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Book Review: 'The Only Girl in the Car'

Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews the new memoir, The Only Girl in the Car by Kathy Dobie.

05:35

Other segments from the episode on March 26, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 26, 2003: Interview with Joseph Galloway; Review of Kathy Dobie's memoir “The Only Girl in the Car.”

Transcript

DATE March 26, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
 TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
 NETWORK NPR
 PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Joseph Galloway, military affairs correspondent for
Knight Ridder newspaper, discusses the risks of the military
campaign in Irag
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR, I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Joseph Galloway, is military affairs correspondent for Knight Ridder
newspapers. He reports that the risks of the military campaign in Iraq are
becoming increasingly apparent, and some current and retired military
officials are warning that there may be a mismatch between Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld's strategy and the force he has sent to carry it out.

Galloway also helped train the Knight Ridder reporters who are embedded with
the military and is editing some of their work. Galloway has covered several
wars, including Vietnam and the Gulf War of '91. He's the co-author of the
book "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," about the first major land battle
the Americans fought in Vietnam. It was also the bloodiest. Galloway was the
only civilian to receive a Medal of Valor from the Army for Vietnam.

I spoke with him earlier today and asked him to describe some of the
Pentagon's optimistic predictions that have not come true.

Mr. JOSEPH GALLOWAY (Military Affairs Correspondent, Knight Ridder
Newspapers): Well, there was great expectation that I think was encouraged by
the administration, by the political leadership in the Pentagon that as soon
as the American forces crossed the Iraq border, there would be uprisings
against Saddam Hussein throughout the country, that Republican Guard Divisions
would throw down their rifles and stick up their hands, that this was going to
be quick, cheap, bloodless, and you know, maybe we would even beat the
100-hour war of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And these things have not come to
pass. Some things have changed in Iraq in the last 11 years, 12 years since
the last time.

GROSS: Things that you think might have lead to overly optimistic
predictions?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, things that have changed with the Iraqi people. During
that time we have maintained an embargo on that country that has led to a
great deal of privation amongst the peoples, not starvation necessarily but
certainly harder times. And far from making them angry at Saddam Hussein, I
think it's made them angry at us, and so the attitude is different. And the
outcome has been different as well, you know, the things that were counted on
just haven't come to pass.

GROSS: So you think the embargo and the resentment it created against America
is one of the reasons why we're not being universally greeted as liberators.

Mr. GALLOWAY: Precisely, and not just in Iraq; this is something that is
throughout the Arab world. We're hearing talks now of Iraqis who escaped the
country turning around and coming back and saying as they cross the border out
of Jordan, `I'm going back to fight the Americans.' And reports too of
volunteers in other Arab countries who say, `We're going there to fight the
Americans as well.'

GROSS: Say a lot of that happens; say a lot of volunteers from other
countries come to Iraq to fight the Americans. What implications might that
have?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, you could have implications for a guerrilla war that
drags on no matter whether we eventually succeed in cracking the hard nut that
is Baghdad itself and that's the main target of our attack right now. It
gives rise to some nightmare scenarios for post-war Iraq and keeping the peace
and keeping the many ethnic groups and tribal groups and religious groups from
going at each other's throats. You know, I'm more afraid of the post-war than
I am of the war, and the war itself is scary.

GROSS: Now you report that there are some current and retired military
officials who are warning that there may be a mismatch between Rumsfeld's
strategy and the force he sent out to carry it out. What's the mismatch?

Mr. GALLOWAY: The mismatch is that in Mr. Rumsfeld's version of the plan
there were these expectations of quick success, of the southern Iraq Shiites
rising up against the Ba'athist regime and greeting us by throwing rose petals
at our tanks, and this has not happened. Mr. Rumsfeld has also embraced a
rather revolutionary new way of warfare that has not been tested. He thought
in the beginning that we could do this with 60,000, as few as 60,000 troops.
He thought that you would have such precision strikes from the air that you
would have--you send in teams of special forces operators like you did in
Afghanistan, and it would give you a quick success. And that overlooks a
whole lot of facts about Iraq, about the fact that they have a pretty large
army that is equipped with armor, that they have a great number of these
Saddam Fedayeen who really are thugs who've been armed and many of them
fighting in civilian clothes.

