Esquire magazine has produced an e-book anthology of the magazine’s finest war stories, “WAR: The Eighty Greatest Esquire Stories of All Time, Volume 2.”
In the process, it asks the provocative question: Why do men love war so much?
“You can come back from war broken in mind or body, or not come back at all,” writes Vietnam veteran William Broyles Jr., who went on to create the television show “China Beach,” as well as to write the screenplay for the movie “Cast Away.” “But if you come back whole you bring with you the knowledge that you have explored regions of your soul that in most men will always remain uncharted.”
It is the second volume of Esquire’s 80th-anniversary anthology series and includes eight war stories. The volume starts chronologically in 1943 with the account of Lt. J.K. Taussig Jr. and his experiences on the USS Nevada when it was bombarded at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
It ends in 2006 with Brian Mockenhaupt sitting bedside with a fellow soldier whose skull was blown apart in Baghdad in “Sgt. Wells’s New Skull.” In between are works by Michael Herr and Philip Caputo, writers who have defined defining the experiences of war.
At least for me, the most profound of the pieces is Chris Jones’ National Magazine Award–winning story, “The Things That Carried Him.” It documents in vivid detail the journey of one soldier’s body from Iraq where he was killed to the Indiana cemetery where he was buried.
Like this passage: “The guardsmen had carried enough caskets to deduce, from what their arms told them as they grasped the handles and lifted, something of the person inside. They know if the dead soldier was big or little, and they can also make a good guess at how he died, whether he was killed by small-arms fire or a helicopter crash or an IED.”
“War” is available in a new Byliner Premium subscription reading service or for $3.99 at Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, BarnesAndNoble.com and Kobo. It is also available at Esquire.com/80stories.