A Williamsport man documented his experiences fighting in the Vietnam War in his new book, “Point Man Up,” which he’s signing from 5-7 p.m. this Friday, June 4, at From My Shelf Bookstore in Wellsboro.
“The book is about low-rank people, the people in dirt and slime and jungles and our day-to-day life in the war,” said Walter Steinbacher, who was stationed with Alpha Company 126 of the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam from 1966-67. “It’s only a teeny tiny window into the entire war, but it’s my experience.”
Steinbacher said he spent more then 11 years on the book, which he initially hand-wrote in a stack of notebooks about eight-inches thick. In 2017, his cousin helped transcribe his writing and after working with a Lycoming College professor to ready it, Steinbacher self-published his book with 48 Hour Books. Copies are available at From My Shelf, The Otto Bookstore in Williamsport and Mondragon Books in Lewisburg.
The title of the book comes from Steinbacher’s position in the war; he said he “walked point,” meaning he walked in front of his patrol group to scout for danger. The book includes letters he wrote to his family in Williamsport, how he had to quickly integrate back into civilian life after being injured and serving with people from all different backgrounds.
“I talk about a lot of people in the book. I served with and fought against Vietnamese, Chinese, Russians, American Indians, African-Americans, Scottish,” he said. “It didn’t matter what nationality we were, we all laid close in two-by-four fox holes. We stunk; we didn’t use a lot of deodorant. It was quite an experience.”
Steinbacher said he and his comrades were “50% warriors, 50% missionaries,” most being fresh out of high school.
“I dedicated the book to two people. Gary Lorson is a kid I grew up with and went into the Marines with. He died in 2008 of what they said was bone cancer, but it probably had something to do with Agent Orange,” said Steinbacher. “The other kid, Denny Eaker, was the first person from Williamsport to die in Vietnam and second in Lycoming County.”
Steinbacher said his book is an educational read that will broaden his readers’ knowledge of Vietnam and the war and allow them to draw their own conclusions.
“War happens; we can’t change it. We can learn from it, but I don’t know if we ever will,” he said. “It’s my hope someday human race will come out of the fog.”