, fur, bone, weapons (with the exception of a replica German officer's dagger), no explosives, liquors, perfumes, diamonds, counterfeit money, chemicals, food, or midgets. I've been through customs inspections in a lot of countries (Australian customs is the most strict, by far) and I can't think of anything in the shipment that anybody would object to.

What is in the shipment, primarily, are books. Books shipped to England from the U.S. by myself, and books purchased in England. There are several boxes of stationary supplies--pens, paper, index cards. In one box there is a plaster bust of John Keats, the English poet. I don't know what else. Just junk and papers. Newspaper clippings. Piles of notes and manuscripts and papers. And, of course, souvenirs of the usual tourist type, a brass Eiffel Tower, things like that.

I spent a year in London writing the screenplay for the upcoming Stanley Kubrick film, FULL METAL JACKET (see article attached) and I needed this ton of books and papers (600 pounds?) so that I might steal my ideas from the widest possible range of sources, the secret of good writing. If any additional information is required, please feel free to call me collect.

Cordially,
Gustav Hasford

The Short-Timers hardcover first edition


The hardcover first edition of The Short-Timers, published by Harper & Row in January 1979.

Dust jacket copy:
From its opening pages in Marine boot camp on Parris Island to the excruciating suspense of its climatic finale during the jungle battle for Khe Sanh, The Short-Timers is a brilliant and savage reenactment of the descent into barbarism that formed the bottom line of the American intervention in Viet Nam.

Terse and brief as a scream, The Short-Timers traces the career of a sardonic narrator ("Joker") through the organized sadism of basic training, into a distasteful assignment as a combat reporter, and finally to the command of a platoon of "grunts" in the chaos that followed the Tet offensive. It is a story about some of the most harrowing experiences Americans have ever been made to endure, the story of a gallery of young Americans who are turned into violence freaks while still remaining individuals--comic, pathetic, repellent, proud and caring.

Sometimes surreal, sometimes all too realistic, and, without warning, funny, here is a novel that is--like its subject--as incongruous and undeniable as an exploding booby trap. It is a brutal novel because it is about the brutality of men trained to violence; but it is a book filled with the very rare and great compassion available to men who have survived the loss of their humanity in combat. This is a truly remarkable accomplishment for a first novel--which it is--or a tenth.

Dust jacket photo of Gus.
Gustav Hasford served as a Combat Correspondent with the First Marine Division in Viet Nam. He now lives and works in California.

From the back cover:
Advance comments about The Short-Timers:
"Gustav Hasford has managed to capture the Viet Nam War's gritty realities without trying to deliberately shock, and its aura of unreality without degenerating into surrealism. Most of us who fought there will never put it behind us, and Mr. Hasford is obviously among those who cannot forget. It is a beautiful story, and it is true, and as he himself has said, 'The truth can be ugly.'"
--Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War

"Many are already forgetting the Viet Nam War. Actually, it is only now being discovered. Americans (except for the few who were in it) are only now learning what Americans did in that war--and what they will be doing in any other war that may 'break out' in the near future. To those who refuse to forget, who, instead, wish to know, I recommend Gustav Hasford's The Short-Timers.
--Eric Bentley, critic

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

About This Site

My name is Jason Aaron. I write comic books. Gus Hasford was my cousin. My mom's nephew. I only met him two or three times in my life, and he died in 1993, when I was just out of high school, but nevertheless he had a tremendous influence on me.

A few years after Gus died, I started to put together a website devoted to him, compiling what little I knew about Gus and whatever articles I could track down online. That site grew and grew over the years, to include dozens of short stories, interviews, remembrances, photos and more. Through that website I met Gus Hasford fans from all over the world, and ultimately even got invited to the reunion of Gus' fellow Vietnam War era Marine Combat Correspondents.

Eventually though the site became terribly neglected and dated. This is me trying to dust it off and give it a new face. I'll be reposting most everything from the old site here and maybe even including some other stuff that never made it online.

