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Reviewed by Sylvia Heslin for Readers' Favorite
"In Our Duffle Bags, Surviving the Vietnam Era" is a true story of hope and an account of survival set in two countries worlds apart, East/West Germany and North/South Vietnam. Such is the factual account of the two authors, Geschke and Toto. In Our Duffle Bags is a collaboration between two junior officers, both graduates of ROTC School(Reserve Officer Training Corps)at different universities. "In Our Duffle Bag" is written about their time together and their time apart as friends in the U.S Army during 1969-1972.
Both Second Lieutenant Richard C. Geschke and Second Lieutenant Robert A. Toto nicknamed Bobo, met on their way to IOBC (Infantry Officer Basic Course) at Ft Benning, Georgia. They both then attended The Red Eye Missile School at Ft. Bliss where they learned how to operate the shoulder-held guided missiles. After the completion of the Missile School course, they were both given orders to proceed to their different duty installations oversees in West Germany.
Lieutentant Geschke and Lieutentent Toto would visited each other as often as they could although they were stationed in different places. They were then given separate orders to report to the Republic Of Vietnam despite the fact that they were classified and assigned as volunteer-indefinite officers of the IBOC. They continued on to the Jungle Operational Warfare School at Ft Sherman in Panama City, Panama, for their intensive jungle training that was a requirement before shipping out to Vietnam. Lieutenant Geschke goes on to state that he didn't know what was approaching and being in the jungles of Panama was like entering the gates of hell. Lieutenant Geschke and Lieutenant Toto, go on to chronicle their journeys while being officers serving in Vietnam as well as in Germany. Some of the familiar stories that they both tell are heart wrenching to read, and at other times just plain laugh loud funny.
I really enjoyed reading the book "In Our Duffle Bag". I loved the way that Richard Geschke went back in time and conveyed to the reader the backdrop story of the history of the Cold War in Communist Germany. I also loved the way that he peeped into the history of the Republic of Vietnam during that turbulent time in our history during his tour of duty in 1971/72. Geschke and Toto give clear concise examples of what it was like serving in our military in Germany before the wall came down, and of the politics of Communist Vietnam that was of the North and South.
As I read Geschke and Toto's memoirs, I had a very clear description in my mind of what it must have felt like being a solider during that time. And even though I was just a little girl at the time of the Vietnam conflict, the descriptions that both of the authors give, pictures included, enabled me to feel like I was experiencing everything that they were going through. Reading Richard Geschke and Robert Toto's book actually made me relive some experiences that I had while serving in the Army in the late 80's at Ft Bragg North Carolina. And although I didn't serve during wartime, some of the experiences that both of the authors had were reminiscent of the time that I also spent in the military. I highly recommend this memoir for non veterans and veterans alike who have ever wondered about what it is like to serve in the military, and especially during the time of the Vietnam War.