Study Guide

The Ghost Soldiers

by Tim O’Brien

The Ghost Soldiers Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Ghost Soldiers” is told in the first person through the narrator’s memories of his twelve months as a soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. The action of the story occurs at two distinct moments in time: when Herb, the narrator, is shot for the second time, and when he later tries to get revenge on Jorgenson, the brand-new medic who froze instead of immediately treating Herb. Like many of Tim O’Brien’s war stories, “The Ghost Soldiers” is equally concerned with the environment of Vietnam and with what it was like psychologically for an American to be a soldier in such a strange, unfamiliar place.

The story begins with Herb’s recollections about the two times he was shot. He compares the two incidents by focusing on how he was treated by the medic who was present at each firefight. When he was wounded the first time, medic Teddy Thatcher had kept Herb from becoming scared because of his wound, treated him properly, and made sure he was evacuated by helicopter as soon as was possible. However, the second time Herb is shot, medic Jorgenson, who is new to the platoon, freezes as the battle rages around him, allowing Herb to go into shock and seriously threatening his life. Jorgenson’s delayed reaction makes the wound worse, and his mishandling of the treatment results in necrosis, which increases Herb’s recovery time.

Once Herb recovers from his second wound, he begins to plot revenge on Jorgenson. He first turns to his...

(The entire section is 532 words.)