Herbert: The Making of a Soldier, by Anthony B. Herbert
Five out of five stars
This personal memoir of the author’s action in the Korean War makes two points very clear. The first is that he was a very brave soldier, the kind that every country needs in its armed forces when there is an armed conflict. He went AWOL in order to be on the front lines, an offense that is difficult to punish.
The second is that Herbert had a string of luck that would leave any gambler breathless. When his unit was decimated down to two men, he was one of the survivors, and he was wounded several times. It was only a matter of a few inches between extremely serious injury or even death and being able to receive treatment and be back on the line within a few days.
Like all other personal accounts of war, Herbert has his share of praise and criticism for those in command. While he praises his fellow American soldiers, many of which perished, some of his highest accolades are for the Turkish contingent that he fought alongside for a brief time.
Herbert left the war in Korea the most decorated soldier in the history of the U. S. Army, even receiving a Turkish military award. His career extended into the Vietnam era, where he was a fierce critic of the tactics of murder and torture being employed there. This led to his being relieved of command for “not being a team player,” the Army way of getting rid of the honest critic. His actions during the Vietnam War appear in a brief epilogue and are not part of the Korean narrative.
Since the Korean War was different in political aim and the players, this memoir of Herbert’s war experiences is unique. Yet, anyone that has read other books in this area will recognize many similarities. The warrior facing death or dismemberment at any time will always have a different perspective than those that simply read about it or command them into harm’s way.