So the plan was shaped in such a way that Mr. Rumsfeld did not listen to his
military advisers who kept saying, you know, we need a larger force. We need
another armored division. You know, we're not certain that we're going to
give the approval that you think we're going to get from Turkey to open a
northern front with an armored division up there. What that means on the
ground is that we are very, very light. We have an Army division that has
gone up the left side of the Euphrates River; we have a Marine column
advancing on the right side. But we bypassed these large pockets of Iraqis
who are not surrendering, in fact, they're resisting. Now whether, you know,
there's some question--Saddam's strategy was to put these Fedayeen and some
tough Republican Guard veterans in places like Umm Qasr, Nasiriyah, and
stiffen the resistance, make it so that even those who wanted to surrender
couldn't because if they looked like it, they get shot, the old Soviet method.

What this means, in fact, is that the Marine supply lines go through the edge
of Nasiriyah, and each column has to fight its way through. This is not good
when your supply lines are not secure. Normally you would send in an armored
Cavalry squadron to secure those routes, to screen your flanks and defend
against this kind of attack so that your fuel and your ammunition and your
food can go forward to the front line trace. And we're having problems with
this right now, and we've had problems with it ever since we did this. So
things are not going exactly according to Mr. Rumsfeld's plan.

GROSS: Now you're saying that your sources tell you that Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld didn't listen to the military when the military told Rumsfeld
what it needed. Who did the secretary of Defense listen to in deciding what
kind of strategy we needed?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, he was listening to Air Force officers who were telling
him that we can do this from the air, that the air is now--the munitions are
now so precise, and they are, but that we will be the decisive factor in this
war, that we will run a campaign of `shock and awe' that will paralyze or
decapitate the Iraqi leadership. And this has not come to pass. We shocked
them and we awed them and they kept working. We made an attempt to take out
Saddam Hussein himself in the first moments of the war and that failed. So he
listened to his air people who always oversell, have ever since Claire
Chenault in World War II, that wars can be won from the air. And what we know
from history is that they cannot. You have to put your young men on the
ground with rifles in hand if you want to seize and hold territory. You
cannot do it from the air. All that we...

GROSS: What about the first Gulf War? That was a pretty successful air
campaign.

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, it was a pretty successful air campaign, but it was also
six weeks long. We had no preparation this time. It all started on the same
day. Bang, all of the air and the attack across into Iraq. So you had not
the six weeks of preparation. And I would also point out that in the last
Gulf War, the Air Force focused on strategic targets around Baghdad, in
Baghdad, to almost the exclusion of the targets that the ground generals
wanted hit. They had to beg for it. And I must tell you, I rode with the
24th Mechanized Infantry all the way to the Euphrates River the last time.
And we captured two airfields and the Air Force had said, `You have no worries
there, we've hit those places.'

Well, we rolled onto those airfields, and sure enough, all of the hard hangars
had a three-foot hole in the top of them, and the insides were scrambled, but
there were no aircraft in there. The aircraft were a couple of hundred meters
out in the sand camouflaged very well. And our tanks killed a lot of MiGs.
And so I'm telling you that the Air Force did not deliver even as well as it
was portrayed the last time.

GROSS: You know how at the very start of this war the military bombed the
target of opportunity that was, they believed, a bunker that was sheltering,
among other people, Saddam Hussein, members of his family, leadership of the
regime. How much did that rearrange plans to your knowledge of how the war
was supposed to start?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, it kicked things off. That and the fact that they
started blowing up the oil wells in the southern Rumailah oil field, advanced
things by probably 12 or 24 hours. The ground attack had to kick off early to
stop what was happening in the oil fields. And you had hit that bunker, but
intelligence officials now tell us that we didn't hit the house next to that
bunker. And that, in fact, Saddam and his family and the top leaders were
sleeping in the house, not in the bunker. So we missed them.

GROSS: One of the amazing things about that is that Saddam was actually in a
house that was--was it just next door to the bunker that we bombed?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Just next door to the bunker apparently.

GROSS: Well, we came so close, but it also says that, gee, how precise are
those weapons, if they're that precise that they take out the bunker and leave
standing the house next door, or at least not totally demolish the house next
door?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Right. You know, they are precise. We are not dropping dumb
bombs. Everything we are dropping now is precision-guided munitions, and
intelligence said they would be in the bunker and we took out the bunker.

