Military Monday Behind-the-Scenes: LRRPs
We caught up with author and Vietnam War veteran Kenn Miller to find out what inspired his war novel.
LRRPs, also known as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (pronounced “lurps”), were small, specialized military teams of four to six men active during the Vietnam War. Author and decorated Vietnam War Veteran, Kenn Miller, was a team leader in LRRP Detachment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division; F Company 58th Infantry (LRP); and L Company 75th Ranger.
His novel, TIGER THE LURP DOG, is, according to Salon.com, “The kind of book that casually and effortlessly incorporates a deep understanding of war. Its authenticity makes its unpretentious whimsy and grim humor doubly effective. It is a memorable and touching novel….”
We caught up with Miller, to find out what inspired him to write a “war novel”—one that Military.com would claim had “heart and soul…and an unforgettable ending that will leave you thinking and hoping long after the story is over.”
“I was motivated to write a war novel after reading a smug piece in the Sunday New York Times which said, in essence, that because the Vietnam War was unlike previous American wars, in that the better classes avoided this one and left the fighting to psychopaths and the intellectually subnormal, the artistic renderings of the war would not come from those who actually served in it, but rather from more erudite and elevated people, like those who gave us what was then being praised as the definitive work on the Vietnam War, Michael Cimino’s amusingly absurd movie, The Deer Hunter.
Around that time, I was taking classes at the University of Michigan. And one of the classes I took was something called English 411: Vietnam and the Artist—a class that made the New York Times piece seem downright respectful and encouraging to veterans. In this class, we were were required to watch The Deer Hunter and some Swedish movie where a man plays chess with either the devil or the Grim Reaper. We were also required to read Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will—’Because of all the rape you guys were doing over there,’ according to the professor. We were also required to do a project.
I turned in a near final draft of Tiger as my class project, and the only other veteran, in this very large class, wrote and turned in a play. The professor, a genteel and amiable enough fellow, was proudly famous for giving only A grades, but he made an exception for the two veterans, and gave us each B- final grades. This grade further inspired me. I cleaned up the draft I’d turned in, hit the Writer’s Marketplace, and purely by good luck, sent a query letter to Edward Weeks at the Atlantic Monthly Press. Mr Weeks was then 85 years old. He’d dropped out of Harvard to drive a battlefield ambulance on the Western Front a year before the U.S. entered World War One, and had later been influential in bringing All Quiet on the Western Front to American readers. But I knew none of this when I sent him the manuscript.
There is an old adage that one should “write what you know.” That’s why I wrote about Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol soldiers (a group from which the predecessor of today’s 75th Ranger Regiment was established).”