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Richard C. Geschke

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In Our Duffel Bags, Surviving the Vietnam Era
by Richard C. Geschke   

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Category: 

Memoir

Publisher:  iUniverse ISBN-10:  978146202355,9781462023547,9781462023554 Type: 
Pages: 

256

Copyright:  April 14, 1011
Non-Fiction

This book is more than a memoir, it represents a story of history as seen by young junior officers during the Cold War in Europe and on the combat fields of Vietnam.

Amazon
In Our Duffel Bags

 



This book all started innocently enough with my writing the chapter "Going My Way".  That was prompted by a vivid dream of "reality" which brought back memories of a trip I took from Phu Bai to Da Nang in 1971.  As I metaphorically rummaged through my duffle bag of memories, images and stories began to take focus the more I wrote.  As all veterans do from time to time they take a long and hard look at what might be in that metaphorical duffle bag, hence the name of this book.  After writing two chapters, I sent them to my longtime Army buddy, Bob Toto.  Toto decided to join in the writing effort. 
     To say this effort has been all consuming would be correct on all counts.  Both Bob and I have brought forth memories which include event dates, places and people long forgotten.  As we dug deeper we would ask questions of one another and suddenly we would nail down the events as if they happened yesterday.  As the reader will notice real names were not used for certain people.  There are two reasons for this.  The first reason I would use a fictitious name or just an initial would be the individual was of doubtful character.  The second reason would be that after almost 40 years, though I can see the face perfectly I have forgotten the name.  One always tries to embellish oneself in the writing of memoirs.  Certainly we aren't going to present ourselves as buffoons but we didn't show ourselves as all knowing and ever heroic.  What is presented here is an honest portrayal of two citizen soldiers trying to make it through the turbulent times of a country at war.
     This book is also not just about Vietnam.  In the 10 year period following the Vietnam Conflict there was a plethora of books written by veterans who had seen and experienced the heavy combat from the fields of Southeast Asia.  Such books as "The Killing Zone" by Frederick Downs or "We Were Soldiers Once" by Harold G. Moore are specific combat accounts describing the basic horrors of war in Vietnam.  While the Vietnam experience, as Bob and I experienced, was dangerous and provided extended stress, it was by no means on the order of the experiences described in the above books.
     This compilation of stories represents history as seen from the mature eyes of veterans who were there on the ground on two battlefields.  For those of you of the 1960's and 1970's who thought that there was only one war being fought, you're entirely wrong and forgetful of what was happening through this time period.  It wasn't until much later that Bob and I realized that we were involved in two wars.  As Bob and I thankfully trekked onto the soil of the Federal Republic of Germany, little did we know that at Frankfurt we were entering into a war zone, all be it very unlike Vietnam, but a war zone never the less.  The war in Vietnam was primarily fought with weapons and hence the saying that we heard was that of the "sounds of guns".  Half way around the world, another war was playing out its overture, that being the "Cold War".  The post war world was playing out its legacy of the second half of the 20th century. 
      What these set of stories represent, is a time and place in history that may be hard to understand, because it is recent history.  The first write of history is done by the fourth estate. Later upon a due recognition of time, an analysis of events occurs.  Upon further investigation, historians begin putting together the pieces of the puzzle and the first historical analysis is made.  Here is our historical perspective, which is presented as honestly as we can.  These actions and deeds happened and in essence tell of a time that is past, never to be seen again.  The draft is long gone, and along with it is a certain GI attitude and independent swaggering of a certain cockiness that was indicative of the "citizen soldier".  The pre-volunteer Army had big disadvantages and in general produced a less professional soldier.  However, in many instances we had highly intelligent soldiers who would never have served in a "volunteer Army". Marking this time in the following pages, represents an appreciation of the times we experienced and how in essence it has affected history and in turn how we see things in the current politics of the times.