GROSS: My guest is James Galloway, military affairs correspondent for Knight
Ridder newspapers. He reported on the war in Vietnam and the Gulf War. We'll
talk more after our break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Joseph Galloway. He's military
affairs correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers. He's been reporting on
the war as well as helping to edit the embedded reporters. He covered the
Vietnam War and the first Gulf War and is the co-author of the book "We Were
Soldiers Once...and Young."

One of the things I've read--and tell me if this checks out with what you're
hearing--is that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in planning this war, listened
to some of the exiles who he was working with and that their analysis of what
would happen in Iraq if we went to war is proving to be very different from
the reality of what we're facing.

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, that's quite correct. He did. He listened to two
sources that were suspect. One were the Iraqi exiles. Exiles often don't
have much of a clear picture of what's happening in their home country, and
their expectations and hopes are just that. They hope for the best; they hope
that they can get us to go take their country back for them. We also saw that
the people in the Pentagon were listening to Israeli intelligence who were
saying much the same thing. If you invade, the Republican Guard will
surrender in droves and this is going to be an easy campaign. And at the same
time they're listening to this, they are not listening to the CIA and the
Defense Intelligence Agency who were providing much more sober analysis and
much less of a rosy scenario. So it may be a case of listening to what you
wanted to hear as opposed to what the truth was.

GROSS: Give us a picture of what you think is happening behind the scenes now
in the Pentagon. Is there a lot of finger-pointing now?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, if you watched the briefings yesterday and President
Bush's appearance at the Pentagon, you saw Secretary Rumsfeld and General
Myers, the chairman, talking about, `Everything's fine, you know. We're not
short of people, they're flowing off the airplanes. Hour by hour our force is
growing, and everything in the plan is fine and it's all going well.' And
that's exactly what I would expect them to say.

GROSS: But you're talking to people behind the scenes. What picture are they
giving you about what's really happening behind the scenes?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, what they are saying is that this is a much tougher job
and that we are trying to do it on the cheap in terms of strength, in terms of
the number of units that ought to be on the ground, in terms of the fact that
we have no reserve. The 4th Mechanized Infantry, which was supposed to land
in Turkey, is still sitting--the personnel are all still in Ft. Hood, Texas.
Their equipment has been on ships for the last five weeks floating off the
Turkish coast, and only recently did they head them toward the Arabian Sea.
They had to pass the Suez Canal, and the equipment is probably 10 days away
from landing in Kuwait. Now they will move the personnel, but the personnel
won't be able to do anything until their equipment gets there, it's off-loaded
and so forth. That division should have been on the ground and fighting from
the first day, and it is the closest reserves that we have.

GROSS: You've written, `not since Vietnam and Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara have we had a secretary of Defense and his closest civilian advisers
demonstrate so thorough a contempt for the council of America's military
leaders.'

Mr. GALLOWAY: That's correct. This has been a drumbeat out of the Pentagon.
From the day they arrived, they have embraced the theory that the Army is
outmoded, that heavy divisions are not needed, that the air power now is so
precise and we have all of these new weapons and the new tactics, that this is
going to revolutionize the war is fought and that you don't need an armored
division to fight with anymore. That's old-fashioned they say. That's Cold
War technology. Well, it is, but sometimes, like right now, it's needed. And
they have done their best to get rid of what they need right now.

GROSS: How difficult has it been to get military insiders to talk with you
about their concerns and their reservations about how this war is being fought
and what kind of armor they have, what kind of weapons they have and how many
troops they have to fight it?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, not very difficult at all because there are people who
are genuinely upset over the fact that we have committed our forces in a very,
very high-risk plan. And many of the assumptions of that plan are not coming
true, have not come true, which leaves us at a much higher risk. We have only
now begun to approach Baghdad, and the plans for taking Baghdad itself are
themselves revolutionary. And they are based on a plan that assumes
everything will go well, that we will be able to strike so swiftly and
decapitate the regime and the very best, highest-level targets by sending our
forces into the heart of Baghdad and isolating those particular areas where
those headquarters are located and then going through there with infantry
companies taking them out.

