An Interview with James Carroll

Joseph and James Carroll were casualties of the Vietnam War—a father and a son who, like many of their respective generations, were torn apart by the battles that raged at home, forever divided in their clash of loyalties. In his haunting memoir, An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War that Came between Us (Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin, $12, 280 pp.), James Carroll tells the story of their struggle which revolved around fiercely different understandings of God and country, faith and honor.

Joseph Carroll was a reserved man, sure of his own authority and the system that had given him extraordinary success. He was an FBI agent who captured the notorious Chicago gangster Roger Touhy in 1942, and quickly rose to become a trusted member of J. Edgar Hoover’s inner circle. At thirty-seven, he was commissioned as a general in the Air Force. Eventually, he became founding director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. His job: to pick bombing targets in Vietnam. Carroll senior had also been a seminarian who hoped James, the second of five sons, would pick up his abandoned calling to the priesthood.

When James entered Saint Paul’s College, the Paulist Fathers’ seminary, it was 1963, a period of ferment in the church, and soon he realized he was becoming what his father...

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About the Author

John D. Spalding’s writing has appeared in the Christian Century and other magazines.