Loose Ends: Short Stories Started During the Vietnam War

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9780989410502: Loose Ends: Short Stories Started During the Vietnam War

Loose Ends is a collection of fictional short stories based upon the authors experiences during the Vietnam War. The stories are linked by the central character, Henry James Barthochowski, Cow for short, who is a Wisconsin farm boy caught between the draft, social upheaval and personal misgivings. Cow is a listener, observer, and anything but a cheerleader for military decorum. Young and impressionable, his enlistment in the U.S. Navy Seabees unfolds during a time social unrest and national uncertainty that even permeates the military. He knows how to follow orders, but also how to look around, behind and through them as only a kid can. And a kid he is, with two tours in Vietnam before turning 21 years of age. It is a time of serious business, but also a time of monkey business as only young men can make it.

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About the Author:

Jim Zitzelsberger served two tours in Vietnam as a U.S. Navy Seabee during 1967, '68 and '69. Following his military service he became a teacher and coach with retirement as a farmer and writer.

Review:

Jim Zitzelsberger served as a Navy Seabee. The stories in his book, Loose Ends: Short Stories Started During the Vietnam War (Moki Lane, 210 pp., $19.95, paper), are mostly lighthearted, semi-autobiographical tales of Seabees in the Vietnam War. Death, however, often intrudes. The hero, Henry James Barthochowski, nicknamed Cow, is a sort of stand-in for the author. He is stationed in Quang Tri. The book s hero, like the author, did two tours in Vietnam before turning twenty-one. This is that rare Vietnam War book of fiction that not only mentions General Westmoreland, but contains an entire story with the general as the main character a story in which Westmoreland is making his exit from Vietnam after guiding the war since 1964. Cow, our Seabee hero, is near the bottom of the military food chain. He realizes that his orders are to defeat the Viet Cong and stop the spread of communism, as the general points out to the troops, but he s skeptical that a difference was being made and the war was being won, as Westmoreland wanted the troops to believe. The fictional main character is one of my favorite figures in the literature of the Vietnam War. He is mild, eternal, and as memorable as Yossarian in Catch-22. The stories in Loose Ends, in fact, teach us many of the same lessons about war that Catch-22 tried to teach us. Americans seem to need these lessons taught over and over, and yet they still never seem to learn. I guess we are slow learners about the futility of war. Loose Ends was an eye-opener. Until I read it, I knew little or nothing about the role of the Seabees in the Vietnam War. Now I know. Every story brings home the daily life of a lowly enlisted Seabee in Quang Tri and DaNang; whether he is driving a truck, standing guard, welding a water tank, or doing any of the myriad duties that the low-level Navy man must do. Many of them, of course, are hens end duties that put him in constant threat of conflict with lifers who are more an adversary than the VC or the NVA. Much of the book involves monkey business as only young men can make it. Said monkey business is always fun to read about. Henry James Barthochowski will always live in my memory because the author brings him alive on every page. This Wisconsin farm boy in the Navy in Vietnam is a listener, observer, and anything but a cheerleader for military decorum. His observations lead him to conclude that the theater of war is more the theater of the absurd. The story that makes this point best is the one in which Cow is showering and three pretty Vietnamese girls come in to clean the shower room. They giggle and pretend they don t see him. Funny stuff. The same thing happened to me in Vietnam at Tan Son Nhut more than once. Cow s homecoming is also familiar. He comes back to his small town in Wisconsin and is castigated for his long hair, quickly grown when he returns to college. The local American Legion lets him know that they do not want him as a member as he had not been to a real war. Vietnam, to the members of the Greatest Generation, was merely a conflict. Guadalcanal was part of a real war. We encounter Agent Orange, ham and lima beans, barrel-burning details, and short-timers calendars. I was sad to learn that Navy guys did not have it as cushy as we Army guys always liked to believe they did. They do have a commanding officer witty enough to use a recording of the Animals We Gotta Get out of This Place, for morning reveille. That beats anything in the Army I served in. But I would still rather do one tour in Vietnam with the Army than two with the Navy. I learned that much from this fine and funny book. Read it, and you will learn plenty too, and have more than few laughs. --David Willson Vietnam Veterans of America Veterans Books Review II on the Web: April 4, 2014

Loose Ends ties reality to Vietnam experience. Book Review By Ed Byrne. Loose Ends: Short Stories Started During The Vietnam War By Jim Zitzelsberger. Hilbert native Jim Zitselsberger wrote the novel Cry for the Water Buffalo in 2010 and it won strong acclaim for its accuracy in depicting the Vietnam War as a civil war, telling it both from an American and a Vietnamese perspective. American veterans of the Vietnam War gave it deep praise for being true to the experience. But Loose Ends may be an even better book about the American experience in Vietnam, following the experiences of members of the Navy Seabees and of a Wisconsin Seabee in particular. The stories carry experiences that are often humorous and sometimes tragic and heartbreaking. Zitzelsberger, a retired Oshkosh public school teacher, has relatives in Hilbert and Greenleaf. But the local angle isn t what makes this book attractive. It is Zitzelsberger's ability to find the truth in little things and let the big picture develop naturally. The book takes a young man named Cow after all, he comes from a small rural community in Wisconsin through his tour of duty in a muddy outpost in a dirty and, for the U.S., unwinnable war. Zitzelsberger chooses words as a surgeon chooses incisions. His description of a C-47 gunship is beyond accurate: 'With guns blazing and buzzing like a rattlesnake s tail, the tongue of the fire-breathing monster stretched all the way to the ground in what looked like one solid red line.' On Cow remembering events from his childhood after seeing a report on the death of a soldier he grew up with: 'Baseball and the 8th grade, odd things to think about here and now, thought Cow. Then he said aloud to no one in particular, How do you figure? How do kids in elementary school get from baseball games to here and never back to bat again?' This is the stuff of which honest tears are formed. His summary of a scam perpetrated by the SeaBee unit, where they gave one of their two tire-changing machines to some Marines in exchange for jungle boots that wouldn't rot out: 'It was a good deal all around. The Marines were happy to have a tire-changing machine; the new boots looked and felt good; the Company Commander was proud of his outfit; and, because the two machines worked so well, the tire crew had less work to do and more time not to do it.' I was trying to think of a better, more honest, book about war. But I could not, and this one is a portrait of what war is like from within the battle lines. The book is available at Amazon.com in both a paperback edition and a Kindle edition. It is worth much more than the price. --Ed Byrne, The Brillion News, Brillion, WI Sept. 12, 2013

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James N. Zitzelsberger
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James N. Zitzelsberger
Published by Moki Lane Publishing (2013)
ISBN 10: 0989410501 ISBN 13: 9780989410502
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Book Description Moki Lane Publishing, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. first edition edition. 210 pages. 8.20x5.30x0.60 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 0989410501

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