Well, this is good, but it assumes a lot of things. It assumes that the Air
Force can keep the Republican Guard divisions, who are in a ring outside
Baghdad, from pulling back into the city and laying traps. It assumes that
the population is not going to take a rifle, an AK-47 and a B-2 rocket and go
out there and get involved. It assumes that the Saddam Fedayeen and the
Ba'athist thugs are not going to be able to take part in this thing. And it's
risky beyond all measurement.

GROSS: I'm going to ask you to speculate here, but why do you think some
military insiders would be willing to share their doubts with you at a time
when the military is usually doing its best to seem as confidant as possible?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, because those doubts and concerns are very real. And
they have some fear that if this thing goes wrong, if the casualties are much,
much higher than anticipated, that Rumsfeld will turn around and blame them
and say, `this is your fault; you didn't ask for enough.' Well, they know
that's a lie, and that is enough reason to say their concerns, to speak those
concerns now.

GROSS: Joseph Galloway is military affairs correspondent for the Knight
Ridder newspapers. He's also the co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once...and
Young," about a battle in Vietnam which he covered. We'll talk more in the
second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Joseph Galloway,
military affairs correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers. He spent 22
years as a foreign and war correspondent for UPI and nearly 20 years as a
senior editor and senior writer for US News & World Report. He reported from
the battlefields of Vietnam and the first Gulf War. He's the co-author of the
book "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young" about the first major land battle
the Americans fought in Vietnam. The book was adapted into a film starring
Mel Gibson.

Galloway reports that military sources tell him that Donald Rumsfeld's war
strategy is based on predictions that don't fit the reality the American
military is facing.

I'm wondering, you're delivering some not very good news to us about how the
military is unprepared for what they're facing and how there's disagreement
behind the scenes in the Pentagon. And I wonder how you feel about reporting
information that can get some Americans to lose confidence and feel more
insecure and if how you feel about it isn't formed at all from your
experiences reporting on Vietnam?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, first off, Terry, I want to say that I never said our
military is unprepared. They are magnificently prepared. I think we have the
finest military in the world. And I go out among soldiers all the time. I
see them training. They work hard six days a week, 12, 14 hours a day. And
nobody knows it in this country. They are magnificently prepared. There's
just not enough of them in the plan. They didn't send enough to do the job
with safety. You know, we are now marginal in some areas where the doctrine
says we would be stacked up, we would have more than we need, because--you
know, there's an old Russian proverb, in fact, that says you'd rather have
five divisions too many than one division too few. And I don't have a problem
talking about the fears and the deficiencies in our planning process. I hope
that this will lead to some swift corrective action, that we will move now
those things that should have been moved two months ago. It is an on-the-edge
situation.

GROSS: Is your reporting now informed at all by your experiences in Vietnam
as a reporter?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, your reporting is always informed by what you have seen
before, and Vietnam--you know, God help us. I hope that we are not going
anywhere near that scenario. But we are starting with the secretary of
Defense, who reminds me a great deal of Robert Strange McNamara, the aptly
named.

GROSS: Now you are working with the embedded reporters who are writing for
Knight Ridder papers, and you helped place them and you helped prepare them
for facing battle. How do the rules that the Pentagon has laid down for the
embedded reporters in this war compare to the rules that you faced when you
reported in Vietnam?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, until this moment, Vietnam was the most openly covered
war in the history of our country. You showed up. You signed an agreement,
very simple operational security rules, that you would not reveal troop
movements while they were under way, that you would not reveal actual
casualties in a battle while the battle was still under way, simple things
like that. You got your press card, and you were free to go anywhere you
wished in the country, cover any unit, stay as long or as briefly as you
wished. You were free. I said that that was the most openly covered war to
this point.

This one is breaking new ground. The fact that the military leadership and
the civilian leadership opened it up and embedded 740 media with all of the
units involved--air, land, sea--that there are reporters riding with the
Cavalry units at the head of the charge and reporting as they go--you have
seen the images on television, you've seen the pictures in your papers, you've
read their dispatches. It is breathtaking. It is breathtaking. And we are
seeing more of a war than we have ever seen before.