This book all started innocently enough with my writing the chapter "Going My Way".  That was prompted by a vivid dream of "reality" which brought back memories of a trip I took from Phu Bai to Da Nang in 1971.  As I metaphorically rummaged through my duffle bag of memories, images and stories began to take focus the more I wrote.  As all veterans do from time to time they take a long and hard look at what might be in that metaphorical duffle bag, hence the name of this book.  After writing two chapters, I sent them to my longtime Army buddy, Bob Toto.  Toto decided to join in the writing effort. 
     To say this effort has been all consuming would be correct on all counts.  Both Bob and I have brought forth memories which include event dates, places and people long forgotten.  As we dug deeper we would ask questions of one another and suddenly we would nail down the events as if they happened yesterday.  As the reader will notice real names were not used for certain people.  There are two reasons for this.  The first reason I would use a fictitious name or just an initial would be the individual was of doubtful character.  The second reason would be that after almost 40 years, though I can see the face perfectly I have forgotten the name.  One always tries to embellish oneself in the writing of memoirs.  Certainly we aren't going to present ourselves as buffoons but we didn't show ourselves as all knowing and ever heroic.  What is presented here is an honest portrayal of two citizen soldiers trying to make it through the turbulent times of a country at war.
     This book is also not just about Vietnam.  In the 10 year period following the Vietnam Conflict there was a plethora of books written by veterans who had seen and experienced the heavy combat from the fields of Southeast Asia.  Such books as "The Killing Zone" by Frederick Downs or "We Were Soldiers Once" by Harold G. Moore are specific combat accounts describing the basic horrors of war in Vietnam.  While the Vietnam experience, as Bob and I experienced, was dangerous and provided extended stress, it was by no means on the order of the experiences described in the above books.
     This compilation of stories represents history as seen from the mature eyes of veterans who were there on the ground on two battlefields.  For those of you of the 1960's and 1970's who thought that there was only one war being fought, you're entirely wrong and forgetful of what was happening through this time period.  It wasn't until much later that Bob and I realized that we were involved in two wars.  As Bob and I thankfully trekked onto the soil of the Federal Republic of Germany, little did we know that at Frankfurt we were entering into a war zone, all be it very unlike Vietnam, but a war zone never the less.  The war in Vietnam was primarily fought with weapons and hence the saying that we heard was that of the "sounds of guns".  Half way around the world, another war was playing out its overture, that being the "Cold War".  The post war world was playing out its legacy of the second half of the 20th century. 
      What these set of stories represent, is a time and place in history that may be hard to understand, because it is recent history.  The first write of history is done by the fourth estate. Later upon a due recognition of time, an analysis of events occurs.  Upon further investigation, historians begin putting together the pieces of the puzzle and the first historical analysis is made.  Here is our historical perspective, which is presented as honestly as we can.  These actions and deeds happened and in essence tell of a time that is past, never to be seen again.  The draft is long gone, and along with it is a certain GI attitude and independent swaggering of a certain cockiness that was indicative of the "citizen soldier".  The pre-volunteer Army had big disadvantages and in general produced a less professional soldier.  However, in many instances we had highly intelligent soldiers who would never have served in a "volunteer Army". Marking this time in the following pages, represents an appreciation of the times we experienced and how in essence it has affected history and in turn how we see things in the current politics of the times.


This book all started innocently enough with my writing the chapter "Going My Way".  That was prompted by a vivid dream of "reality" which brought back memories of a trip I took from Phu Bai to Da Nang in 1971.  As I metaphorically rummaged through my duffle bag of memories, images and stories began to take focus the more I wrote.  As all veterans do from time to time they take a long and hard look at what might be in that metaphorical duffle bag, hence the name of this book.  After writing two chapters, I sent them to my longtime Army buddy, Bob Toto.  Toto decided to join in the writing effort. 
     To say this effort has been all consuming would be correct on all counts.  Both Bob and I have brought forth memories which include event dates, places and people long forgotten.  As we dug deeper we would ask questions of one another and suddenly we would nail down the events as if they happened yesterday.  As the reader will notice real names were not used for certain people.  There are two reasons for this.  The first reason I would use a fictitious name or just an initial would be the individual was of doubtful character.  The second reason would be that after almost 40 years, though I can see the face perfectly I have forgotten the name.  One always tries to embellish oneself in the writing of memoirs.  Certainly we aren't going to present ourselves as buffoons but we didn't show ourselves as all knowing and ever heroic.  What is presented here is an honest portrayal of two citizen soldiers trying to make it through the turbulent times of a country at war.
     This book is also not just about Vietnam.  In the 10 year period following the Vietnam Conflict there was a plethora of books written by veterans who had seen and experienced the heavy combat from the fields of Southeast Asia.  Such books as "The Killing Zone" by Frederick Downs or "We Were Soldiers Once" by Harold G. Moore are specific combat accounts describing the basic horrors of war in Vietnam.  While the Vietnam experience, as Bob and I experienced, was dangerous and provided extended stress, it was by no means on the order of the experiences described in the above books.
     This compilation of stories represents history as seen from the mature eyes of veterans who were there on the ground on two battlefields.  For those of you of the 1960's and 1970's who thought that there was only one war being fought, you're entirely wrong and forgetful of what was happening through this time period.  It wasn't until much later that Bob and I realized that we were involved in two wars.  As Bob and I thankfully trekked onto the soil of the Federal Republic of Germany, little did we know that at Frankfurt we were entering into a war zone, all be it very unlike Vietnam, but a war zone never the less.  The war in Vietnam was primarily fought with weapons and hence the saying that we heard was that of the "sounds of guns".  Half way around the world, another war was playing out its overture, that being the "Cold War".  The post war world was playing out its legacy of the second half of the 20th century. 
      What these set of stories represent, is a time and place in history that may be hard to understand, because it is recent history.  The first write of history is done by the fourth estate. Later upon a due recognition of time, an analysis of events occurs.  Upon further investigation, historians begin putting together the pieces of the puzzle and the first historical analysis is made.  Here is our historical perspective, which is presented as honestly as we can.  These actions and deeds happened and in essence tell of a time that is past, never to be seen again.  The draft is long gone, and along with it is a certain GI attitude and independent swaggering of a certain cockiness that was indicative of the "citizen soldier".  The pre-volunteer Army had big disadvantages and in general produced a less professional soldier.  However, in many instances we had highly intelligent soldiers who would never have served in a "volunteer Army". Marking this time in the following pages, represents an appreciation of the times we experienced and how in essence it has affected history and in turn how we see things in the current politics of the times.


