Philip Bishop, the most aloof and urbane of the three new recruits in the Eighty-second Airborne. He is in the Army only because the Marine recruiting station was closed the day he went to enlist. Philip enlisted to escape his broken family and rebuild his damaged self-esteem. When he was in high school, his father left his mother for another woman, and this deeply upset him. As a teenager, he vented his anger through juvenile acts of vandalism and harsh treatment of his emotionally withdrawn brother, with whom he previously enjoyed a happy relationship. He looks to the military as a means to attain personal independence and a bright future. Although he is a loner, he enjoys the camaraderie he shares with Hubbard and Lewis. He considers their standoff at the ammunition dump as a test of personal mettle that he passed, but the self-assurance it gives him is shaken by other experiences, including a confrontation with antiwar protesters outside the base and the thefts in the barracks. He feels compelled to tell Hubbard that he is not responsible for the thefts, even though no one suspects him. When Lewis is identified as the barracks thief, Philip feels betrayed and schemes with other soldiers to give him a ritual beating. He is surprised to find Hubbard contemptuous of their plan, and although the beating takes place, he does not participate. Shortly afterward, he is called up for duty in Vietnam.
Hubbard, a sensitive young man who was gulled into enlisting in the Army by a recruiter who visited his high school. He is discouraged by his experiences in basic training and frightened by the prospect of fighting in Vietnam. Initially, he is incredulous at Lewis’ behavior at the ammunition dump, but he falls in with Lewis and Philip to follow orders. Shortly afterward, he is crushed to hear that the same day he was guarding the ammunition dump, his two best friends back home were killed in a drunk driving accident. He is crying in the showers over the news when Lewis steals his wallet, breaking Hubbard’s nose in the process. Hubbard eventually identifies Lewis as the barracks thief after the letter his mother wrote him telling him about his friends’ deaths is found in Lewis’ possession. These events completely change Hubbard’s outlook on life. He is called up for service in Vietnam the same day that Philip is but flees to Canada.
Guy Bishop, Philip’s father, whose midlife crisis crystallizes the dissatisfaction with their traditional roles that the other men in the story feel.