GROSS: I want to ask you about your experiences in Vietnam for a moment. You
were the only civilian decorated during that war. What did you do to be
decorated?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, I belatedly was given a Bronze Star with V, the only one
the Army gave a civilian during the entire war, for rescuing a wounded soldier
during the Battle of Landing Zone X-Ray, an event that, in fact, is portrayed
in the movie "We Were Soldiers," which was released last year, a very shocking
friendly fire incident where a napalm cannister exploded almost in the middle
of the command post. And a young engineer specialist that I had talked to
earlier was engulfed in the flames, and a medic and I both jumped up and ran
toward him. And the medic was shot through the head and killed, and I got to
him and helped bring him back to the medics. But he was so badly burned that
he died the following day.

It's interesting, for years I looked for his widow and baby daughter, who was
born just a few days before he was killed. Couldn't find them, but the movie
brought them out and brought them to our reunion last Veterans Day. And I had
the opportunity to sit down and talk to them for a long time.

GROSS: That must have been good to finally meet her.

Mr. GALLOWAY: It was. I think it was a healing thing for both of us, for all
of us.

GROSS: My guest is Joseph Galloway, military affairs correspondent for Knight
Ridder newspapers. He reported on the war in Vietnam and the Gulf War. We'll
talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Joseph Galloway, military affairs correspondent for Knight
Ridder newspapers. He's a former war correspondent for UPI and former senior
editor and writer for US News & World Report. He reported from Vietnam and
the first Gulf War.

Some of the embedded reporters that you're working with, for them, this is
their first war. Do they ask for your advice about whether they should come
to the rescue or whether they should just kind of hang back and be the
observer-reporter?

Mr. GALLOWAY: You know, I wrote a three-page memo to all of them with,
basically, common sense advice on what to carry and how to conduct yourself
and what you do if there's a sudden attack. And I concluded that by telling
them, `You know, it's OK to be a human first and a reporter second. It's OK
to lend a hand in an emergency: to help carry the wounded, to bring water to
the soldiers. Whatever seems the right thing to do, do it because your fate
is inextricably bound up with theirs.'

GROSS: You actually carried a gun during part of the Vietnam War. What led
you to arm yourself?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, what led me to arm myself was experience. I had been
inside the Special Forces camp at Plei Me in October 1965, and when it was
under siege from a regiment of North Vietnamese, it was a very close-run thing
and we weren't sure that any of us were going to survive. The camp commander
was a famous fellow, then Major Charlie Beckwith, who later would go on to
found the Delta Force and lead the abortive raid into the desert in Iran
trying to rescue our hostages. And when I arrived there, Beckwith looked at
me and he said, `You know, I have no vacancy for a reporter, son, but I need a
corner machine gunner and you're it.' And he put me on a machine gun and told
me what to do and who to shoot, and I was given basically no choice. I had no
ride out of there, and so I did as I was ordered.

And when I was leaving there, Major Beckwith said, `You don't have a weapon.'
And I said, `Well, in spite of what you've made me do for the last three days,
technically speaking, I'm a non-combatant.' And he looked at me and he shook
his head, and he said, `Technically speaking, son, there's no such thing in
these mountains. You need a rifle. Sergeant Major, get this man a rifle.'
And I had that rifle on my shoulder three weeks later when I went into Landing
Zone X-Ray, and there, and only there, during the rest of my time in Vietnam
did I use that weapon.

GROSS: What did you use it for?

Mr. GALLOWAY: And only in the direst of circumstances.

GROSS: What was the circumstance?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, we were seemingly about to be overrun by the enemy. And
I thought that I had no choice for my own safety and survival and the survival
of those around me.

GROSS: So you shot.

Mr. GALLOWAY: I did.

GROSS: How would you feel...

Mr. GALLOWAY: And no apologies.

GROSS: Yeah. How would you feel if one of the embedded reporters that you're
working with now was carrying a gun?

Mr. GALLOWAY: You know, it was recommended by the Pentagon that they not do
so. And, however, the situation in some instances recently has gotten so
dicey that one of our female reporters was offered a pistol and told that she
needed to do a turn guarding the perimeter.

GROSS: And what happened?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, she turned the pistol down. She said she didn't know how
to operate it, and she wouldn't be much good on guard.

