Michael Herr, a Vietnam War reporter whose “Dispatches” remains one of the most powerful books about the ravages of combat and who later contributed to the screenplays of such bleak Vietnam-set films as “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket,” died June 23 near his home in upstate New York. He was 76.

His daughter Claudia Herr confirmed the death but declined to provide further details. He lived in Delhi, New York.

“Dispatches,” published in 1977, drew resounding critical praise. It was one of the first books to confront the Vietnam War in all its hallucinogenic awfulness and jarring absurdities. It was instantly placed in the pantheon of great war literature, widely viewed as journalism alchemized seamlessly into art.

The spy novelist John le Carré called “Dispatches” “the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time.” New York Times book critic John Leonard hailed Herr’s work as “beyond politics, beyond rhetoric, beyond ‘pacification’ and body counts and the ‘psychotic vaudeville’ of Saigon press briefings. … It is as if Dante had gone to hell with a cassette recording of Jimi Hendrix and a pocketful of pills: our first rock-and-roll war, stoned murder.”

Part autobiography, part journalism but largely fiction, the book is an impressionistic tour de force of Herr’s two years in Vietnam reporting for Esquire magazine at the height of the war. Shunning conventional reportage, the “nonfiction memoir,” as it was sometimes called, illuminated the mundane and the terrifying, as well as how service members – and fellow journalists – endured their years in a hell zone.

The book arrived two years after the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia following more than a decade of war that cost more than 58,000 American lives and countless casualties among the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and others. “Dispatches” arrived as a shockingly visceral remembrance of a war that many wanted to forget.

“You know how it is, you want to look and you don’t want to look,” Herr wrote about the sight of dead bodies.

In other passages, he evoked extreme survival measures: an American soldier who blanketed himself with the corpses of his comrades to avoid being bayoneted by enemy forces that had overrun them, for example, or the American troops on a packed helicopter compelled to shoot Vietnamese allies who swarmed them and threatened to prevent the chopper’s take-off amid hostile fire.

Like few other writers, Herr captured chaos with intense precision and imagination. He based his work on all he had seen but liberated himself from journalistic fact. His book was a fever dream of conversation, blood, drugs and rock music.

He spent 18 months consumed by “Dispatches,” writing the bulk of it before spiraling into a breakdown.