Dale Ritterbusch was in the US Army from 1966-1969, the last year serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. His first Vietnam War poem was written whilst he was in a class on machine-gun emplacement at the Infantry School at Fort Benning

there had been a Vietnam War experience that had been recounted by an instructor in a previous class. I thought it would be a remarkable thing to try to put that war story into a poem, and I actually did so in that class on machine-gun emplacement.

Whilst serving in Vietnam as an army lieutenant and liaison officer, he was responsible for coordinating shipments of aerial mines for dispersal along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Lessons Learned (1995) and Far from the Temple of Heaven (2005).

The lessons of war are at the heart of his writing and his poetry often incorporates black humour as, for example, ‘Taking the Easy Way’ which describes potential draftees resorting to self-harm in attempts to evade being sent to Vietnam.

The predominant feelings one gets from these poems are bitterness, disillusionment, and betrayal, but there are poems in this collection (and not a few of them) whose tenderness startles all the more for being found in the midst of harsher emotions. W.D. Ehrhart, The Madness of It All: Essays on War, Literature and American Life

Dale Ritterbusch is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he teaches creative writing and literature. He also served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the US Air Force Academy 2004-2005 and is an associate editor of the Academy’s journal War, Literature and the Arts.

Dale Ritterbusch’s Poetry

‘When It’s Late’, ‘Bien Hoa, 1968’, ‘Conversation’ and ‘Shoulders’ on the Sixties Project website

Lessons Learned, White Noise No. 7, 1995 1-885215-08-8

Far From the Temple of Heaven, Black Moss Press, 2006