GROSS: How do you think the volunteer Army, the professionalized Army,
compares to the Army of the draft era?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Well, the Army today, the kids today who serve in the ranks and
the NCOs, are much more sophisticated than they were in 1965. They have a
whole different set of skills. They have a whole different way of looking at
the world. They're another generation or two removed. But at heart, a
soldier is a soldier. They're fine. They're much better trained. Their arms
are much better. But in their hearts, they are the same as those fine
soldiers, draftees, who marched into the Ia Drang Valley, some of them with
less than a week left on their tour of duty, and died there.

And, you know, in one of his famous misstatements, Secretary Rumsfeld was
asked about a proposal that we return to the draft for the military. And he
said, `Oh, they're useless basically. They're just a waste of money and
time.' And by so doing, he offended every Vietnam veteran, draftee, and every
draftee who ever served this country well. He had to apologize and quite
rightly.

GROSS: Our stated goal is to, you know, find the weapons of mass destruction
and, quote, "liberate the people of Iraq." If we have to fight urban warfare
in Baghdad, that risks endangering civilians because it's urban warfare.
That's one of the awful problems of urban warfare. Could you speculate a
little bit what it might mean if we're fighting urban warfare and a lot of
civilians are killed because it's hard for them to escape the battle?

Mr. GALLOWAY: If we are forced into urban warfare in Baghdad, the casualties
will rise exponentially amongst civilians, amongst our soldiers and amongst
their soldiers. Fighting for a city is a blood-bath situation. You know,
look in history. Look at Stalingrad. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands
were ground up in a meat grinder battle that lasted six months, and virtually
just leveled the city. The last time we fought war for a city was Hue in the
Tet Offensive in 1968, and the Marines eventually, in four weeks' time, took
the city back from 10,000 of the enemy. But when they were done, the city was
about 18 inches tall; it was a pile of rubble.

You know, our military planners don't want that. They want to do, you know,
more or less surgical strike into the heart of the city and glop off the heads
of their political and military machines and get out, and then let it all
collapse. But that's so optimistic. That's so almost Pollyannish that it's
highly worrisome. Once you go in, things may not happen as you think they
should, and if you get bogged down and have to fight for that place block by
block, house by house, I think the American people will be shocked at the
casualties.

GROSS: You report today that if it does come down to urban warfare in
Baghdad, that we'll be relying on intelligence, including people on the inside
of Saddam Hussein's regime, to tell us what the strategy is, where the key
people are. How much intelligence do you think we have like that? Do you
think that we're well-armed with insiders in Saddam Hussein's regime that can
help inform us?

Mr. GALLOWAY: I don't know how well-armed we are. I know that we must have
some sources--you know, remember that someone targeted Saddam Hussein for us,
someone inside, and I have to assume high up, put the finger on this block,
this house, this is where they will be. And we came within a hair of getting
him. So I assume we have some of that. I also assume that we will be
infiltrating Special Forces operators, CIA operators, other intel forces who
will help us pinpoint what we need to know. That's what they're counting on.

GROSS: Now what about the embedded reporters that you're working with. Would
you want them to be there for urban warfare if it comes to that, or do you
think it's too dangerous and that they should get out?

Mr. GALLOWAY: No, I think if you have gone with the unit to the gates of the
thing, and they are going in, you should go with them. You know, the risks
increase very greatly, but you signed on knowing that there were risks, and
you don't quit at the last minute and sit back and look through binoculars. I
think you go on in with them.

GROSS: Did you ever consider becoming an embedded reporter yourself for this
war?

Mr. GALLOWAY: Oh, you know, I'm an old fire horse, and when the bell goes off
I start dancing in my stall and leaning forward in my foxhole. But, you know,
first of all, I'm 61 years old, and basically that's too old to go running
with the 19-year-old kids in an armor column. And second of all, my lovely
wife, Karen, said, `You can't go. I lost my father in one war. I'm not going
to lose my husband in another.' And I have to respect that.

GROSS: Thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. GALLOWAY: Oh, a pleasure, Terry.

GROSS: Joseph Galloway is military affairs correspondent for Knight Ridder
newspapers. He's the co-author of the book "We Were Soldiers Once...and
Young," about a major battle he covered in Vietnam.

Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews the new memoir "The Only Girl in the
Car."

This is FRESH AIR.

