Jeanette Vaughan has done a superb job of compiling the poems of the late Captain Robert G. Lathrop, USMC, and compiling them with drawings and photographs in the publication of The Dark Side of Heaven. Lathrop captures the trauma and agony of war in fourteen poems and Vaughan complements them with several hand drawings and photographs. Perhaps because I belong to Lathrop’s generation, his poetry and the pictures brought out many feelings and emotions. Most of the poems are less than a page long, while a few take longer to tell their tale. I enjoyed reading them all.
Flying most of his missions in versions of the A-4, Lathrop provided close air support to the fighting troops on the ground. Lathrop saw plenty of action and witnessed death and destruction at first hand. His poetry dates back to the Viet Nam era or shortly thereafter. He started writing more poems in the late 1980’s, when the dreams of his days in Viet Nam wouldn’t go away.
This book is not long and is an easy read. Anyone who has served in combat would certainly find it appealing. I recommend it for everyone.
MWSA Reviewer: Bob Doerr
Author's SynopsisFour decades after the Vietnam War, many veterans still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. For some honorable serviceman, it is a condition that will never go away. The key to coping with the nightmares and attacks is two pronged, holding onto relationships with family and sharing stories with veterans who experience the same thing. Captain Robert Gene Lathrop, a Marine Corps A-4 Skyhawk pilot arrived in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Over fifteen months he flew over 275 missions. During Vietnam, his squadron VMA-311 flew 54,625 sorties dropping over 9 million tons of bombs. That record will never be broken. Lathrop found comfort in dealing with the aftermath of Vietnam through the written word. These poems and his soon to be released memoir are a brilliant window into the atrocities of a controversial war. His mission in writing them was to honor the men and women who served. He believed that society has a responsibility to care for all veterans when they return to peacetime and aid them to recovery after their sacrifices. "Having been part of an adjacent Marine A4 Squadron at Chu Lai, these poems and photos brought back the vision and the memories of Vietnam, both the good and the bad. These poems brought me back to the true experience that was Vietnam. I have not felt that experience in a long, long time. To Captain Lathrop, I can only say, Thank You!!!" - Cpl. Marty Halpin, USMC,VMA-225 "I just finished reading Gene's poems. With tears in my eyes, I read each one twice. Gene was a great friend and wingman. I love the way they have been put together with the photographs. They brought back lots of memories." - Captain Peter Erenfeld, USMC, VMA-311, pilot A-4 Skyhawk