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Twenty-year-old Wylie Cypher accidentally finds himself in the raging conflict of the Korean War in 1953. As he sits in a latrine considering his misfortune, a bomb explodes nearby. His only thought is, should he survive this moment, how will he make it through a sixteen-month tour of duty alive?
Fortunately, he manages to avoid immediate front line duty by joining the Public Information Office of an Army Infantry Division near the Demilitarized Zone as the "forgotten war" enters its last months. The author, himself an NCO in charge if an Infantry Public Information Office during the time of the story, blends fact and fiction in an engaging and exciting way.
Wylie comes of age under extreme circumstances. He experiences combat, deals with indelible characters, reports on actual events, falls in love and becomes a point of entry for the author's take on "the Army way." Scenes of combat based on actual events enhance the narrative. The treatment of POWs on both sides of the conflict is described. However, those grimmer moments are enlivened by creative incidents of military humor and outrageous behavior by all ranks. For example, Shit Dad Rowe bends every regulation to no serious consequence while a ranking officer rationalizes the propriety of sponsoring a very high-class whorehouse.
As might be imagined, irony is used to strong effect in outlining the interactions among service members and in relations with the "indigenous" population. Incidents occur in both Korea and Japan, where Wylie joins the staff of the Pacific Stars and Stripes.
Although this is a coming of age story with universal motifs, it resonates with veterans of the era. They praise it not only for its humor, but also for its accurate evocation of a special time and place. One reader said, if asked "What was it like in Korea around the time of the Armistice and soon afterwards?" I will quietly tell them, 'Read Public Information.' It's all right there!"