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Review: Kathy Dobie's memoir "The Only Girl in the Car"
TERRY GROSS, host:

Bookworms are often reserved people, but as journalist Kathy Dobie describes
in her new memoir, "The Only Girl in the Car," her early love of reading gave
her a sense of possibility that was missing from her life.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN reporting:

Talk about first impressions being fickle. After reading the opening chapters
of Kathy Dobie's memoir, "The Only Girl in the Car," which describe her
childhood in Hamden, Connecticut, and the personalities of her parents and
five siblings, I thought the book was mildly interesting, especially given
that Dobie explores my own home turf of growing up Catholic in the 1960s and
'70s. By the time I finished it, however, "The Only Girl in the Car" had
gained the stature of an important book, the way other women's
autobiographies, like Anne Moody's "Coming of Age in Mississippi" and Kate
Simon's "Bronx Primitive" are important, not just for the forcefulness of
their individual life stories, but for what they add to the collective
storehouse of information about the truth of different women's lives.

No other memoir I've ever read has described a girl's coming of age with such
frankness about sexual desire and sexual humiliation. "The Only Girl in the
Car" also dramatizes how the seismic changes of the 1960s left a lot of
adolescent girls, like Dobie, stranded without a reliable road map telling
them how to act as young women, what new pitfalls to avoid, what old social
boundaries they could realistically hope to transgress.

In the early '70s, Dobie's stay-at-home mom was still a lady in the 1950s
mode. But contemporary music and pop culture were telling the teen-aged Dobie
to be a cool hippie chick without hang-ups, like Peggy Lipton on "The Mod
Squad." What Dobie discovered, however, and what "The Only Girl in the Car"
vividly documents, is that free love was still pretty much a male only
adventure. Yearning for the intimacy and attention that was hard to come by
in her large family, the 14-year-old Dobie began dressing in tight jeans and
halter tops, and replacing her mother's vision of her with the gaze of men and
boys. Displaying herself one afternoon on the front lawn of her parents'
house, she reels in a 30-something loser driving by in a car. That night, she
meets this guy to go to the movies, and with a steely resolve, loses her
virginity. What follows is a whirlwind of sex with different rowdy boys, most
of whom frequent the town's teen center.

One of the most touching scenes in this memoir is when Dobie recalls how one
evening four black boys who hang on the outskirts of the otherwise all-white
center ask her to go on a car ride with them, not to have sex, but to warn her
that she's getting a reputation and keeping treacherous company. A short time
later, she goes on another car ride with four other boys, three she thought
were friends, one she thought loved her, and they gang bang her. Dobie admits
she must of whispered the word `OK' before the horror began, because, after
all, that's what those boys expected of her. The boys of course brag about
that night they spent with `Dobie the dirt bag,' and she becomes the town's
teen pariah.

That's another precious aspect of this autobiography, the way it dramatizes
the rigid, categorical thinking inherent in adolescent culture. Dobie,
according to the logic of teen-aged Hamdon, got what she deserved. When she
courageously tries to bluff things out and return to the teen center, she's
literally stoned by the virginal girlfriends of the boys who had sex with her.
Other boys, strangers, see her in a crowded park and surround her, cursing and
throwing money at her. Here's how Dobie explains their twisted rationale.

(Reading) `They didn't know me, but I knew them, knew they were still virgins,
and because I had gone again and again to the place they hadn't yet been, they
hated me, even as they envied the boys I had sex with. I knew too that it
gave them as much pleasure to hurt a girl, to poke her and see her twitch, as
it would to make love to her. Either way, they would feel more like men when
they were done.'

A love of reading partly got Dobie into this nightmare, because books gave her
a sense of possibility that the real world couldn't fulfill. Literature also
saved her. A high school English teacher confirmed Dobie's nascent sense of
herself as a writer, and she eventually made it to college in New York City.
I mentioned that '60s icon Peggy Lipton from "The Mod Squad" earlier, but the
woman of the age whom the teen-ager Dobie really resembles is Janis Joplin,
another sexual rebel who tried to claim boys' adventures as her own, and
psychologically and physically paid a horrible price. Janis more than evened
the score through her music. For Dobie, writing well is the best revenge.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "The Only Girl in the Car" by Kathy Dobie.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

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