Walter Dean Myers

Fallen Angels

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Fallen Angels Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers.

As Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myersbegins, Richie Perry has recently graduated from high school and joined the army. What he wants most is to be a writer, and to write like his favorite author, James Baldwin. Richie is from Harlem, and though the army takes him away to new dangers in Vietnam, he worries for the safety of his brother, Kenny. Richie sends money home for Kenny and their mother, despite the difficult relationship he has with his mother. She suffers from depression and alcoholism.

The war seems to be winding down, and he and his friend Harold Gates, nicknamed Peewee, expect to be sent to Hawaii after the war is over. On the flight from Fort Devens, where Richie trained in Massachusetts, he and Peewee meet Judy Duncan, a nurse for the army. After Judy leaves to join the medical unit, Richie and Peewee meet a soldier who has been in Vietnam for months; he tells them that he has not witnessed any fighting for nine months.

But the fighting, violence, and death are far from over. Jenkins,one of Richie’s squad mates, dies only a few weeks into Richie’s time in Vietnam when he activates a booby trap set by Americans. Then, while patrolling with television crews, the squad kills a Vietnamese man. Their leader, Captain Stewart, reports that they killed three enemy soldiers, but Richie learns that the one man they killed was not a soldier. Richie discovers that Captain Stewart does not really care if the soldiers in his unit survive the Vietnam War. What he cares about is getting a promotion.

UnderCaptain Stewart is Lieutenant Carroll. When he is killed, the squad members, including Richie, suffer from grief. They begin to wonder what they are doing there, both personally and as the United States of America. As Richie contemplates writing home to his mother and Kenny, he is torn between telling them the truth about the war—especially after he kills someone in combat—and keeping it from them so that he can protect them. When other soldiers find out about his flair for writing, they ask him to write home to families of deceased soldiers. He also writes a letter to Peewee’s ex-girlfriend. At that point, Captain Stewart tells him that if he can use a typewriter, then he can work in his office.

Exposure to more fighting makes Richie more comfortable with combat. When he is wounded, he is sent to a military hospital where Judy looks after him. He also meets other soldiers who are wounded more seriously than he is, and they are sent home. Richie debates between running away and returning to his squad to fight when he heals. Ultimately, he decides he should return to his squad because he doesnot know where else he would go if he did decide to run away.

More troops are being sent home, which leaves fewer men to fight in Vietnam. A soldier named Brunner is chosen to lead Richie’s squad. They are tasked with tracking the North Vietnamese forces along a river. The main problem is that Brunner is both haughty and inexperienced. When the squad ends up trapped, fighting against the Vietnamese, Richie and Peewee manage to escape. They hide in a spider hole for the night. A spider hole is similar to a foxhole, but it is meant for one man. Camouflaged,it used mainly for observation. Because it is only shoulder-deep, a soldier can stand in a spider hole and still use his gun with ease, but it can also be covered with a lid. The following morning, Richie and Peewee make their way back to the helicopter-landing zone. There, they see Vietnamese troops preparing to ambush the next American helicopter. As it begins to land, Richie and Peewee open fire on the Vietnamese troops, forcing to leave their hiding spots and come into range of the helicopter’s weapons.

In this final fight, both Richie and Peewee are injured during their attempt to climb onto the helicopter. They are both sent to a military hospital to heal enough that they can be sent home to America. While in the hospital, Richie offers a record keeper money to find out where Judy Duncan ended up. The results are grim—Judy was killed in a field hospital when it was attacked. New soldiers arrive as Richie and Peewee are sent home. On the flight back to America, the soldiers clasp hands in a show of unity—and mutual relief that they are leaving the war in Vietnam behind.

Important themes in Fallen Angels include war, friendship, and the difference between war and the rest of the world. For Richie, he is constantly pulled in and out of situations that seem surreal, but are, unfortunately, real.