Summary of “The Ghost Soldiers”
O'Brien tells how he was shot twice in the war. The first time, Rat Kiley was the medic, and took care of him quickly, so that he got to the hospital and recovered. Kiley had treated him in the field and kept risking his life to tend to O'Brien until the helicopter arrived. The second time O'Brien was shot in the buttocks, but there was a new medic, Bobby Jorgenson, inexperienced and scared. He does not treat O'Brien right away or realize he is in shock. O'Brien almost dies, and his wound turns to gangrene. After a painful recovery, O'Brien can only think of how to get revenge on Jorgenson.
Tim is sidelined with an easier job and becomes jealous of how Jorgenson is now accepted by the platoon. O'Brien misses the danger and closeness to the other men. His wound still hurts, so he plans a prank with Azar to scare Jorgenson. They wait until Jorgenson is on night patrol and then spook him with ghostly Viet Cong and fake mortar fire. They scare Jorgenson until he fires at the ghost enemy. Afterwards, Jorgenson and O'Brien shake hands as even.
Commentary on “The Ghost Soldiers”
The other guys do not accept Tim's desire for revenge. They tell him that Jorgenson is now one of them, and he saved the life of Morty Phillips. Only the gross joker Azar is willing to join in the revenge. Even Jorgenson's apology to Tim and explanation of his fear in battle is not enough to appease O'Brien's sense of humiliation about his wound. He realizes that after seven months of war, he has turned mean. He feels cold toward others. Mitchell Sanders disapproves and tries to talk Tim out of it. The story shows how the war changes the character of the men. O'Brien is not himself and does not recognize himself when he plays this nasty prank, playing on the deep fear of a man on night patrol.