Please join me in continuing to celebrate the life and work of Gus Hasford. Thanks.

IS THAT YOU, JOHN WAYNE? IS THIS ME?

By GUSTAV HASFORD
 
 

    "MARINE!"
    "Yes, SIR!"  I snapped to attention and saluted a granite-jawed Marine major whose immaculately green razor-creased jungle utilities must have looked splendid in snapshots taken in the tall grass behind the CP and sent home to his wife.
    The major executed a flawless Short-Pause--a favorite device of Leaders-of-Men, designed to give its victim a case of terminal insecurity.  Not wishing to shatter his blatant self-confidence, I gave him my Parris Island rendition of I Am But a Humble Enlisted Person.
    "Marine..."  The major was ramrod straight--Fists-on-Hips.  This stance, coupled with a deep, masculine Leader-of-Men voice, gave him that certain air of command, despite that fact that I was a good foot taller and he was looking at the bottom of my chin.  "Marine..." he repeated.  He seemed to like the word.  "What is that you're wearing?"
    For a brief, horrible moment I thought he meant the Be My Valentine's Day underwear my girl had sent me from San Francisco.  But he was looking at my chest.  The button!
    The major stood on tiptoes as though he wanted to kiss me, but he only wanted to breathe in my face.  I'd just returned from two weeks in the field and hadn't been breathed on by a CP officer in all that time.
    "Marine!  Speak up!  I asked you a question!"
    "You mean the button, SIR?"
    "What the hell is that thing, Marine?"
    "It's a peace symbol, SIR!"
    He paused and pondered.  I waited patiently, knowing that the major was obviously trying to remember his O.C.S. classes in "Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships With Subordinate Personnel."  The other possibility was that he was going to hit me and couldn't decide between kicking my shins or slapping my face.
    His breath smelled of mint.  Marine officers never had bad breath, B.O., acne, or dirty underwear.  Marine officers didn't have anything until it was issued to them.
    The major jabbed the button with a green forefinger, and cut loose with a really admirable Polished Glare.  Green eyes sparkled as he opened his red, white and blue teeth and growled, "That's right, corporal.  Act innocent.  But I know what that is, and I also know what it means!"
    "Yes, SIR!"
    "It's one of those damned Ban-the-Bomb things--Admit it!"
    "No, SIR!"  I was getting stiff from being at attention so long.  Shifting weight--right leg, left leg, right leg...
    "Then what is it?"
    "It's a peace symbol, SIR!"
    "Oh, yeah?"  He breathed some more--up close--as though he could smell lies.
    "Yes, SIR, it's..."
    "MARINE!"
    "Yes, SIR!"
    "WIPE THAT SMILE OFF YOUR FACE!"
    "Yes, SIR!"
    The major moved around me, stalking me, craning his neck to toss little "kill!" glances.  He smirked and bared green fangs, "Do you call yourself a Marine?"
    I crossed my fingers.  Kings-X.  "Yes, SIR!"
    "Now look, corporal," he began to magnificent Fatherly Approach.  "Just tell me why you're wearing that Ban-the-Bomb thing.  You can level with me.  I want to help you."
    His plastic smile told me that in exchange for finking on my fellow conspirators I'd receive a cookie and would not be shot by the CIA for my un-American Activities.
    "Where'd you get it.  Marine?  Don't you know that Charlie Cong, the Dreaded Laundryman, has been distributing those things all over the base?  Why, they're made in Hanoi!"
    "My girl sent it to me, SIR!  On a postcard, SIR!"
    "From the states?"
    "From California, SIR!"  Pause.  "San Francisco, SIR!"
    The major's eyes grew big at my confessing of consorting with demons, communists, intellectuals, or worse.
    "California.  I see.  A hippie?"
    "Yes, SIR!"  I smiled proudly.  "An art student, SIR!"
    He sneered.  "Do you think we should ban the bomb, Marine?"
    I was solemn as hell.  My back was screaming.  "No, SIR!  We should bomb them back to the Stone Age, SIR!  But this is a peace button, SIR!"
    "HA!  So you admit it!  You advocate peace!"
    "Yes, SIR!"  Pause.  "Doesn't the major believe in peace, SIR!"
    Long, long pause.  "You can't wear that button, Marine.  If you don't remove it you'll be standing tall before the Man."
    We stood nose-to-chin on the side of the road near the entrance to Phu Bai Combat Base.  Ghostly scenes from The Sands of Iwo Jima starring John Wayne flickered around us.  Somewhere in Never-Never Land Jim Nabors was singing:  "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli..."
    A huge white question mark hovered over a green world...
    "MARINE!"
    "Yes, SIR!"
    "WIPE THAT SMILE OFF YOUR FACE!"
    "Yes, SIR!"
    "This is a combat zone, Marine.  Remember that.  And you are a junior non-commissioned officer in the finest military machine in the world--our beloved Corps.  We're here to defend Freedom and Justice so that all men may have the right to express themselves without fear of reprisal.  That's why I'm telling you--you can't wear that button!"
    "Yes, SIR!" I screamed.  "Kill the dirty rotten gooks, SIR!  We can lick 'um all, SIR!  A good gook is a dead gook and three cheers for the VFW, SIR!"
    "That's more like it, leatherneck.  You're going to be okay."
    "But can't I kill for peace and still believe in peace, SIR!"
    The major suddenly became fascinated by his wristwatch.  "I...uh...I've no time for this nonsense."  He had Big Problems to solve--Big Decisions--papers to initial, a big desk to sit behind and drink coffee, Real Guts magazines to read, a chest toupee to comb.  Besides, I knew there was no answer to my question, at least not for the major.  It was like asking a hangman how he felt about capital punishment.
    I saluted.  The major saluted.  We both held the salute awkwardly while he added:  "Someday, when you've grown up a little, Marine, you'll see how childish you are."
    His voice--that beautiful strong deep voice--had broken into a squeak on the word "childish."
    I grinned.  His eyes fell.  Both salutes cut away nicely.
    "Good day, Marine," he said, and hurried away without looking back.
    "Yes, SIR!" I called out after him, "A beautiful day SIR!"  And it really was.



