Arlen’s Gun: A Novel of Men at War

Edgar Doleman

One night in the forests of South Vietnam, I had cause to make use of the fire support from an AC-47 gunship, at which point this story begins. Of all the forms of fire support the American military could offer, nothing struck me as so almost supernatural as the fire from an AC-47, which seemed to come down like the fiery sword of an avenging angel in the darkest hour of the night. Yet that fearful image is linked in memory to others—instances of fear and courage, anger and compassion, dumb luck and clever thinking, love and hate, and strength and weakness. It is perhaps this juxtaposition of the great power of weapons and the weaknesses and strengths of flesh that gradually prompted this story.
Although this story is fiction and the names, places, and story lines are fictitious, many of the acts of individuals that make up the story are drawn from actual events, pulled from their historical context in order to better ground this story in reality.
Experiencing such an event is like experiencing a tornado. The air is filled with mind-numbing sounds and deadly debris, and every instinct screams, “Run! Hide! Find a hole!” Yet for either defenders or attackers to obey these instincts is to fail. Sometimes it is rage at the circumstance that lifts the head and aims the weapon; most often it is a blend of fear for one’s own safety amplified by fear for the safety of one’s comrades who count on him, and he on them, guided by training.