Thursday, November 7, 2013

EOD Book Review - This is What Hell Looks Like by Stuart Steinberg

Specialist Stuart Steinberg and a fellow Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician responded to a improvised explosive device of "IED" placed under the seat in a movie theater. They tied fifty feet of wire to the device, and from a position of cover, pulled,  remotely moving the bomb to ensure it did not incorporate a anti-handling device. The soldiers then carried it into the street to perform a render safe procedure. The bombmaker employed a U.S. grenade fuze with a sophisticated time delay feature embedded in C-4 plastic explosive. The EOD Techs successfully disarmed the device, and received a commendation letter for their action.

This story does not come from Iraq or Afghanistan, but from Vietnam. Steinberg relays this and many other EOD incidents in his war memoir,  This is What Hell Looks Like. Published in 2013 as an Amazon Kindle eBook, Steinberg makes it clear from the beginning that the work will be raw. He notes that writing about his service, especially in Vietnam,  is cathartic, and assists him in closing the door on post-traumatic stress and drug and alcohol use previously employed to manage PTSD.  Thus it is easy for any reader to become empathetic and subsequently enthralled with This is What Hell Looks Like. Those who enjoy military memoirs, especially EOD Techs will not be able to put the book down.
Steinberg joined the Army in 1966. He began his career assigned to Nike Hercules missile crew in the Everglades. He determined quickly that he wanted to transfer because he was surrounded by "ant-Semitic rednecks." To do so, he re-enlisted for four years and volunteered for EOD school. This includes a $1000.00 signing bonus and a promise of $55.00 a month in hazardous duty pay. Steingberg describes EOD school and then his first assignment at Dugway Proving Grounds. 
At Dugway, Steinberg disposed of chemical weapons. The job frustrated, even angered him, because of the way the Army handled an accident that killed local livestock. Wanting to leave Dugway, he volunteered for Vietnam.
The bulk of This is What Hell Looks Like is of Steinberg's service in Vietnam. Again, any fan of military history, especially of war memoirs will enjoy this part of the book. It is a must read for EOD Technicians or those who want to become EOD Techs.
Steinberg describes life in Vietnam, operating with a small team, usually responding to EOD calls with two men.  He and his fellow EOD Techs enjoyed freedom and priority access compared to others because of the nature and importance of their job. Steinberg goes into the jungle to aid a team of Special Forces and Montagnard tribesmen exfiltrate from a minefield. He renders safe dud ordnance that the Vietnamese lobbed or fired at his compatriots. Steinberg's team may be the only Army EOD Techs to ever respond to a limpet mine placed on a ship!(There was no Navy EOD available and the tide and loading made the limpet emerge above the water line.)
Perhaps the most interesting, and most common EOD responses that Steinberg describes are when he and his team respond to sapper attacks on ammunition depots. The Vietnamese realized that any ordnance destroyed in situ would not be used against them. Some of their attacks required EOD Techs from around Vietnam to respond - conducting cleanup for months.
Recognizing that he is relying on his own memory,  Steinberg connected with former teammates, asking them to relay or relive different missions/ responses. Additionally, he conducted archival research, drawing on logs, reports, and government memos. As a result, he uncovered records of incidents that he participated in for which he had no memory. The whole project is then supported by many of Steinberg's photos, including some of particular events. This thoroughness enhances the readers understanding and puts many of the events in context. Equally important is that author provides enough to be of real interest to EOD Technicians, without putting in so much detail as to boor those simply interested in historical accounts.

1 comment:

Stu Steinberg said...

Thanks, so much, for your wonderful review of my book. It means a lot to me that another EOD operator, one who served in war on terror, found my book to be worth reading. I really appreciate it. I did not know about "Proximity," but will buy it tomorrow.