Widely acclaimed as the Vietnam War's most highly decorated soldier, Joe Ronnie Hooper in many ways serves as a symbol for that conflict. His troubled, tempestuous life paralleled the upheavals in American society during the 1960s and 1970s, and his desperate quest to prove his manhood was uncomfortably akin to the macho image projected by three successive presidents in their "tough" policy in Southeast Asia. "Looking for a Hero" extracts the real Joe Hooper from the welter of lies and myths that swirl around his story; in doing so, the book uncovers not only the complicated truth about an American hero but also the story of how Hooper's war was lost in Vietnam, not at home.
Extensive interviews with friends, fellow soldiers, and family members reveal Hooper as a complex, gifted, and disturbed man. They also expose the flaws in his most famous and treasured accomplishment: earning the Medal of Honor. In the distortions, half-truths, and outright lies that mar Hooper's medal of honor file, authors Peter Maslowski and Don Winslow find a painful reflection of the army's inability to be honest with itself and the American public, with all the dire consequences that this dishonesty ultimately entailed. In the inextricably linked stories of Hooper and the Vietnam War, the nature of that deceit, and of America's defeat, becomes clear.
"Looking For a Hero is an extraordinary feat of biographical reconstruction, as well as a powerful, poignant account of a nation at war. The tale of Joe Hooper's turbulent life and sad death transcends the story of America's most decorated Vietnam veteran to become a meditation about heroism, manhood, and the true cost of combat." Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of An Army at Dawn "Hooper's life presents the perfect microcosm of America's tortured involvement in the Vietnam War. Given that America's willingness to use military force to foster 'nation-building' and 'democracy' has not waned since Vietnam, the relevance of that conflict--and its heroes--remains significant." Mark Clodfelter, author of The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam "I was totally caught up in the story, like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I wish I had written this book. It is daring and it is original." Roger J. Spiller, George C. Marshall Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College