Author: Fred Krebsbach
Publisher: the Write Place Inc
The war in Vietnam or as more formally known as the Second Indochina War began in 1955 and ended in 1975 when North Vietnamese forces captured Saigon. It claimed the lives of millions of civilians on both sides as well as countless soldiers who were physically and psychologically injured when it was over. As Fred Krebsbach in his memoir OKAY OKAY Holy Sh*T Vietnam quotes one of his buddies: “there is no glory in war and no glory in life after Vietnam. We all come home dead, they just forgot to bury some of us. Then we have to start all over again.” In fact, as Krebsbach states that nobody said hello or goodbye as people just disappeared.
Krebsbach, a farm boy from Iowa, was only twenty-one when he enlisted in 1968 after being told that he would receive his draft notice the first week of January 1969. Eventually, he spent fourteen months in Vietnam. He admits he was totally uninformed and had no idea what was going on in the world. He quickly discovered that he and his buddies were just “meat on the hoof.” Unfortunately, this was shamelessly confirmed to him while wounded and in a hospital ward, when the commander of the entire war, General Westmoreland, who, before taking a photo with him, just looked at him as if he was a swamp creature. This was the first time he felt dismissed, expendable, a future casualty of war-meat!
Before leaving for Vietnam, a wise piece of advice he received was from his uncle who had counselled him to always carry something with him into combat that would comfort him in time of need. This turned out to be his First Communion rosary and probably had a great deal to do with his survival when he was ordered into combat as an M-60 machine gunner. As a side note, this weapon had been introduced in 1957 and has served with every branch of the U.S. Military. It is generally used as a crew-served weapon and operated by a team of two or three individuals. The team consists of the gunner, the assistant gunner (AG), and the ammunition bearer.
Many of us don't realize, as Krebsbach points out, that the army does not use the best nor to they issue the best to its armed forces. Unfortunately, the quality of weaponry is very often sub-par and the credibility of the entire army supply was suspect and corrupt. Consequently, he and his buddies began their own quality-control effort, piecing together another M-60 which he carried with him throughout the war.
Krebsbach gave up the M-60 to become a squad leader for Special Forces after he was injured and returned to active duty when discharged from the hospital. He experienced numerous changes and surprises but his one companion seemed to be the voice in his head that guided him in finding the right course of action needed for his survival. Until today, he still cannot explain what this voice was, but as he mentions, maybe it had something to do with the dang rosary.
Most interesting about this memoir is Krebsbach depictions of the horrendous encounters with the enemy which are far more chaotic than what we witness on television or the movies when bullets are flying all over the place and the dangers of booby traps are always present. And many soldiers did not have the foggiest idea as to why their country was at war with the Vietcong. Numerous missions appeared to lack any clear benefits either for the soldiers or for the civilians they were supposed to be protecting. Furthermore, soldiers were encouraged to be cruel and sadistic as reflected in a scene Krebsbach described where a female nurse prisoner of war who had been brutally beaten during her interrogation.
has written a memoir par excellence with a terrific narrative drive
and has captured through vivid descriptions the pandemonium and havoc
as well as what it means to be made less than human in a meaningless
war where too many good people lost their lives.