This book all started innocently enough with my writing the chapter "Going My Way".  That was prompted by a vivid dream of "reality" which brought back memories of a trip I took from Phu Bai to Da Nang in 1971.  As I metaphorically rummaged through my duffle bag of memories, images and stories began to take focus the more I wrote.  As all veterans do from time to time they take a long and hard look at what might be in that metaphorical duffle bag, hence the name of this book.  After writing two chapters, I sent them to my longtime Army buddy, Bob Toto.  Toto decided to join in the writing effort. 
     To say this effort has been all consuming would be correct on all counts.  Both Bob and I have brought forth memories which include event dates, places and people long forgotten.  As we dug deeper we would ask questions of one another and suddenly we would nail down the events as if they happened yesterday.  As the reader will notice real names were not used for certain people.  There are two reasons for this.  The first reason I would use a fictitious name or just an initial would be the individual was of doubtful character.  The second reason would be that after almost 40 years, though I can see the face perfectly I have forgotten the name.  One always tries to embellish oneself in the writing of memoirs.  Certainly we aren't going to present ourselves as buffoons but we didn't show ourselves as all knowing and ever heroic.  What is presented here is an honest portrayal of two citizen soldiers trying to make it through the turbulent times of a country at war.
     This book is also not just about Vietnam.  In the 10 year period following the Vietnam Conflict there was a plethora of books written by veterans who had seen and experienced the heavy combat from the fields of Southeast Asia.  Such books as "The Killing Zone" by Frederick Downs or "We Were Soldiers Once" by Harold G. Moore are specific combat accounts describing the basic horrors of war in Vietnam.  While the Vietnam experience, as Bob and I experienced, was dangerous and provided extended stress, it was by no means on the order of the experiences described in the above books.
     This compilation of stories represents history as seen from the mature eyes of veterans who were there on the ground on two battlefields.  For those of you of the 1960's and 1970's who thought that there was only one war being fought, you're entirely wrong and forgetful of what was happening through this time period.  It wasn't until much later that Bob and I realized that we were involved in two wars.  As Bob and I thankfully trekked onto the soil of the Federal Republic of Germany, little did we know that at Frankfurt we were entering into a war zone, all be it very unlike Vietnam, but a war zone never the less.  The war in Vietnam was primarily fought with weapons and hence the saying that we heard was that of the "sounds of guns".  Half way around the world, another war was playing out its overture, that being the "Cold War".  The post war world was playing out its legacy of the second half of the 20th century. 
      What these set of stories represent, is a time and place in history that may be hard to understand, because it is recent history.  The first write of history is done by the fourth estate. Later upon a due recognition of time, an analysis of events occurs.  Upon further investigation, historians begin putting together the pieces of the puzzle and the first historical analysis is made.  Here is our historical perspective, which is presented as honestly as we can.  These actions and deeds happened and in essence tell of a time that is past, never to be seen again.  The draft is long gone, and along with it is a certain GI attitude and independent swaggering of a certain cockiness that was indicative of the "citizen soldier".  The pre-volunteer Army had big disadvantages and in general produced a less professional soldier.  However, in many instances we had highly intelligent soldiers who would never have served in a "volunteer Army". Marking this time in the following pages, represents an appreciation of the times we experienced and how in essence it has affected history and in turn how we see things in the current politics of the times.
 


Excerpt

In the first two weeks, we had sapper attacks and distant incoming rocket fire. When these occurrences happened, the siren would go off and we would scramble to the nearest sandbagged bunker. These were ugly dugouts in the earth, with no lights other than an occasional flashlight. Sitting in these rooms with our helmets and flak jackets was not my idea of a Southeast Asian vacation.

So you get the picture of our rather mundane yet somewhat disturbing routine. After a while, as one settles into this routine, it can affect one's nerves, and fatigue begins to set in. In early January of 1972, I was on that downward slope and wearing down. One night I turned in at around 23:00 hours, and as usual, I slept through the night and woke up at 05:00. I proceeded to the latrine to shower. I dressed and walked through the morning darkness and mist to the mess hall.

As I took my tray to my customary table, I was greeted by two of my officer peers, whom I'll call Jerry and Kramer. Jerry immediatley questioned me rather abruptly. "Where... were you during the rocket attack?"




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