November 3, 2013
“Whiplash: When the Vietnam War Rolled a Hand Grenade Into the Animal House” is not an average story of college life. Denis O’Neill ’70 writes about middle-aged strippers picking up dollars bills from brave audience members and freshmen lined up on the fourth floor of New Hampshire residence hall competing to become the king, the title given to the one with the biggest male anatomy. Denis gives a raw, borderline crude, image of his times: road trips were measured by beers per mile and classmates dropped acid on I-89 to enliven the dreary journey. These outlandish tales can hold their own, but the book is anchored by the fact that all of these youthful antics were overshadowed by the Vietnam War and the ensuing drama that enveloped the entire campus.
The setting is similar: skates collide with ice, sticks battle for possession of the puck and the crowd yells and bangs the glass walls, jumping up and down to the rhythm of the game. Yet it’s totally different: the yells aren’t chants, but mere numbers. The focus wasn’t on the game, but the fraternity brothers who were yelling out the contents of blue capsules, blue capsules that determined who would be shipped off the Southeast Asia to fight and who would stay home.