Overview: Word of Honor is the fifth major novel by American writer Nelson DeMille and the first which involves the Vietnam War. It was originally published in 1985 by Warner Books. Time Magazine referred to it as “The Caine Mutiny of the 80’s”, while Publishers Weekly stated that it is comparable to the classic but has “wider implications”. The novel covers broad themes associated with war, crime and punishment, culpability of leaders, guilt, justice, honor, and the Vietnam War.
The novel centers on a Vietnam veteran, Benjamin Tyson, who has made a great life for himself after serving as a lieutenant in the war. An investigative journalist uncovers a possible massacre similar to My Lai committed by Tyson’s platoon in 1968. This sets off a series of events that affects Tyson’s life. The Army seeks punishment while the public is conflicted. Complex issues of Tyson’s culpability arise as DeMille slowly reveals more detail surrounding what really happened. The novel blends intense and accurate Vietnam War flashbacks with “intelligent and highly charged courtroom melodrama”.