To What End

Just, Ward. To What End: Report From Vietnam. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1968.

Disclaimer: I threw this on my December list because somewhere I got the idea that Ward Just was born in December. Not so. He was born in September (so I have been told), so this was a mistake in the timeline.

Ward Just’s To What End is his first book and is a first hand account of the Vietnam War. As a journalist he begs the question everyone wanted to ask (and is still asking), “what business does the United States have fighting this war?” The entire time you are reading To What End you never lose sight of the fact that Just is a writer and not a solider. He views the war always from the point of view of plot, “there was a book as good as Farewell to Arms in the stories, if you had the wit to see it and the imagination to generalize from it” (p 165). And generalize Ward does. He doesn’t bother to cover all aspects of the Vietnam War, just the parts he is directly involved it. He doesn’t include an index because he doesn’t want to complicate the telling with too much detail. He has been advised to keep it short for the same reason. The end result is a quick straightforward commentary.

Striking lines: “It is the first war where an academic could walk about undisturbed (and relatively safe) and probe and take soundings” (p 79), and “The Vietnamese laugh both from amusement and embarrassment and you can never tell which” (p 102).

Author Fact: Ward Just born in September. I need to commit that to memory.

Book Trivia: To What End is Ward Just’s first book.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called ” Ward Just: Too Good To Miss” (p 135).

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