Published in MIRROR NORTHWEST, vol. 3, 1972.

"Mirror Northwest is a magazine of literature and art by students and instructors of Washington State's community colleges."
 

from CONTRIBUTORS:
Gustav Hasford is a free lance writer presently a student at Lower Columbia College.
 

I THINK I'M GOING TO HATE THIS MOVIE

 Jerry Gustav Hasford in Vietnam, circa 1968.
 
"You're reading all of this in the papers about all these things going on in the world, and it just seems so exciting, and you just want to go somewhere," Hasford recalls.  "Where do you go if you're an Alabama kid with no money and you don't know anybody outside of Alabama?" 

You join the Marines, and in 1967, you go to Vietnam...

"It was exciting," Hasford continues.  "It was a foreign country, even if you didn't exactly know where it was.  I didn't have the slightest clue of where Vietnam was.  People say, 'Weren't you afraid you'd get killed?'  Nah. When you're 18, you don't have any fear that you're going to get killed.  You think you're immortal." 

--from the Birmingham News, 1987

Interview with Gus from SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY TELEGRAM-TRIBUNE, January 31, 1979

Morro Bay vet writes war novel
"You can't ignore" Vietnam
by Steve Churm
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY TELEGRAM-TRIBUNE, January 31, 1979


Gustav Hasford laughs a lot.

It's an infectious laugh that wells up deep inside his imposing frame and bursts forth with the staccato impact of a machine gun.  The roar of his rapid-fire chuckle is followed by a wide grin that splits his long, round face.  The grin is commonplace these days.

Tuesday was no exception.

Staring at the bleak, gray day from the living room of his Morro Bay home, he erupted again.

"Look at it," Hasford said, as the driving rain pelted his slick, concrete patio slab. "It was like this almost every day in Vietnam.  Hell of a place to vacation.  Ever been there?"

