Peg Mullen, 1917-2009

Peg Mullen, an unassuming Iowa farm wife and mother who became a passionate national antiwar activist following the death of her son Michael in 1970 in Vietnam, died Oct. 2. She was 92 years old.

Michael Mullen’s death from friendly fire and his mother’s reaction to it was the subject of the best-selling 1976 book, Friendly Fire , by C.D.B. Bryan, as well as a memorable 1979 TV movie in which Carol Burnett played Peg Mullen.

Here’s my review of Mrs. Mullen’s 1995 memoir, Unfriendly Fire , which appeared in the August-September 1995 VVA Veteran :

The term “friendly fire” has never been the same since the publication of C.D.B. Bryan’s 1976 book of the same name. That book–and the riveting 1979 TV movie starring Carol Burnett–told the painful story of the aftermath of the death of Michael Mullen, an Americal Division infantryman who was killed in his sleep in February 1970 by an errant American artillery round. The book and movie focused on Michael Mullen’s mother, Peg, of Waterloo, Iowa and her wrenching personal and political reactions to her son’s tragic death.

Peg Mullen tells her version of the story in Unfriendly Fire: A Mother’s Memoir (University of Iowa, 156 pp., $22.95, hardcover; $12.95, paper), a very moving, unique contribution to the literature of the Vietnam experience. This readable, short book opens a window on what Peg Mullen aptly calls “the forgotten people in the Vietnam War, ” the families of those who were killed. The chapter titled “Your Son is Dead”–in which Peg Mullen recounts the events of February 21, 1970, when she and her husband were notified of their son’s death–is beautifully (and heartbreakingly) written.

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