SYNOPSIS: When he went to Vietnam in 1967 as Esquire's correspondent, Michael Herr was virtually unknown as a writer. Yet from the very first, with the publication of his famous article "Hell Sucks," he was accorded widespread, fervent acclaim - and his reputation has grown with the appearance of other pieces over the years. Now, Dispatches, his long-awaited book, confirms what his early admirers already know: no one else has written, or is likely to write, so eloquently, so powerfully, so terrifyingly about what it was like to fight in (and to survive) that ghastly war. Unhampered by the regimen of orthodox journalism, unconcerned with official explanations or moralizing debates about the American involvement, he makes us see, with unrivalled intensity and compassion, the men themselves - blacks, whites, officers, soldiers, correspondents, civilians - and the horrific, almost hallucinatory quality of their lives . . . under siege at Khe Sanh . . . strapped into a helicopter as it took fire from the ground . . . crouched in a rice paddy, waiting for the VC to attack, only to have Jimi Hendrix's guitar explode beside you out of a soldier's cassette recorder . . . in the field and on R&R with three young photographers, Tim Page, Dana Stone, and Sean Flynn, the Son of Captain Blood . . . living with the war-movie fantasies that everyone shared and the rock and roll that was the ever-present background . . . waylaid by the nightmares and the pain that come years after the war is over ("Talk about impersonating an identity, about locking into a role, about irony: I went to cover the war and the war covered me; an old story, unless of course you've never heard it") . . . There have been many books about Vietnam, but Dispatches is unique - a work of enduring merit, it will stand with the best books about men at war.