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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Beatles, Books, Bombs, and Beyond by Robert John DeLuca is a memoir focused on the 1960s when the author was an ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) student at Brown University and then served as a Marine supply officer in Viet Nam, Okinawa, and the United States. DeLuca also offers a tribute to two friends who went to Viet Nam as young pilots but didn’t return. Throughout the account of his college days, military service, and the deaths of his friends, the author questions why he was spared while others were lost and offers his perspective on the cultural, political, and social changes of the 1960s. The narrative is flowing and descriptive. Like an artist, DeLuca paints the adventures of his young manhood against the emotional canvas of the times, including “the moon landing, the rise of the Beatles, civil unrest, the civil rights movement, feminism, the Great Society, free love, miniskirts, the Cuban missiles, the Kennedy and King assassinations, Elvis, Woodstock, Cassius Clay, and, of course, the Beach Boys.”
I enjoyed reading Beatles, Books, Bombs, and Beyond. Among his many observations, DeLuca made three that resonated with me. First was the change in attitude at several universities, including Brown, towards having ROTC students on campus: “There is an irony here,” he writes, “that in such a liberal place… free love was just fine but serving your country was somehow reprehensible.” Second, his account of walking the streets of Jamaica for the first time, a white New Englander in a black world. “I understood just a bit more clearly what it is to be surrounded by people who see you as different every day of your life.” Third, his vivid description of standing beside piles of dead, rotting, and not always recognizable Marines in Viet Nam and thinking that if the Washington “big wigs” ever experienced the reality of war, “a push for a cessation of hostilities would have commenced. Immediately.” An engaging, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always forthright in feeling read.