Most who have, went on orders--not by choice.

Those who haven't, should feel lucky, Hasford said.  

Richard Nixon was president in 1969.  Student riots at Kent State University had split the soft, vulnerable underbelly of American society.  Out poured bitterness and anger.  Vietnam was an undeclared war, fast escalating into the bloodiest and costliest conflict in history. 

Gustav "Gus" Hasford was a raw, untested 18-year-old.

He was a high school dropout, the son of a German aluminum factory worker.  He was also one of 30 boys in the deep South village of Russellville, Alabama, eligible for the draft.

Like so many, Hasford was faced with a no-win proposition:  Enlist or be drafted.

"In a sudden wave of patriotism I enlisted," Hasford said.  "Did I really have a choice?"

Six months later he was in Vietnam filing news reports as a frontline combat correspondent with the First Marine Division.  Sometimes he'd write 10 stories a day with such battlefield datelines as Hue, Da Nang and Quang Tri.

Each story was meticulous, composed to strengthen and promote the Marine image--all guts and no fear.  Fact became fiction; the truth was lost in the translation.

The tour of duty lasted 10 months for Hasford.  Then it was over.

He lived to come home and write his side of the story.

Gustav Hasford in 1979.

The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford, published by Harper And Row, is a fast-paced novel about a sarcastic two-bit Marine combat reporter, whto rises to command a platoon in the wake of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam.

In the end, the reporter kills his earliest friend from boot camp in order to survive.

"It's not autobiographical," Hasford explained.

"Those that read it and know me, swear the main character, Joker, is me.  They're wrong.  Sure, the story is based on my experiences to a degree, but I've changed the names, places and times.

"No, Joker is a kind of vague character--by design.  The book is written in first-person, present tense to lure the reader into the character.  I want them to feel, taste and sense the experience.  He is like most of the young boys who fought in Vietnam.  They're all lost, undeveloped and downright scared.

"I want the readers to work.  They must make up their own mind about the book, and more importantly this brief excerpt from the war.  I can't hand them the answers."

Once discharged, and back in the States, Hasford started his own search for the answers.  One solution was to write The Short-Timers.

It took 10 years to finish and another three years to get published.

To bankroll the book, Hasford worked six-month stints as an editor and copyreader for a rack-full of so-called slick, girlie magazines in Los Angeles.

"It was tolerable if one understood it was to pay the way.  Listen, there were guys who were 45 and making a career at those magazines.  Fortunately I had something else."

That something else was The Short-Timers.

"After the war I was angry," Hasford said, sipping a beer and tilting backward in a swivel chair.  "The book proved to be therapeutic.

"I wrote for all those veterans who wanted to express themselves, but just couldn't.  Nobody seems to listen to them, but they know the real story.

"Veterans have either been ignored or made scapegoats for the war.  But they didn't want to go.  And when they lived to come home they were hassled and abused.  People asked them why they did all those horrible things.

"Particularly older folks are resentful of veterans.  It was those people who felt the war here at home--the loss of lives and limbs.  And it was those folks who pressed hardest for answers from veterans."

But Hasford admits peoples' attitude toward the war, its atrocities and its apparent failures and futility is slowly changing from bitterness to lukewarm acceptance.

"Three years ago you couldn't get a book like this published anywhere," he said, resting his chin on his long, boney fingers atop an electric typewriter.

Once Hasford's wife Charlene turns in at night, he writes till dawn.  Since his first story on coin identification appeared in Boy's Life for $5 when he was 14, Hasford has been a writer.

Now, at 31, his subject is Vietnam.

"The topic has mass appeal.  There's a natural curiosity with the war now.  It's become more of a historical event, something to study and draw conclusions from.

"At one time the word Vietnam could split a cocktail party faster than a brush fire.  On one side would be the bleeding hawks, the other the soft-stroking doves.

"Now people realize you just can't ignore the war.  It will always be something to scream, cry or laugh about."