This anti-war novel is written from the point of view of an injured World War I infantryman (Joe Bonham). As the plot progresses we realize how severe the injuries are (most of his face has been blown away and eventually his arms and legs must be amputated--leaving a faceless torso) and why the story is being told by an interior monologue voice.

Interspersed with recollections of Joe Bonham's life is a description of his amazing struggle to remain human. Joe's quest begins with a search for "time," and once time has been found, he begins to "organize" his world. After many years of struggle to orient himself, he tries to reach out to others by "communicating" with them. Unfortunately, his initial attempts to move his head in Morse Code are initially misconstrued as seizures, for which he receives sedatives. Eventually, a nurse new to his care realizes what he is trying to do and informs his doctors.

What Joe wants most is to let the world know about the horrors of war. He assures his keepers that he could support himself in this venture if only they would let him out (people would be glad to pay to see a "freak" such as himself). The answer he receives in return, one which had to be "literally" pounded into his forehead: "What you ask is against regulations."


This book was first published two days after World War II began. Although it was not banned, the author and publisher voluntarily agreed to stop reprints until after the war ended. A movie of Johnny Got His Gun was released in 1971 and is available in videocassette from Media Home Entertainment (1982). I've seen the video and believe it doesn't do the book justice.


First published: 1939


Bantam Windstone

Place Published